AZ Foothills: Most Influential Phoenicians
This last month I had the pleasure to work on a project with Arizona Foothills Magazine photographing The Most Influential Phoenicians. It was truly amazing to meet and photograph everyone who is featured in this article.
Utah Trips with my brother David
Motorcycles are a huge part of my life, I think it’s really embedded in my DNA. I grew up riding dirt bikes with my family and watched my dad and uncles pull wheelies, race each other, and yell “Yeeeehaaaw!” as they passed. When my father bought me my first dirt bike, I was in heaven. We would go to Supercross every year and I would always be sporting my jersey and riding gear.I think secretly I wanted to become a professional racer and ride motorcycles for a career. I mean, that idea still sounds pretty cool. Maybe this blog post will be a reevaluation of my life?
Anyway, me and my brother have started going on trips together the last two years and we’re slowly building up a good moto group. This summer we made it to Utah twice, both times were difficult but totally worth it. This last trip was a reminder how fragile situations can be without support.
We started our trip in Big Water, Utah, a small town just north of Lake Powell. Here we took off to Escalante, UT through mountains desert and extremely washed out washes from storm floods. We had a decent ride until we found ourselves at the last 10 miles of our 90 mile off road adventure. We were faced with rapid flooding that we needed to cross to reach the town. We made it through most of it but the last two were catastrophic. My brother and his friend ended up filling their dirt bike and quad engines full of water causing them to be stranded about 5 miles from town. I eventually “Buddy Pushed” them both into town and we shacked up in a hotel for the night.
The next day they found a mechanic who called himself The Doctor. I slept in while they dealt with their bikes and eventually went to The Doctor’s house to see their progress. The Doctor greeted me by saying “You must be the brother that didn’t fall” as he grinned and chuckled. He was definitely a character who had leathered skin, cut shirt, wallet chain, and a thick Detroit accent. His glasses always held reflections which made it almost impossible to see his eyes and he would often look off while he would be talking. His House was littered with motorcycle signs, parts, and tires nailed on the walls with locations of the individuals who have come and switched out their tires. This place is more than obsession, it’s like a shrine to motorcyclist and the culture.
I realized that The Doctor wasn’t physically working on the bikes and instead was charging my brother and his friend for his guidance because “they need to learn how to fix these things themselves”. It was great meeting him and talking about everything from Sturgis to UFO’s. He sent us on our way with parting gifts, little key chains he made and called “Road Warriors, well, Off Road Warriors for you guys”. I have it on my key chain now and it’s a constant reminder of him and the passion we share for motorcycles.
We set off only to have new problems as we summited the next mountain. The trip at this point was done because the damages to a bike were not fixable. We went into rescue mode, and after the day was done got off the mountain and drove home.
But besides the bad luck, each trip I take is another glimpse into finding that freedom where your mind transforms. At the end of the trails, we can look at each other with nothing but wide eyes, nods of agreement, and plenty of grins.
Dave pulling out tools for his flat tire
Me on my bike, yeah i play dress up.
Working on Davids sticky carb float.
Bryant and Lacey Hunter
Bryant Hunter has been one of my best friends for years now. When we were young he would disappear all summer to help his grandpa Royal on his farm. Eventually he moved out to Nebraska to do some schooling and eventually take over the farm at twenty-six years old. I now go and visit him at least once a year to hang out, help on the farm, and photograph the life he lives. I had the honor of standing next to him as he wed his awesome wife Lacey.
Meeting Lacey I was concerned because Bryant is such a thrill seeker and I wasn’t sure what to expect her to be like. But when they said “hold our beer and watch this”, jumped on a dirt bike and pulled a wheelie for a couple hundred feet together, I knew right then that they’re a perfect match. We had such a great time hanging out with them in Estes Park and celebrating the start of their new chapter as husband and wife. I wish these hard working thrill seekers years of happiness, less broken bones, and great success!
