A few weeks ago, reporter Judith Lewis Mernit and I boarded a bus with Lassen Tours, whose primary customers are Chinese, to discover how foreigners experience the West. In 72 hours we traveled from San Fransisco to Las Vegas with stops at natural spectacles like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. An outlet mall, fruit stands, singing fountains and Asian restaurants also made an appearance on the quick trip. Mernit summed up our perspective of the experience pretty well in the resulting High Country News article: “Both Warren and I had lived in other countries, places where we had learned the languages and tried our best to blend in with the locals. But our Chinese friends were having none of that. It occurred to us both in the same moment that we were not observing a troupe of Chinese visitors in the West attempting to adapt to our culture. We were traveling on a mobile China as it moved through the American West. And the American West was expanding — with restaurants, shopping and spectacles — to include them.” Read the resulting article here and see a few frames that didn’t make it in the story below.
I’ve been shooting a few assignments for High Country News where I work primarily as a designer and photo editor. I shot a story about a tiny speck on the map in Western Colorado back in October. That speck is called Gateway and with a population so small only 30 K-12 students attend the school, it’s hard to notice as you pass through the canyon. But what many people do notice is a huge resort, number one in Colorado and twelve in the world, that boasts a car museum, rafting, horseback riding, and romping around on gnarly roads.
I visited the place with Maureen Neal, who wrote an essay about watching the town of Gateway disappear for High Country News. She taught at the then one-room schoolhouse in 1985. We walked through the resort-owned land surrounding Gateway to visit the ancient cemetery that overlooks the town and spent the afternoon chatting with Aggie Wareham, 83, who has lived in Gateway almost her entire life. There were no commercial buildings not affiliated with the resort, and the old Vanadium mine that used to fuel the town economy in the 70s has turned into a site full of wrecked and rusting equipment.
The resort, out of sight from the town, is a huge complex of adobe buildings and green lawns with sprinklers spewing across the lawns. In October the place seemed empty, only a few cars in the lot, but apparently they get busy and fully booked during some seasons. Which is why they are building an employee housing complex to house all the workers that tend to visitors at the resort. I suspect the resort’s population exceeds the town’s during high season, maybe even year round.
Here are some shots from the area, including some I didn’t include in the magazine edit: