This sadly is my final contribution to the Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition, a post that I wrote and shot about a family affected by questionable water quality in El Cenizo, TX . Being a part of this project was incredible. I only wish I could do more. Godspeed to Colin- finish strong, and thank you for bringing me on for a spell.
It was one of the nicest sunsets I’ve seen since joining Colin on this expedition. But knowing our time on the Kickapoo Reservation was limited, and having only just spotted the towering lights of the casino parking lot peeking out over the giant cane, it was also a stressful sunset. My best bet for pictures was to find something interesting to shoot tonight, before it got dark, and we were still on the river.
Finally we hit the take out. Colin agreed to haul our gear 300 yards to the hotel while I shot out in search of … something.
I was prepared for failure — the odds were against me. The sun neared the horizon while I walked into the small cluster of mobile homes just down the main street from the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel. First six homes, nothing. And then, a dog. Kids. Adults. A gerbil.
I introduced myself and explained why I was talking so quickly, that the sun was going down and tomorrow we were leaving early and could I please take some pictures of … whatever it is you’re doing?
Without hesitation— in part due to the irresistible allure of this expedition, but perhaps mostly due to the good-natured warmth I’m coming to expect from people along the river — they welcomed me into the yard. Within three minutes I was crouched down shooting pictures of smiles, tears, laughter, and the most intense thing I hope to see on this trip: a very lopsided pet smackdown between a dog and a gerbil.
As the kids looked on and the gerbil lay motionless in the grass, I thought about how incredibly random things have been on this trip, and how powerful moments have come from simply pressing forward, even when possibilities seem remote.
It’s been hard keeping my blog updated during this trip; the Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition site is the best place to see this work. Incredible trip so far. A little more than a week to go.
I’m about 6 days into a 3 week trip down the Rio Grande with Colin McCdonald/Texas Tribune and the Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition. It’s super exciting to be involved with this, in part because I’ve been in on the deal on various levels since he first started thinking about it 6 years ago. It was just not possible for me to sign up for the whole 7 month trip at this stage in my life, but the section that lies before us is probably the one I’m most suited for. Up to now Colin’s experience has been largely in the wilderness. From here on we’ll be seeing a lot of people, making spit-second decisions on who to engage and who to avoid. This is my skill set.
Our work flow involves nightly blog posts about what we’ve seen that day. So far this set of images has been my favorite. Nearing the end of a long day of paddling we spotted some activity in a limestone cave along the Mexican side of the Amistad Reservoir. Thinking they were fishermen we approached and found them to be more than friendly and happy to talk with us. They had incredibly interesting things to say about the river and changing fishing conditions. They also offered us coffee, a fresh fish, and a ride to the dam (we did not accept the latter). A wonderful first encounter. Amistad indeed.
Getting to shoot this assignment was a complete honor. Some text from the TOC:
The first thing I remember hearing about Oso was how tough folks are up there. Any report about the slide seemed to include an account of how people were standing back up, doing what had to be done. When I arrived in late March 2014, just a few days after the slide, that’s exactly what I saw: People were busy. My assignment then was to cover the community’s coming together and efforts to make things right. It was hard to keep up. My time felt like a whirlwind, and after just a few days I headed back to Seattle, exhausted.
Going back up for this assignment (“Collapse,” page 66), almost exactly six months later, felt like another thing entirely. The time in between had allowed for real reflection, and I wanted to make portraits that had that kind of gravity. Film was an obvious choice. It slows everything down, makes everything seem more intentional, collaborative almost. Somehow that extra time focusing and loading film allows you to consider what you’re doing out there in the mud, and what these pictures might end up saying. —Mike Kane, photographer