You'll often hear artists refer to a love of the light when they discuss New Mexico as subject matter, and in no other medium is this so immediately apparent as in photography. The place is undeniably photogenic, and it's proven time and time again by social media snaps of sunset after sunset, balloons of all shapes and sizes, arts installations, people—and, let's not forget, SFR's wildly popular annual photo contest, which spawned hundreds of submissions this year.
"I think it's a couple of things," says Angie Rizzo, exhibits and programs manager for photo-centric organization CENTER. "It's the landscape—the gently formed rocks and landscapes that form beautiful patterns—but since the mountains are in the north, we get the full range of the sun from east to west."
Rizzo cites Denver as an example of different (or lesser) light. "Because the mountains are in the west, they cut off the sunset before it reaches the city, and we don't get that," she says. "I think it's also about the extreme weather here—you know, like the beautiful clouds."
Photographer Mark Woodward, who has tackled assignments for SFR and other publications, splits his time between Santa Fe and New York City. For him, it's more about the people. "Sunsets, mountain and rainbows aside, there is a tight community of shooters here in New Mexico," Woodward says. "A lot of these photographers are also working on longer-term photo projects in the Southwest, which is ideal for me to be around." Woodward says New Mexico provides easier access to state and federal institutions when compared to the East Coast, also a huge plus when it comes to his current projects about border regions and incarceration.
For Kate Russell, a longtime local and primarily self-taught shooter, it comes down to the people as well. Russell has worked for various media outlets as well as the Santa Fe Opera, SITE Santa Fe and, most recently, Meow Wolf. "I definitely have my personal projects that seem to come from the story of people," Russell says, also pointing out that elevation and color play a role in New Mexico-based photography. "Technically speaking, the quality of light changes at higher elevations and the color palette here is different from anywhere else in the country."
A glance at the #NewMexico hashtag on Instagram provides a gorgeous glimpse at our state, from White Sands in the south and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the north, to the culture, arts, music, people, waterways, wildlife, food and beyond.
We have it incredibly good here. And as long as shooters, from the most seasoned pros to those who merely own smartphones, keep snapping, we'll always have a glimpse into what makes New Mexico's photos so phenomenal.