Two weeks before this trip I received an invite asking if I was free to join some friends on this overnight trip. One person couldn’t make it because a work conflict and the spot was mine for the taking! I don’t know if you’ve heard about getting a reservation for Havasupai, but its almost impossible. It was me and photographers Stephen Denton and Johnny Jaffe for two nights in the canyon. We left Phoenix on a 5-6 hour drive to the trail head where we slept in the parking lot and woke at 3am to start our hike in at 4am. The hike to our campsite was about 11 miles in from the top with switch backs, washes, and beautiful canyons before reaching Supai Village where you hike through fields that help feed the small community.
We set up camp and took a breather in our hammocks to cool down and start to enjoy our time. After the break, Johnny’s knee was super stiff and in pain but we decided to go to Mooney falls and chill out in the cool turquoise waters. On the way down to the fall was a treacherous decent of slippery wet clay and anchored chains as guide ropes to use as grip. It was one of the sketchiest climbs I’ve ever encountered. At the bottom we hung out in the water, took pictures, and enjoyed watching the social media modeling commence. It was not that busy at the time, and Stephen said it was a night and day difference between his last trip to the falls.
Climbing up the path to go back for some lunch it was apparent that Johnny’s knee was turning into a major concern. We made some lunch and I passed out for a moment being woke by the boys staring and laughing that I wouldn’t wake up from them saying my name. For those who don’t know, I’m deaf in my left ear and have partial hearing loss in the right as well, so I’m not one to wake easily. It is pretty humorous at times, especially when I hear something completely wrong. We set off to see Havasu Falls and Johnny was walking like he had a peg leg… it wasn’t far and we chilled there for a while. Me and Stephen tried swimming into the fall as hard as we could but with no success from the extreme current of the running water. We headed back to camp and set up for dinner. After eating Stephen went back to Havasu Falls to grab some images before the night fall and me an Johnny rested and bullshitted at our picnic table before returning for the night after Stephen returned.
The next morning Johnny’s knee still felt terrible, but luckily a ranger came by during breakfast and told us that if we need there are flights that day otherwise we need to stay until Thursday for the next flight out. We questioned leaving at first but decided that the hike out will definitely hurt Johnny more and we voted for a departure. The 3-mile hike to the helicopter was terrible in the mid day sun with over 100-degrees F. Stephen carried three packs while I carried two and set off before everyone to make sure we could get on a flight. I ran back after dropping my bags and securing our flight. I found Stephen not too far from the helicopter and in decent shape, but when I got to Johnny he was so relieved to get his bag off his back. We flew out of the canyon and headed home after having some cold lemonade we froze and left in the car.
It was a defeat for the trip to head home early but we knew that with Johnny’s condition we couldn’t have made it out without bad damage to his knee. That next Thursday, the day of our next flight I get messages from Stephen and Johnny about flash floods in the canyon Wednesday night and all campers being evacuated by helicopter. I was so glad we choose the plan that we did and did not stay till Thursday. According to reports, no one was seriously injured and everyone was accounted for.
This was a great trip despite the bad luck, but I’m so happy I was able to go and enjoy the falls for a day and spend some time with some quality dudes. I can not wait to try and get a slot and try my luck at another trip one day. But for now I’m glad we made it out soaked in our sweat instead of flood water.
Every year my father has a weekend beach party in Mission Bay, San Diego. Friends and family join together to hang out, catch some sun, sail, and celebrate my father’s birthday. My dad is super smart and hides some of it behind his funny guy attitude. But when you get to know him, he has a solution for almost any obstacle and knowledge in many subjects. Quoting my uncle David from this trip "Well we need to wait for Scott because no one knows how to rig a sailboat better than him".
He grew up in San Diego and moved to Arizona when he was 18. He shuffled back and forth because family and business, always passing through Yuma, AZ. He’s asked me for a couple years to stop in Yuma at night and take a picture of the old bridge that crosses over the Colorado River. But I’ve never had the time, that is, until this July. While taking this picture for him I realized this bridge is more than just a cool rustic scene, but a symbol of transition, change and divide.
