2021 off-season jeep tours

It’s incredible to me that what started off as current up-to-date posts has kept going and I’m already behind again, with the 2022 season about to take of.  That’s a good problem I suppose, it means I’m not about to run out of material soon!

But shooting around 40 rolls of film for this project every year, I suppose it’s to be expected.

Trolley ride

Every once in a while I get to ride along instead of driving, it gets me shots I wouldn’t otherwise.

I remember the saying that “if you have a camera, you’re a photographer.”  Well nearly everyone’s a photographer here.  A lot can be said about people who spend their life experiencing it through a screen.

On the subject of hats: an open letter to a coworker

Dear _____,

A few days ago you confronted me saying that my cowboy hat ain’t a cowboy hat or western enough because “it’s a fedora.”  And in the last 6 (almost 7) years of driving tours and fielding dumb questions by tourists, I have rarely encountered a statement so ignorant as to be downright idiotic, and certainly never one directed at me!  Just recently I’ve had several passengers at Garden of the Gods say they hoped they’d get me as their guide because they thought I really looked the part:

For point of reference, my hat is this one, a model made by Stetson, whose illustrious place in Western (and local) history you should know well: the original, the “Boss of the Plains,” was first sold in Central City, CO in 1865.  With all due respect, I regard their opinion of what constitutes a western hat higher than I do yours.  Also, absolutely every article of clothing you see me wearing in the above picture (and everything you can’t see) was made in the United States of America; I wonder if you could say the same on any given day.  There is nothing about my look that isn’t pure Americana.  Also it seems a strange time to bring it up, considering I’ve owned and worn this hat for nearly three years now.

(and this is how it looked brand new)

I don’t think I’d really care to have this argument if you weren’t over me and might have the power to make me stop wearing my favorite hat, so let’s do have this argument.  Now I suppose that when I think of the fedora and its famous wearers, topping the list would be Indiana Jones, and then perhaps Humphrey Bogart in any number of films.  Now I love a fedora because of these guys, they’re the epitome of mid-century cool.  My grandpa wore fedoras, one which I still have and wear.  I like the style, the look, and the ergonomics of it; it is familiar.  While not truly popular until the 1930s and ’40s the style itself can be found as far back as the 1880s if not earlier, and was worn by men since at least the 1890s along with similar hats like the homburg.  The fedora was worn (again by Bogart) in one of the best western films ever made, John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

On the right is Tim Holt wearing a pinched-front western hat.

Because of all the popular ways to crease a cowboy hat, one common style is called the pinched-front crease.  And I have numerous references to that effect:
https://horseyhooves.com/types-of-cowboy-hats/
https://www.langstons.com/resources-guide-cowboy-hats.html
https://www.rollingstone.com/product-recommendations/lifestyle/best-cowboy-hats-1196031/

It’s even a fact that cowboys back in the 1800s were wearing the pinched-front style, and there are several historical examples of this on display at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma:

For further angles on this display I would send you here, here, and here.

You can also see historical pinched-front styles celebrated here and here.  I especially liked this pic from the late ’30s and include it below:

(probably a Kodachrome slide if I had my guess)
These are historical cowboys as they were dressing before Jack Weill of Rockmount (another Colorado connection) had created western wear as its own unique clothing style; that wouldn’t happen for nearly another decade.  So the pinched-front crease is an even older cowboy institution than either the bolo tie or the western snap shirt!

And another, a 1937 Arthur Rothstein photograph for the FSA

Anticipating a deflection to an entirely different argument, that of what the *ahem* general public will accept and expect a cowboy to look like (doubtless with eventual allusions to Walt Disney), I started off with passengers’ feedback regarding my look.  The public at large has never vocally questioned whether or not I looked enough like a cowboy, so is this perhaps your own perception rather than anyone else’s?  By that same reasoning I would expect you to take exception to the look of this particular cowboy:

“That’s a terrible cowboy name!”
Actually I could give you an entire gallery here but a simple google image search for “John Wayne hat” will suffice.  Or look here, here, and here.  Hell, Stetson even has a line of hats now that they call the John Wayne collection, all with pinched-front creases, because I guess he really liked the style!  And if The Duke isn’t enough of a cowboy for you or the perceived public you hide behind, here are other movie cowboys wearing the same style in these articles from True West Magazine: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Wayne (again), Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, the Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers.  I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost researching this and putting it together; honestly I regret the necessity of it, but there it is.

