For the first time ever, a public exhibition of images from the
Railyard as it is today. Exhibition Dates: Sept. 15-Nov. 14, 2011 At the Kimo Theater Gallery 423 Central Ave. NW
Albuquerque, NM Gallery Hours can be found listed on the Kimo Gallery site (505) 768-3522 (for gallery info)
On the home page, the most recent posts will appear first; scrolling down will take you to the older posts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Albuquerque’s Industrial Cathedral

I love old buildings, the sense of time and history, the little, handcrafted touches; an ornately carved cornice or a wildly sweeping staircase. Often these buildings have been abandoned and sometimes I like them better that way. Although, with a few exceptions, I hate to see them torn down because I know they will never be replaced by anything better. Albuquerque recently lost the wonderfully strange Aztec Motel along old Route 66 and, if anything is ever built on that lot again, it will never match the warped charm of that historic motel. You know, if you’ve seen one modern K-Mart or 7-11, you’ve seen them all.

I’ve photographed hundreds of old structures throughout the United States, so, I feel that I can speak from some experience when I say that the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (ATSF) rail yard complex near downtown Albuquerque is one of the finest (and most historically important) set of buildings one could ever have the pleasure of setting foot in. Most of the surviving workshops were built around 1920 and used to service locomotives in what was one of the major rail hubs of the Southwest. This means that inside the buildings you get towering ceilings, narrow catwalks, massive cranes, and acres and acres of glass windows, some colored blue and green. When the light hits the windows just right, it is like being in an industrial cathedral. I consider myself privileged to have spent many hours exploring and photographing the complex.

Not too long ago I heard that there were plans to develop the rail yard. I heartily support any effort to utilize the rail yard buildings that does not fundamentally change their character. I understand that alteration would be inevitable, but putting the buildings back to use in some way would be a very good thing. More recently I’ve been told that there has been a breakdown of some kind and that the development plans have been put on hold. Whatever the case, aside from an occasional movie shoot, the railyard still sits largely vacant, looming over the Barelas neighborhood, its ultimate fate still unknown. What I know to be true is that 100 years from now nobody will wander through empty Wal-Marts with any of the sense of awe that one feels in the rail yard. No one will ask: “How did they build this place?” or, “What did they do here?” No one will care when the bulldozers arrive because there are thousands of Wal-Mart buildings, all devoid of character, each one exactly the same. But the ATSF rail yard? Well, there’s only one of those in the world and it’s well worth saving. Hopefully, the photographs included on this site and in the upcoming exhibition convey a fraction of its beauty and grandeur.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My History with the railyard

I stumbled across the buildings when I took a wrong turn from downtown sometime around 1994. As the grandson of a southwest historian, and a photographer, they struck me as a very neat place full of untold history. At the time the lots and even the buildings were visibly full of spare parts, and scrap, and all sorts of junkyard stuff.

I was quite scared of the neighborhood though, as a teenage Caucasian kid, we were always told it was a "rough part of town" and indeed my 2nd trek out to find the railyards had me driving At night under the coal bridge on 1st, and I kid you not! Two guys were having a knife fight in front of the Madrid Lounge, and there was a old console tv cabinet on fire off to the edge of the road. I was pretty sure that was going to be the last thing I did see.

Took me 2 years to go back, by then I was older, bolder, and knew more about the neighborhood. (My mother had started working in nonprofit program not far from there, and I think things were turning around.) And it helped that I brought a few friends. We explored it a bit, never once damaged it, used downed fences, and open doors, it was very cool, because it was like a time capsule, although still frightening because there were homeless people living there.

I had let my photography hobby dwindle, and my grandfather had passed away long before I found the place, he would have had so much to say about its history. So i have no good record of any of those visits.

I Re-picked up a camera again in 2005 when i got my first digital. I was still not a fully a shutterbug yet, but by 2007 that all changed. I got from a client a better than average "prosumer" level olympus digital with 100's of manual settings, so i decided i had to go out and photograph something every weekend just to learn all the settings. (and to scratch the exploring bug that i had).

By 2008 I had upgraded cameras a few times, I still have never made the big plunge into totally pro level camera/lenses, but I do like to push what I have to the max! I was already doing a lot of "Urbex" exploring and really wanting to shoot the railyards again. when I found a local group of Flickr fans, who had spotted an opening. So I jumped at the chance! I was glad I did. being there in full daylight, was like walking into a cathedral. I was instantly in love allover again!

Ive been back every chance I can, these days I'm glad to say I mostly get to document them by permission, although getting permission has gotten harder and harder, as the movies have it sewn up more and more, and the Albuquerque studios folks have decided they wont take our cash to rent the place unless we are a bigwig movie company.