Towns Less Occupied: part 1

17 years ago, as a recent graduate of the Fine Art Photography at the University of Akron I had a problem. With degree in hand I had no more class critiques to work toward. Senior projects all wrapped up. Working at Dodd Camera in Cleveland and then later as a photo assistant in the area. Though I was working in my profession I had to get out and photograph for myself. Personal work as it would be called by career coaches. Except my personal work was truly personal, not just spec work made to get the attention of agencies. I continued to work like a student and make a dozen images every other week. Quickly a pattern emerged, weekends with good wether, old commercial areas of towns and cities, and midday light because I had to travel in the morning to the areas I photographed. In 2011, as a new resident of northern Utah and with only part time work I continued this pursuit with fresh eyes placed on towns I had not seen before. A collection of these images are on display at Gallery East in Price, Utah through December 8th 2017. The gallery is in the new Fine Arts Center at USU Eastern, a regional campus of Utah State University. Since many if not all of the viewers of this blog will not be able to see the show in person, I’ll share some images here on the blog.140413_Idaho Falls_ID-33

Above: Idaho Falls, Idaho 2014. The post card image for the show and one of the best images to some up the show title. I went to Idaho Falls specifically to wander around it’s old commercial district and see what I could find and the above image I like to think of as a gift from the photo gods. A perfectly clean ally sets up a single point perspective with many hard lines and a beautiful shadow. The order and tension is broke by the twisted power pole and its diagonal shadows in the center and the minimal intrusion of leafless trees and pitiful clouds. The image modulates between looking deep due to leading lines and flat due to limited tonality.


Above: Malad, Idaho 2014. The documentarian photographer works like a hunter gatherer, with a list of suitable subjects in their head and ideas as to how they would like to order them. In the case above the image was shot for a collection I call Silo Survey. Recently I have started to merge parts of that collection into my Towns Less Occupied series. Like the image from Idaho Falls, this image revels in detail and the play of order and disorder. Mostly vertical lines with a few horizontals, mostly tin with a few wood planks. Unusual for me is the time of day but in this case the warm summer light adds to the overall success. I’ll continue showing images from this show in the next few posts. Not all of them are as hard lined as these two I have talked about today.

Photographers are always curious about what you used to make the picture. Both of the images in this post were captured with a 24mm perspective controlled lens on a Nikon body. The image from Idaho Falls I was using a tripod at normal eye height and the Malad image above I was using a giant tripod and standing on a small ladder. Both images were processed in Capture One Pro with the major adjustments being lessening contrast and shifting the blue sky to a slightly pail tone.

6 thoughts on “Towns Less Occupied: part 1

  1. Hello Andrew,

    I am in Sydney Australia and never got, and never will get, to ‘Murka/America other than courtesy of the imagery amassed by countless others.

    Have you heard of the ” ‘Town of Nothing’ in Arizona.”

    It is VERY true that there is nothing much at Nothing Arizona.

    But not 100% true.

    I have been compiling “History around Nothing Arizona” and have found there’s certain stuff if you dig for it.

    * Gold mine discovered by Spanish prospectors (Burro or Burro Creek mine).

    * Plenty of nice rocks including obsidian Apache Tears, agates whatever — convenient to the Burro Creek campground.

    * The various (all failed) attempts to revive Nothing.

    * The ‘Town of Nothing’ last sold for about one million dollars and a man thought he’d make a successful FRESH PIZZA stop there.

    — The pizza man failed, citing that Government regulations killed his attempts.

    Besides “Nothing” other Americana I have done is “Belle Star – Bandit Queen”. Masses of stuff written about her is entirely all baloney. She was not nearly as bad as the dime novellists ranted .. and herself declared she went to the Indian Territory after the Civil War to find a quiet life.

