Desert Companion

Fresh Eyes

Andrew KiralyMedia and language theorists must be having the head-explodingly best time right now trying to make sense of the seismic shifts in how we communicate. I mean, remember? How, back in the day, we used to write long, reflective love letters with velvety dollops of forsooth and verily? Now we just Snapchat our head as a heart-drunk emoji. This isn’t a world/hell/handbasket grumble. For years I refused to even use the smiley emoticon in texts, convinced it was a toe on the slippery slope to mass howling philistinism, but then I learned how to send devil horns — it’s like the verily of texting! — and I was a convert. \m/

My point is that we’re all visual communicators now, whether it’s dropping a cat meme on Facebook or tossing an eggplant into a text message. And the great democratization of photography is another factor driving this change. The possible downside: A dystopian future in which we’ve devolved into mute, shambling morlocks spamming each other with GIFs. The upside: Everyone is a born photographer.

And our fifth annual photo issue is just brimming with eye-popping upside. This year, 374 photographers submitted 1.109 photos, and 29 judges from the community applied their eyeballs to the mountain of visual splendor to choose the best. The result — well, see for yourself on p. 50. They’re photos of mountains and bees, hikers and dancers, cars and casinos, but, for all the wheeling variety, they share in common a spirit of striving for a perspective and sensibility beyond the easy visual tropes that a photographically seductive place like Nevada invites. These days, anyone can take a serviceably awesome snap of, say, the morning sunbeams dancing on Calico Hills at Red Rock. But it takes a true photographer to find the fresh angle, to wait for just the right light. That’s what sets these photos apart; there’s a dose of ineffable quantum bonus mojo going on in every one. For our companion photo essay, “Yes maybe no,” we conscripted Heather Protz and our own Brent Holmes to explore the tensions of city life — action and stasis, absence and presence, trust and suspicion. Like our contest’s finalists and winners, they contribute to a special issue that’s about more than pretty pictures. It’s an issue about courageously seeing, celebrating and investigating where we live with fresh eyes.

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Ding ding ding ding!

That’s the sound of winning. I’m proud to trumpet the news that Desert Companion received four Maggie Awards (the Oscars of publishing!) from the Western Publishing Association April 28 in Los Angeles. We won for Best Single Editorial Illustration (“Debated breath,” Chris Morris, September 2016); Best News Story, for Heidi Kyser’s in-depth look at rural healthcare in Nevada (“No country for sick men,” August 2016); Best Feature, for our story on one mother’s desperate search for mental health resources for her suicidal son (“I swear I will!,” August 2016), and, the sweepstakes biggie, Best City and Metropolitan Magazine in our class. But the real prize is having the privilege to work with such a talented team of writers, photographers, and artists to bring compelling stories to life for you, the reader, every month.

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