TUCUMCARI

In 2006 while driving cross-country I pulled off Interstate 40 for a break in Tucumcari, NM. I was drawn to the historic buildings along Main Street and the way their brilliant colors shone in the western sun light. I roamed with my camera and took a few pictures. At the time, I had no intentions for the photographs. A year later, making the same cross-country drive, I stopped in Tucumcari again. I was surprised at how much the town, a place that previously appeared frozen in time, had changed. Most striking, the landmark Sands Dorsey Drug Store at the corner of Second and Main Street had been gutted by fire. Yellow caution tape and orange construction netting surrounded the building like chalk outlines tracing a fallen body. Signage on several buildings had been removed. One block away from the nearly deserted Main Street, the Ogden Theater, one of the few downtown businesses still in operation, was playing the movie “Forbidden Kingdom”, a fit description of the town itself. These images became the first photographs in my series “Tucumcari”. In the following years I continued to revisit the town and make photographs of storefronts, residents and Tucumcari Mountain, among other subjects. What started as a serendipitous stop became a decade-long project to document this town in flux, affected by both local struggles and a larger national economic down-turn.

Recent developments in Tucumcari have been along the interstate. Some chain restaurants and motels continue to be erected though many of the town's small independent establishments have been abandoned and sometimes bulldozed and cleared away occasionally leaving their iconic neon signs standing like tombstones over empty lots. The town’s centennial occurred in 2008. Though it passed uncelebrated, I felt it an appropriate time to consider this distinctly American place caught between a vanishing past and an uncertain future.