Staring into the screen at my conglomeration of images I wondered if I really did have a plan or, at best, a feeble story line for my project. This vast collection tempted me to throw my hands up and put something else together. What had once seemed to be the best plan was quickly going awry. And I had no title and really didn’t know what I would write as an information piece. This was fast turning into the grand finale of a long line of career fiascos!

 

An image of Bob standing by his father’s once bright orange dump truck in the desert was glowing on the screen. An impressively rugged man, he’d moved to this desert with his parents in 1956, building the family ranch into a pretty respectable outfit, with sturdy metal tube fencing and a large feed yard. While I was taking aim at his Chevrolet truck, Bob arrived on the scene in an old Cushman three wheel cart. We visited a bit and he recounted past encounters with photographers that had not been entirely pleasant – so he was always watchful when a camera showed up. He told me about a few highlights of the area and a place where some railroad workers had been buried when the railroad was built. His very detailed directions made finding everything pretty easy.

 

Clicking back to “quick collections” gazing at an Imperial Lioness (Fu Dog) securely on guard atop her brick foundation in the middle of the desert with her “He Guardian” down the hill. These two were the reason I was in this particular spot. A hot breeze blowing up the hill added an aura of strangeness. Alone in the desert, I could have been in some far away land since Imperial Lions don’t live in the California desert.

 

The name, the name, I had been racking my brain for a year for a title. I knew the concept I wanted to convey - people and things in the desert, but for some reason my images were not falling into place. Kind of depressing. A reminisce of something else, that I was having trouble interpreting. Rugged individuals and unique people who happened on the scene. Abandoned places, towns, things amiss, and places that I couldn’t figure out what had happened there.  But it didn’t connect. It was all there as planned, but it didn’t work with my thoughts. At this point I had all but given up. Maybe the name “Things” was the best I could do.

 

Then while scanning documents for a friend, I turned over a stack of papers and began reading a magazine review of one of her poems. The writer mentioned her poem was like “hard-edged hope.” “Hard-Edged Hope.” That’s what I had been photographing. The hope of people, past and present. The hopes of the families who had started a new life only to have their dreams vanish into the harshness of the desert. But for the many whose hopes and dreams were never realized or ended abruptly, there were many whose hopes and dreams were possible. I had known this all along by what and how I had photographed the project – I just didn’t know how to say it. Hard-Edged Hope…

 

Walking through the burned rubble of what was once a pretty nice house and several out buildings the scene didn’t quite ring true for an accidental fire. It didn’t take long to figure out that those who lived here had set fire to their belongings and left. All the furniture had been lined up in the yard and burned as well as the tack in the sheds. My guess was a bankruptcy, divorce or other life altering event. Instead of leaving the valuables for scavengers or their ex, they set fire to everything. Talking with a deputy sheriff a few days later confirmed this happened many times during the recession. By the time the call for a fire was received it was usually too late to worry about saving much if anything.

 

Strolling the Salton Seashore with some new found friends further confirmed hard-edged hope. Following his retirement, the changing events of John’s life brought him to the high desert of Barstow and also gave a new found hope to his life. The first dog arrived – taking up residence on his front porch. Then the second dog, then the third. John had never been a “dog person” but he quickly adapted. Wanting more roaming space for his three new family members it was off to the seashore! After their relocation, two more woofs moved in! Now this “not a dog person” is planning to drive his motor home up to Oregon or Washington in search of a few acres to buy for his flock of five.

 

Maybe hope never leaves us, but takes different forms and changes for our good regardless the reason. No matter the risk we take, or the adventure we seek, there is always the hope that it will work -regardless … Hard-Edged Hope.