Why I love Cacti

Andy Johnson

THE ABUELITO IS REALLY GOOD. That’s the first thing Andy said to me when we met at the Radish & Rye bar to talk about this idea for a new magazine for Santa Fe. And he’s been a part of it ever since, contributing stunning covers, portraits and photo essays. So yes, this is a bit of nepotism. He’s an incredible talent — and he’s a blast to work with. Not always the case with photographers of his caliber. In fact, when we tell anyone we work with him, the response is always the same: I love that guy. Well, so do we.

Tell me about your landscape series, Horizons.

I was going to call it The Earth is Flat, but you can’t say that anymore. I mean, I’m not a flat-earther, right? I’ve been doing this series for 20 years. It’s inspired by post-1945 color field paintings. Turner, for instance. I’m looking at the landscape as this sort of large-scale abstract. It’s kind of there the whole time, but we’re not really looking. And I wouldn’t call it Zen exactly, but I like the idea that someone could put this in their space and it would project a sense of quiet, of grounding.

The Desert Bellows series is the opposite. Black and white cactus close-ups.

Yeah, I got sort of obsessed by the saguaros. They’re interesting, from another era. They existed and looked very different when the Sea of Cortez used to come up through the Southwest. Now they’re survivors from that other world, like crocodiles. But how do you take a picture of saguaro? It’s been done so well, so many times. I thought, How do I tell the story of one of these? Then it occurred to me, What if I came in really close? Like a portrait? Also, they sort of look like fingerprints, so these are all unique, very personal portraits. Just like you do with people.

And the Outer Terra series?

Joshua Tree. At dusk it looks like another planet. Like a James Webb image. My idea was, What would it look like to take a picture on another planet? What would you see? I guess the Mars Rover is taking some shots, but it will be a while before a photographer goes.

What is this cool picture of New York on the wall here?

I took that a long time ago. I just saw all of the open windows. It’s not just about the New York skyline. Look at those windows.



Photo Andy Johnson