Behind the scenes of social media

In all my tours I’ve never had so many pictures taken by passengers.  Every single one of them wanted so many taken at the same spot and all were very particular about how they looked.  Now evidently these days men have a reputation of being poor photographers, probably because they get too exhausted by demanding subjects.  Then again with my coworker Cougar and myself they found a couple guys willing to fawn over them like schoolboys and jump through whatever hoop they wanted.

Talking to passengers more recently, I guess that places like Garden of the Gods are getting notoriety thanks to lots of posts on Instagram, TikTok, and who knows whatever else, I really don’t want to get caught up in it all.  I don’t know how all these phone pics they/we took turned out but honestly the whole experience was eye-opening; they were much more concerned with how they looked in pictures than what the pictures were of, I think.  Is this the modern woman?  After the fact, I find the whole thing shallow and depressing.

A photographic time capsule

This was the single-use camera that someone found and gave to me.  I used up the last few exposures and then I just never got around to developing the film.  It turned out to be from 2017, I know because in the first image on the left is a cowboy named Twister who has since gone on to bigger and better things.  It was also nice to see a pic of myself in action, this is a shot I’ve gotten of a couple drivers in the past.

I’d say that this roll of film aged a bit better than the last one I found, but it is quite a lot newer.  I wouldn’t call these stunning images at all but it was a nice surprise to see what was on this roll of film because at this point I didn’t even remember taking these.

What tourists see

This is a Kodak single-use camera that someone abandoned/lost back in 2017.  I totally forgot I had it for a long time but eventually had the thing developed and here are the results.  “Disposable” (actually recyclable) single-use cameras are becoming a thing of the past it seems.  When I moved to Colorado in 2009 and in the first few years of driving Jeep tours I could still find them at grocery stores and gift shops, but it’s been a few years since I noticed any.  I suppose that cameras on phones have become so ubiquitous that they really aren’t needed, and why this couple wouldn’t have had another way to take pictures I’ll never know.

I find the photos to be pretty standard.  There are the telltale signs that they’ve never seen a landscape like the Rocky Mountains and want a reminder; I was like that myself when I first came here in 2003, but you get over it.  I’m not sure where they were before Garden of the Gods but I know exactly where they stood while they were in Colorado Springs, because it’s where every other tourist stands.  They all stand so patiently one at a time waiting their turn to pretend like they’re the sole discoverers of a pristine landscape when the reality is that this 2-square-mile park gets 7 million visitors a year. It’s a conceit that I’m guilty of following in my own images that are for me, but I’m busy trying to tear it down in my photo project.

And I find these images to be as throwaway as the camera on which they were made: there is nothing really insightful to be found here, just the same insta-feed fodder that every other person spits out.  Kenneth Wajda’s words come to mind.  Except that I remember coming to Garden of the Gods (and Colorado) for the first time and I remember how I felt, and I’m sure these people are feeling the same thing.  But I also have no doubt that these images exist in other people’s feeds and camera rolls with little variation.  That said, they deserve to be seen, and although I’ve been a bit critical what I’m trying to say is that these images are nothing special without the addition of the people who made them.

Day One on the trolley

Honestly I’m not a fan of driving it myself, got a few different reasons behind it, from the number of shorter tours per day to the kind of clientele you get (and the corresponding tips).  But I’ll take it every once in a while if someone else needs a break from it for a week.  It provides excellent fodder for Gawkers As Spectacle.

Also fun to watch my different expressions throughout the sequence.

2021 late season jeep tours

The most up-to date I’ve ever been on producing photos, considering I took all these between August and October.  And I still have all of 2019 which I haven’t published, plus all of 2020 which should all be developed next week.

I suppose I cherry picked here a bit but then I didn’t have as many considering I had a different job most of the Summer.  But it’s kind of odd that I can lump an entire season into one post and nine images; however, there will be more.