Desert Companion

Seeing is Believing


Andrew Kiraly

Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve

It’s both surprising and not that this year’s “Focus on Nevada” photo contest drew a record number of entries — 1,897 to be exact. Surprising because you’d think lockdown might have, well, locked down opportunities for great photos as Vegas slipped into fitful hibernation; not surprising because you might expect a phenomenon like lockdown to only pressurize the creative mojo of Nevada photographers. Happily, the latter is just what happened. Among this year’s winners, that newly urgent creativity manifests in myriad ways: in sweeping, operatic landscape photos that seize you with a desire to escape; in domestic scenes that seem particularly attentive to the nuances and tensions of our richly mundane quarantine lives; in abstract photos vibrant with a certain retrospective longing. Maybe I’m projecting, but that’s half the fun of photos — letting their evocative powers play upon your imagination. (The photo above, taken at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, is my humble contribution to the issue; think of it as the photographic equivalent of me playing air guitar as the real talent rocks on stage.)

Elsewhere in this issue, image and imagination figure into stories that speak to pressing conversations of the moment. In “River Justice,” Avory Wyatt and Jarrette Werk tell the story of an environmental cleanup initiative taking place on the Truckee River in Reno/Sparks. This initiative is powered as much by spiritually rooted, Indigenous values of environmental stewardship as it is by community volunteerism, as tribes come together to feed the houseless and protect the waters of Pyramid Lake. And in “Ask About Emily,” I profile Emily Matview, a punk-scene impresario whose coming out as a transgender woman revealed a support system she didn’t realize she had.

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