• Photo Diary: The Southwestern Desert

    The desert landscapes of New Mexico, Arizona, and California have long been sources of inspiration for artists and creatives from all over the world…and for good reason. Step into the dreamy, mystical photos of Arizona native Krysta Jabczenski for a study in transportive desert beauty. 

    Can you share more about your background + upbringing? 
    I was the second oldest sibling of four girls. We grew up in New Mexico and Arizona, when there was a lot more desert than shopping centers.  The Southwest in the 80s and 90s was way too tanned skin, pink Wet n' Wild Lipstick, and your wackiest country button-up. I lived for Wynona Judd and I once caught a lizard and named it Garth, after Garth Brooks. My dad raised us like tomboys: hiking, fishing, and playing sports. At one point he installed a basketball hoop in our front yard, but it's surrounded by prickly cactus, so it's pretty much just a place basketballs go to die. 

    We were taken by something you mentioned in another interview, that your work strives to capture “magic in the mundane, supernatural norms.” Can you elaborate?
    Every once and a while, I'll be going about the business of a regular day when something on the horizon piques my interest and I'm reminded that this moment exists now, and ONLY now. It's easy to let a moment slide, but the power of photography is you can retain that moment, and reflect on it years later. It's like a song you fell in love with as a kid, it's a marker of time, and there is value in that. Most of the time it's what would usually be a boring landscape that for some reason in that particular moment is illuminated by an inexplicable energy. Plants with a strangely expressive form, light and shadow that play with each other, the rhythm of the subjects in the frame...it's realizing you're in the right place at exactly the right time, and it's visceral because it's a moment that found you rather then being styled or contrived.

    Nature, geography, landscape, and the layers + textures therein play big roles in your photos. Can you talk a bit about your relationship with these things? 
    In an old Arizona Highways magazine I read an interview with Frank Lloyd Wright. When asked, "What is nature?"  he replied, "Nature is Fate."  I've held onto that big time. I'm fascinated with the natural sciences and how it feels entirely beyond the physical realm—always moving, growing, decaying, morphing into something else. There's an energy there that drives and controls everything. 

    When I see color changes in mountains, I think of mineral shifts, then I think about earthquakes, contents displaced, and how everything is always moving. When I see plants soaking up the sun, I think it's absurd and unapologetically poetic that plants are literally growing from light. Then there's water, how it travels and is recycled in so many forms; it's like a ghost. I'm not a scientist, and these are very basic principles, but none-the-less fascinating in a way that I feel is often overlooked. 'Nature is fate' to me implies that nature is everything out of your control and I'm drawn to spaces, textures, and layers illustrating that. 

    Speaking of “the everyday” and the textures of nature: can you share a short list of some subtleties (of any genre) that you find compelling?
    Tan lines
    Saguaros that look like people  
    Fallen flowers from their tree so abundant it's like the tree's shadow at noon. 
    The skin of calm water  

    What’s your shooting process like — can you share more about how one of your photos comes together?
    I've used almost every camera imaginable and I only take good photographs with cameras that are quick and discrete. If it needs a tripod, it's too late. If I disrupt the moment by causing a scene with a 4x5, the energy is gone. I still use the same cameras I learned with in high school. They're nothing fancy: a Pentax k1000 and a Nikon FE2. They break sometimes and get light leaks. I'll keep it broken for a little while because I think the leak adds a little life. Then, I'll get sick of the leak and finally get it fixed. Some of my shots are premeditated but they're mostly spontaneous.  Most are from road trips because I tend to see more when I'm experiencing new places. I love all seasons, all times of day but I suppose I get real shutter happy in the desert spring. I fall hard for the wildflowers every year. 

    Outside of Arizona, where are some of your places to travel + photograph? 
    Anywhere without phone lines visible on the horizon. 

    What are five things you’ve been into lately?
    Adobe homes, Death Valley, Alice Coltrane, cobalt blue ceramics, permaculture

    What are five things you are always into?
    Hot springs, cooking, trail running, wabi-Sabi, wildflowers 

    Follow Krysta on her website and Instagram