Battle of Picacho Pass

Photo by Deanna Dent

On Sunday I decided to visit a civil war re-enactment of the battle of Picacho Pass which in reality was a small skirmish regardless it was the westernmost battle fought during the civil war. Since before Picacho Peak became an Arizona State Park in 1967 reenactors have been coming out to recreate the skirmish. Officially the park has helped organize the event for 48 years with coordination between rangers and Union and Confederate commanders who help organize their re-enactors but the battle was happening annually long before that. I have heard about this since I was young but never actually seen it myself, like so many Arizonans. A ranger mentioned that these reenactors were today’s Harry Potter reenactors, just people wanting to have a good time.

Civil War reenactors from Mesa, Tucson, Prescott and even from California, New Mexico, Virginia and many other states came to recreate the skirmish. They also recreate other civil war battles and bring canons that are fired during two prior battles during the day. The final battle of Sunday was the true skirmish where three Confederate soldiers were surprised by Union cavalry (they traveled up from Sierra Vista) and proceeded to surprise and drive off the Union soldiers. According to the park nearly 6,000 people attend throughout Saturday and Sundays’ battles and visitors can wander through the camps learning about life during the civil war. I wish I had been able to spend the entire weekend with them. I shot a few portraits below of some of the interesting people I met, I have to say I was drawn to the Confederate camp because most had no uniform, one reenactor explained that Confederates didn’t have government issued uniforms so they wore whatever they could manage. The Union camp was outfitted in full uniforms, but children roamed everywhere in 18th century dresses and period pants.

The scene was interesting too, with spectators climbing up onto the side of the mountain for better views and exclaiming or covering their ears with each canon shot. Even in the nearly 90 degree weather people gathered to watch the action, I didn’t really include many of the battle, you’re set back out of the way and the most interesting part where those who came to perform and those who came to watch.

Photo by Deanna Dent

Holi Celebration in Phoenix!



When I was a student at Arizona State University I attended my first Holi celebration but it is nothing compared to what I experience at South Mountain Park at an event hosted by the Indian Association of Phoenix. It was madness, but a slow madness and I’m lucky I only got caught by two people. If you want to know more about the festival I would recommend clicking the link above as wikipedia will do a better job than I will.

What I loved about the celebration was the pure joy of it, when I teach my photojournalism students about capturing moments we talk about how difficult that can be. People are so aware in everyday life it’s hard to capture honest moments of emotion. A festival like this is beautiful because it reminds people how much fun can be had in just a few hours of their Sunday afternoon. I saw grown men chasing each other with water guns and dousing each other with buckets of colored water. It is rare to see adults, myself included, reduced to the pure joy of childhood and it makes those ‘moments’ so much easier to capture. My only lament was that I couldn’t properly participate (I had a formal event I was shooting later in the day and the dyes do stick to your skin . . . ).

Arpaio Court Appointed Monitor



Love in the Hills


An excerpt below from an Atlantic article by Emily Esfahani Smith covering the new book by Barbara Fredrickson and the changing idea of love.

“Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.

Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.'”

I read this article and found that it resonated with me, I mean what is photography but trying to create those micro-moments with the people you are covering? When I chose to visit the Love in the Hills put on by Sami’s Fine Jewelers I didn’t know what to expect aside from a marketing event for the company but I was hoping to see something of love on Valentines Day and hopefully see so many “micro-moments.”

It surprised me to find something that resembled a pilgrimage for married couples who wanted to share their love with strangers, which after reading this article, made so much more sense. They struck me as apostles for love, sharing their stories and personal secrets of maintaining love to those who might listen and were receptive to their sermon. Toni Minndeci dressed in red with a cream colored veil, going 63 years strong with her husband, told me “Honey, I pinch his ass every night before bed,” and her husband Sam just smiled while her family exclaimed. They are pictured below.



I met another couple, Sarah and Shawn Eversole (picture center above), who had been together just a few years but watched them stare into each others eyes the entire time the officiator spoke during the ceremony and connect on a deep level that even now I’m not sure I have ever experienced. Others brought their wedding veils, wedding day photographs and shared it with those who asked. I met the Erdos, together for 46 years, and they said it was the adversity of immigrating to the states and raising their children, that helped them move through life together.