San Diego is a nostalgia center for part of his youth. He’s always having fun with sailboats, motorcycles, cars, or scuba diving. His foundation runs extremely deep here, every time me and him go for a drive around the city I get a new story about his youth, family, friends, or some random event that happened at a location.
I think there’s a rule in the Williams family that the first number in our age doesn’t matter and our we remain between 10-29 in spirit. Because we’re all just big kids looking for a thrill. So 56, 16, 26, whatever you claim, are you’re still the best father and friend that anyone could ask for, happy birthday old man.
Reflecting on the start of summer
As summer comes nearer to passing us by, I've been reflecting and trying to look at all the images and trips I've taken this year. I feel like my official start to summer was my trip to Northern Arizona / Southern Utah with my friend Spencer.
My friend Spencer is a guy who’s always ready to join me on some form of adventure. We were having lunch one day and he told me that he wanted to get out of town for a weekend and try to see some new sights. Impulsive as I am, I took this as an invitation to leave the very next weekend.
Our first night we made it to Lone Rock Beach where we camped under the stars as the moon illuminated Lone Rock. It was an amazing sight rolling up to the beach where this rock stood out of the lake. Individual camps were spaced about 20 feet apart all along the beach. You’re definitely not alone in this primitive campground but not many people stayed awake after the sun set around 8:00pm.
The next day we embarked on a journey off road to Pee-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. It was a long way from Lake Powell, but totally worth the drive. The canyons definitely bring out any form of claustrophobia you may have. The whole time you feel enclosed in the dark confined slots where sometimes you need to crawl or “get skinny” to fit through. The hike was full of constant surprises.
From the Slot Canyons we headed to Bryce Canyon to sleep at nearby Tropic Reservoir where we set up camp. The next morning, we went to Bryce Canyon to see the Hoodoos, which are spires of eroded rock. Bryce Canyon was amazing but what really entranced Spencer was the drive on Highway 12 through Red Canyon. The highway takes you through man made holes in the rock and the sides of the canyon are lined with red Hoodoos. Definitely a super cool sight to see the earth looking extremely mars like.
From the Highway 12, we hit Highway 89 back down to Lake Powell and stopped at Horseshoe Bend to take a look from above. It’s a short walk up and down a small hill to the canyon edge where you need to dodge tourists like you’re at Disneyland. At the edge we found tourists on the edge taking selfies, doing yoga poses, and sitting with their legs dangling. I took my pictures and thought it was truly a beautiful view. But what you do not see from the pictures of Horseshoe Bend is the lines of crazy tourists turning into stuntmen and getting their “social media” pictures. I had to leave fairly fast because I didn’t want to see someone slip off this canyon wall while doing a handstand or something absurd.
This marked the end to our sightseeing tour of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah and we returned to Phoenix. I grew up riding through these locations on motorcycles with my family and I always associate this region with summertime, adventure and vacation. This was definitely a great way to start the summer.
Two weeks in Thailand
We pressed forward from Phetchaburi to Hua Hin by rail which had no A/C, open windows, and vendors power walking back and forth through the train yelling to sell their goods to the locals. We grabbed a boat to Koh Tao where we experienced bad weather but persevered to make the best of the beaches. Here we snorkeled and chilled out at bars and enjoyed the beach sunsets. We went to another island Haad Rin, which is known for full moon parties. It was not a full moon but we thought the town would be somewhat entertaining, we were wrong. The town felt like it was in a constant state of a hangover. It held a small amount of tourist at this time, all in pursuit of getting fucked up and recovery at the same time. After an escape from the plastic littered beach of Haad Rin, we went to the large island Kho Samui and stayed at Chaweng Beach. This was a great area for the tourists but also providing nice market spots to escape the Hard Rock Cafe and Hooters. The Cabaret Paris was our favorite, where Lady Boys danced, lip synced, and pulled me on stage. Yeah, it happened, i danced with lady boys to Celebration by Kool & the Gang. After the shenanigans we all ran away from the ladies as they were asking for tips and being quite handsy with me and Maurin. We finished our time by heading to a beach club to drink, laugh, and watch fire dancers.
