This Magic Moment
The best images from our 7th annual photo contest make us appreciate the fragile nature of time — and life.
Winner of the 7th Annual Cowboys & Indians Magazine Photo Contest, March 2012: Remembering Times Past, by Dave Drost
The camera does seem to love certain people. Babies. Actors. Models.
And Susie Yazzie.
Last year, the winning image in our photo contest was a black-and-white that captured an old American Indian woman in front of the hogan in Monument Valley where she still sells the rugs she has woven for decades. The weaver turned out to be Susie Yazzie.
This year we were drawn to a vibrant color image of two Native women sitting on the characteristically red rocks of Navajoland. Imagine our surprise when we talked to photographer Dave Drost and learned that the elderly woman was in fact — again — Susie Yazzie, this time with daughter Effie.
But it’s really not so surprising. The lens doesn’t just love certain faces, it loves a good moment. And Drost caught mother and daughter sharing a singular one.
A former yacht salesman from Southern California who took up photography in a serious way when he retired and moved to a ranch in Arizona, Drost fell in love with Monument Valley the second he drove in. And he fell in love with Susie and Effie Yazzie the second he met them. Over the years, Drost has gotten to know the pair and tries to do something nice for them when he visits. He might bring hay for Effie’s sheep, or offer to take a special mother-daughter portrait.
Effie found the perfect location. “Effie was born here,” Drost says. “She took me around a corner up above the cliffs and said they used to crawl up behind the rocks and play in the watering holes after the rain. We kept driving. ‘See that arch?’ she said. ‘That’s Moccasin Arch. We used to play there and throw rocks.’ ” They’d found their spot just a mile from where the Yazzies live.
Drost and Effie brought Susie back to the arch for the photo. “Here’s Susie, 97 at the time, and she’s climbing up the rocks. She wanted to go up there because that’s where she used to meditate and play with her children. They were talking in their own language — the strangest noises. I asked Effie what Susie was saying. They were reminiscing about old times. Effie was talking to her mother when she pointed up. I don’t know what she was pointing at, but I got the shot.”
As noted Life photographer and picture editor John Loengard might explain the image’s appeal, “Unless there is something a little incomplete and a little strange, it will simply look like a copy of something pretty. We won’t take an interest in it. ... Perishability in a picture is important. If a photograph looks perishable we say, ‘Gee, I’m glad I have that moment.’ ”
Which is just about what we said. And we hope it’s what you’ll say when you spend time with these winning and wonderful moments in the West.