It was at a basic level a confirmation of love, along with an opportunity win a free round of golf, but it also struck me as people who wanted to make positive connections with strangers, who in turn were attracted to the event because of the possible connection they could make others. It was probably one of the most surprisingly positive events I’ve had to shoot in the past few weeks and reminded me of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote, “There is always something left to love.”


Tent City tour by the ASU and UMN Humphrey scholars


Thursday last week was interesting, I was able to tag along with Humphrey Scholars from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and University of Minnesota as they spoke with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and took a tour of tent city. The groups were comprised of journalism, human rights advocates, lawyers, judges and law enforcement officials from a plethora of different countries and they were able to listen to Sheriff Arpaio talk about his approach to law enforcement and address everything from his religion to his human rights record.



For many scholars the idea of an outdoor jail was something completely new, but when I served in Peace Corps in Zambia our local district Mwinilunga, functioned in much the same way. The fact that tent city serves no meat in their menu was a particular point of interest as well as prisoners working as a means to staying in the short term tent city as opposed to staying downtown. Pink underwear came up of course.

I’m uploading some images that I liked and trying to respect that I asked inmates before taking their photo, we had limited time but it was interesting to see the facility after growing up with it as a constant presence. My mother worked across the street and I remember as a child several times when she was late coming home because an inmate had escaped and her office was on lock down.


The inmate pictured above was being released at midnight and was so happy, she said she was clean and would go straight to rehab. She said she read a book a day and her favorite was The Fault in Our Stars, a great book about teens suffering from cancer who were in love. The covers of every book were so worn, it made me want to donate more books.

The image below is difficult to make out but it’s a calendar with crossed out days.


The guards were also interesting to talk to, it just wasn’t enough time.

El Festival de Blanco y Negros en Pasto, Colombia or the Black and White festival


The Black and White Festival in the city of Pasto, Narino, Colombia is probably one of the most intriguing events I have ever attended. It has a long history as a series of celebrations from Christmas until epiphany on January 6th. The festivities culminate on the Day of the Blacks on the eve of epiphany followed by the Day of the Whites with a huge parade.

The Day of the Blacks goes back to a proclamation of a “free” day where all slaves where to have a day where they were free to do as they please. I’ve read that because Pasto had such few slaves many painted their face black and that to show approval non-whites painted their face black. It’s an interesting tradition in Colombia that was based in race, but now seems to just be a free for all party where not even your 85-year-old grandmother would be safe.

4-year-olds to grandfathers roam the streets with ‘cariocas’ or foam shooters, talcum powder and a rainbow of different colored paints and they all go wild. You’re not safe inside a building or amongst friends and when we took our photos with police they proceeded to shoot us with foam.DSC00886

Everyone wears a poncho and sunglasses (you simply can’t avoid it) and no one is above being attacked from behind and having a handful of paint slathered all over their faces. Sometimes people face you from in front they gently come up and gesture to you with a finger of paint, though those are the outliers and you view this politeness with suspicion as if at any moment their friends might attack from behind.


So we went out and bought cariocas (foam guns), paint, ponchos and Debra bought motorcycle goggles because the foam and talcum powder burn in your eyes and we headed down to the carossas, or parade floats. There were two near the city center that were preparing for the Whites Day (epiphany and the culmination of the major celebrations) when the parades head down their route and everyone gets covered in talcum powder.

At the workshops we kept waiting for someone to tell us to get out of the way, but they welcomed curiosity as they painted, welded and worked like mad to put together the remaining floats. The tradition in Pasto has been for specific families to sponsor the building of floats, and according to people at both sites the artists are all volunteers from Pasto. It’s amazing to see the styrofoam/cardboard/neon airbrushed pieces that in a matter of hours would constitute a giant float we’ll all get to admire for just a few hours.

