Some years back one of my peers at work made what I thought was an interesting observation. "People are scary," he said. He fleshed out his position by saying, "Most people don't really want to meet new people. They prefer to be seen, but not noticed. When people say, "How are you?" they're just being polite. They don't really want to know how you're doing." While I have found some truth in his comments, I have chosen to operate counter to that and it has almost always paid dividends. It's not always easy, but I have found the reward to be worth any perceived risk. That's how I met Michael.
My friend and fellow photographer Geraint Smith and I were on a photo safari in northern New Mexico. We were out early scouting locations in Raton, a once thriving town that is attempting to make an economic comeback after its primary industry left a number of years ago. Many of the buildings on Raton's two primary streets date back to the early 1900's and bear the trademark decorative steel pillars from that era. Some of the buildings are now homes to restaurants and antique dealers. One of the largest merchants in Raton's heyday was Marchiando's, which was a general store in the truest sense of the word. Marchiando's opened in 1913 and if they didn't have it, you probably didn't need it. The store closed in 1992 and the property was unoccupied for over 23 years. The new owner wants to bring the property back to life and Michael has an important role in that. He will be handling some of the restoration carpentry...and there's a lot of it.
Michael has lived in Raton for a long time and is glad to see things going in positive way after so many years of economic challenges. I found him to be easy going and I very much appreciated his willingness to spend a few minutes in front of my camera. Walking into Marchiando's, I was struck by the quality of the light coming in from the large front windows and the wall of display shelves that still had a smattering of merchandise left from when the store closed. When I first spoke to Michael, I knew that's where I wanted to place him for his portrait. For me, the few items on the shelves, the price stickers, and the signs provide the necessary context to tell a bit of his story.
It's meeting people like Michael that give me the courage to keep fighting my tendency to hold back in new situations. Everyone has a story to tell and I'm glad to be the conduit to make that happen.