We flew up to Chiang Mai to escape the bad weather that the islands were having and to get a different view of the northern parts. Chiang Mai was a large city but not like Bangkok. The middle of the city is a crumbling fortified square with a moat that now has fountains shooting water into the air. Our first hotel was in the middle of a super busy bar scene that hosted "bar girls" luring in men to drink and take advantage of the prostitution services. This was not as annoying as their clientele. Old European, Canadian, and American men in every bar sitting in the company of young Thai women. This was hard to watch, but hard to handle too. We would have men approach me and Maurin for games of pool and camaraderie. And even worse, men approaching Claire and Carolyn for conversations where they would touch their shoulders as they talked. Super weird but not all places were bad, many bars were great, the Madams, pimps, and girls were happy to see married couples and treated us with respect. We adventured around the city checking out temples, markets, and bars. Carolyn found a great tattoo artist who does bamboo tattoos and she went for it. It turned out great and she was sore, but had next to no recovery problems from it.
During our trip in Chiang Mai, we went on a day excursion to Doi Inthanon which is the tallest peak in Thailand (8,415 feet). The first stop was the largest waterfall in Thailand, which was super awesome and powerful. Unfortunately the weather was not as good as we ascended the mountain and we were in the clouds for Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri temples and the peak. It was part of the experience though, and we had a great time looking around with a short hike through the jungle to the tallest point of Thailand. Our driver was awesome and felt bad for us and the weather, he took us to a great place for super local food where we ate a chicken and noodle bowl with some amazing spice. He then took us to a Elephant Sanctuary where we washed and made some food for rescue elephants. We went and swam with them which was a super scary adventure. The guys were super nice and educated us about the elephants because they really had a love for them.
Leaving Chiang Mai, we took the night train to Bangkok. This train transformed into bunk beds, and we kind of slept through the night waking with the train speeding through rough tracks and lights from passing towns. Back in Bangkok we shopped for souvenirs for our loved ones and went to some bars to drink to the successful trip. The morning was rough for me and Claire, we left our hotel at 4am to catch our first flight starting twenty six hours of travel home to Phoenix. We Left on a plane Sunday at 6am and walked through our door at 6pm the same day.
Reflecting on the trip, it was super exciting to see the motorcycle culture. Walking is not something you see often, everyone is jumping on a motorbike to weave through traffic to their next destination. I'm a huge motorcycle fan and loved watching a country live by zipping around, sometimes with the whole family on the same bike. Actually, Ordering a drink from the bar sometimes you'll see a scooter break away and minutes later arrive with a bag of beer from the local 7-Eleven to give to the server. It was humorous to see, but that's just the method of operation some of these places have. It's interesting that every place you go to the king's portrait is displayed, it's the easiest game of "I Spy" you'll ever play. I loved the markets and how many small businesses there were. The vendors on the streets and markets were awesome! Coming back to Phoenix, a mecca of fast food and chains, I really miss grabbing something small and easy from these joints. I do feel bad about the parts of tourism that attract destruction to places that are really beautiful like Haad Rin Beach. I understand that party tourism is a large market, but I hope to see a change in that before the environmental damage is irreversible. That being said, I feel like Thailand has such a beauty within its geography and its community. Almost all of the locals we encountered were so nice to us and just all around awesome people. I hope I can make it back and see some more of this fascinating country, it is truly a must-experience place.
Series: Humans of Tempe
In 2017 I was awarded a commission from Tempe History Museum to go out into the city of Tempe, make portraits and record stories. It was such an amazing experience to work freely finding subjects at random and creating images in diverse spaces. I think my favorite part of this project was being able to access a wide range of stories from complete strangers. The exhibition Humans of Tempe is open now through March of 2019 at Tempe History Museum, Tempe, AZ.
Series: Voices of Education
#REDFORED has taken over Arizona and many other states! For this project, I photographed individuals in education and recorded their stories to share on social media and provide my support by online presence. It was amazing to hear how strong, caring, and selfless our educators are. Please support our educators, they shape our future!