After this we headed back, frequently attacked by small children and then taking it out on other small children. 20150105pasto046


We made our way to Plaza Narino where it was truly chaos. The square was white as if in winter from all the powder on the ground. Some politely came up and asked to paint our faces while others just flat out massacred us. My sister was attacked below and I ran but that little kid below caught me anyway.KO6A9035

We had some aguardiente at one of the many little bars that line the street only to be painted on by our neighbors and then offered whisky by Charlie. We were starting to look pretty ridiculous by that point, our ponchos soaked and covered in paint and our faces looked like muddy rainbows. We made our way to the carnival plaza which was the most ridiculous place I’ve ever been. It was a free for all, you were not safe at the bar drinking your beer (which ended up being covered by foam and talcum powder) or in a group of people. Our neighbor repeatedly danced with us, bought us beer and his son surprised attacked us several times over. I switched from my 5D to the Fuji x100 as everyone was getting rowdier and you could see ‘mini wars’ happening all over the plaza. It felt like being a kid again. For a couple of hours we sat and drank beer, were attacked by instigators, attacked them back and occasionally shot someone walking by and repeatedly shot each other on accident. By the end of the night our foam was gone, so we resorted to paint and you know being 5’10” has its’ advantages as you can pretty well smear anyones face from behind.

The culmination of my night was probably taking our sorry selves into a “Mr. Chicken” franchise (think Dennys) completely covered in paint, leaving residue everywhere we walked, and being politely attended to by our waiter as if it were no strange thing to serve four filthy ladies fries and pizza.


Stop the Killing Protest in Phoenix, Ariz.


The Stop the Killing protest was one of many today across the country. The protest focused on the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown but mainly those deaths in Phoenix of Rumain Brisbon, Michelle Cusseaux and Salvador Reza.

The protestors also focused on the lack of indictment of officers, as many already know in the case of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The protestors began at Cesar Chavez Plaza passed the Phoenix Police Headquarters, turned back up Jefferson and held a die-in at Maricopa County Superior Court, passed through the CVS at Cityscape and stopped for a second die-in at Washington and Central. The die-in’s lasted 4 minutes and 28 seconds to symbolize the time, 4 hours and 28 minutes, that the body of Michael Brown laid in the street after his death.

20141220protest618The protest continued down Central blocking the lightrail line until protestors reached McDowell Road and Central before being stopped by a line of police on the West end of McDowell. At the intersection a prayer was held, along with the “hands up, dont shoot” that has been heard throughout all these incidents.


ASU Graduation

I got to shoot ASU graduation by tagging along with ASU marketing photographer Andy Delisle so I could shoot for fun. It was overwhelming with so many people, so much movement but fun to just wander and shoot for myself which I enjoyed. Oh and they release balloons, something about hundreds of giant balloons (as big as a small child) which is just so fun . . .

I love mortar boards, personal expression that now inhibits students from throwing them up in the air (my thoughts at least). Though most were personal messages or thank you’s to family members the student below had a political message, the first I’ve ever seen at least.


Glamour Academia de Moda Fashion Show in Tempe

Flamour Academia de Moda held a fashion show of their students’ work at Tempe Center for the Arts. This was my first and only fashion show and on a visual level it was so intriguing. Between the girls, their colorful dresses and the crazy poor light. Many of the girls had been there for hours preparing for the show with their family and friends. It was just a great event that I was invited to the evening before by one of the model’s mothers and it was really the highlight of my week.

La Virgen de Guadalupe Celebrations

I photographed three different celebrations for the Virgen of Guadalupe, but unfortunately one was on a camera card I formatted . . . really unfortunate as the photos were not stunning, but still showed the devotion in a procession up in Queen Creek. Below are images from dancers at PromiseAZ, a local group that helps community members reach their full potential. I showed up and Petra, the group’s main organizer invited me in. I loved photographing the dance, which I need more explanation for but it was wonderful to photograph.


The group below belongs to a really impressive dancer I’ve met, Joey Cazarez, and they were dancing for the Virgin of Guadalupe to any household that welcomed them. I’ve added most of the photographs so they can see how they turned out.