Crossroads is proud to shine a spotlight on Wendy Jensen, who joined us for the 2016 Santa Fe workshop. After wrapping up a great week, while David was stuck at the Chicago airport and Brenda was unpacking her bags, Wendy sat down and created a photo essay that captured beautifully the highlights, challenges and rewards of the experience. It caught our attention and we thought, why not share it here? Wendy agreed and here it is. Surprisingly enough, it starts like this…
“Don’t expect to get images to add to your portfolio”
Not exactly the sales pitch that compels the average photographer to sign up for a workshop. Even so, last week I boarded a plane bound for Santa Fe, NM, and enrolled in a photography course where it seems I was guaranteed to capture unremarkable images.
Crossroads is an organization of photographers that work with environmental and humanitarian non-profits. They provide these agencies with quality images that help bring attention to their causes. The workshop I attended was a 5-day collaborative effort between Crossroads, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and The Santa Fe Watershed Association (a local non-profit) and 12 eager-to-learn photographers.
Our job was to provide imagery for use in their marketing, advocacy, and education efforts. Watershed Executive Director Andy Otto briefed us on the plight of the 285 square miles that make up the watershed. Tires, trash, urban encroachment, and even beavers affect the water’s flow and quality.
As a group we decided to document the challenges the Santa Fe River faces as it descends 46 miles from the Sangre de Cristo mountains, through the city of Santa Fe, and ending at the confluence with the Rio Grande. Being neither still winter yet not quite spring, together with cloudy skies and gusting winds, the thought of “pretty” images was far from our minds. Our instructors, Brenda Berry and David Middleton, shared with us similar experiences and challenged us to look past those issues. And so we began…
Shot lists, which kept us on task, were made and revised. Daily image reviews allowed us to learn how lighting and composition were just as important when shooting trash as when capturing images of indigenous people of foreign lands. We learned about telling a story through photography. In an effort to cover more ground, the group split up. Some went to the snowy mountains, some to arroyos. I chose to walk the river itself. Traveling in four unique environments.
First, above the city, where you can see still see remains of the Old Stone Dam. Today beavers do the damming.
Second, the next section downstream, where houses and urbanization begin to encroach on the river.
Next, the portion that runs through the city itself, characterized by graffiti, trash, and decaying infrastructure.
Lastly the area around La Bajada, where the journey of the Santa Fe river ends.
For three days I hiked the river’s edge. My boots disappeared in the oozing mud of its banks. My feet were numbed from wading its chilly waters. Documenting the environmental challenges of the watershed, I quickly developed an affinity for this river. I saw how it provided a much needed resource, and how humans were treating it with great disregard.
The more time I spent in the river the more I got to know it.
Compassion began to show through in my images.
I found myself taking 15-20 minutes to document a discarded tire, wanting to get it just right.
At week’s end, our class donated nearly 200 images to the watershed, and I discovered a new path for my photography.
Using my talent to simply fulfill the basic needs of living I find less than satisfying. Being a part of something and having the opportunity to “make a difference..create images with the power to bring about positive change”. That’s what I want to do.
Reid Callanan, director of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, said this week would change our lives.
I think it has changed mine.
Wendy recently turned a lifelong passion for photography into a serious endeavor, traveling and photographing the wild lands and wildlife of the western US. To see more great images, visit Wendy’s website.