Coming and Going and Staying by Lara Shipley

Issue 37

This town is tucked deep into the Sonoran Desert. It is a convergence point of three nations. A place of passage, from one life to the hope of another. An open-pit void, the scene of an extraction. It is a retirement community, where the desert sun warms old bones. A hometown, safe but dull. There are people who live there, busy in the creation of their imagined selves. Through the camera I imagine them as well.

The land we call home is as much a container for our identity as our own bodies. It is also just as malleable, and fraught with contradictions. I have been traveling to this town for the past year and a half. The more time I spend there, the more I am struck by its nebulous form. It is defined by the people who live there, and each of them define it differently. One resident, in a startling act of self awareness, wrote a play about the town, in which two aliens posing as anthropologists traveled there during varied periods of time. With every trip they found a different group of people; Spanish conquistadors, Rough Rider industrialists, Tohono O’odham and border patrol, reinventing this one little patch of out-of-the-way desert for themselves.

Today I do the same. I take portraits of locals who appear to me particularly aware of their identity and landscapes and interiors that are as mysterious as they are distinctive. Weaving these parts together I form my own town; a place that draws from the memories of my childhood and mixes them with my imagined and actual experience of the West. The result is a place that can only be visited through the work, but is just as real as the place you call home.

Lara Shipley is a Tempe, AZ based photographer.
To view more of Lara's work, please visit her website.

  Orange and Ocotillo at Gringo Pass 

Orange and Ocotillo at Gringo Pass 

  Klayla, Twin of Terri 

Klayla, Twin of Terri 

  Creatures 

Creatures 

  Outskirts 

Outskirts 

  Dance Night at the Macambo 

Dance Night at the Macambo 

  Springbreak at Pizza Hut 

Springbreak at Pizza Hut 

  Dust Devil 

Dust Devil 

  The Stout Hotel 

The Stout Hotel 

  Rodeo Queen 

Rodeo Queen 

  The Air is Still With Their Waiting 

The Air is Still With Their Waiting 

  Terri, Twin of Klayla 

Terri, Twin of Klayla 

  Night Drive 

Night Drive 

  Samira and Sam 

Samira and Sam 

  Cliff's edge 

Cliff's edge 

  Victor 

Victor