    Kind Regards,

    John Byrnes

    (Geologist, Sydney, Aus)

  2. Hello,

    Didn’t know about Boring Oregon.
    I just upgraded Nothing in Wikipedia yesterday as below (could send photos to any email address if interested).
    Cheers, John


    Here is more about Nothing.

    The “Town” [NB: this is a gross exaggeration!!] of Nothing in Arizona is described in Wikipedia here:,_Arizona

    Nothing entry was commenced in Wikpedia in 2005 by an anonymous person:

    22:03, 2 March 2005‎ (talk)‎ . . (109 bytes) (+109)

    All it said at the time was this: “Nothing, Arizona is a town in Arizona USA with only four people in it, that’s not very many at all now is it?”.
    User remains an unknown person and the only thing he/she has ever contributed to Wikipedia seems to be that sentence about Nothing.

    Soon it was increased to this much: “Nothing is a town in Arizona with four inhabitants. Established in 1977, at Mile Post 148 1/2, Highway 93. The entire population runs a gas stop and garage. The town sign reads “THE STAUNCH CITIZENS OF NOTHING ARE FULL OF HOPE AND FAITH AND BELIEVE IN WORK ETHIC. THRU THE YEAR THESE DEDICATED PEOPLE HAD FAITH IN NOTHING, HOPE FOR NOTHING, WORKED FOR NOTHING FOR NOTHING.”
    That was added by film-maker Mike
    Mike Richard with a HD Video Camera in 2003.
    …… possibly because a film about (modern-day) “Jesus” wanderer was made partially at Nothing ? [But I am only speculating.]

    Mike took the size of Nothing to 473 bytes in Wikipedia.
    A big increase came in 2006:
    19:22, 16 September 2006‎ (talk)‎ . . (1,127 bytes) (+501)‎ . . (undo)

    He added: “The owners of Nothing are also quite the jokesters, in front of their gas station they have four boxes reading, White Bat, Copperheads, etc. Although inside the boxes are not what you’d think, a white baseball bat and a few copper pennies! They also have a cage of canaries, real canaries, that are quite talkitive. They hold suviniers and a bathroom plus enough snacks for the rest of your trip in their gas station. It’s a great place to stop on the way to Las Vegas and other places around there.”

    However that is just trivial stuff and other people have since edited it out.
    Then in 2007 a guy called Dhaluza made dozens of additions to Nothing and got the file size to 3,596 bytes.

    Dhaluza has degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and is a professional engineer and flight instructor.
    He was congratulated for his 2007 work on Nothing and many other things (e.g. “In recognition of your 25 excellent hooks at DYK (not to mention your total — woah! — 121 expansions and creations) on such a fascinating and diverse array of topics. Wikipedia is blessed to have you among its builders. Keep up the excellent work! –JayHenry (talk) 03:05, 27 November 2007 (UTC)”.

    It got to about 9,000 bytes in 2011. It then got to 11,000 bytes when someone added a ” Personal story of interaction with Mike Jensen in Nothing AZ” ….. = “In December of 2008 as my husband and I were traveling this route from Phoenix to Las Vegas we stopped at this remote city called Nothing. Intrigued by it’s name but more importantly seeking a restroom open for use. The property was closed off with a chain link fence, however a large hole in the fencing allowed a short young lady to crawl through in search of a restroom. Stepping through the fence Mike Jensen came out to see who was on the property. I greeted him and asked if there happened to be a restroom in Nothing. He showed me around the back of the building to a small restroom. A friendly man who invited us to sit down at his picnic table. We intently listened to his dream to restart Nothing by putting in an RV park and sustaining his business with his portable wood-fired pizza business. As we sat and chatted he made us a pizza at no cost except our feedback because he didn’t have an operating permit at that time. What a delightful experience. Happy to know he did open the business; but sad to know it did not survive. As of April 2011, it appears that Nothing has once again been abandoned. The building has fresh boards in the windows, and no sign of inhabitance or any activity”.

    Mike claimed he was shut down by Government red tape.
    That story was cut out by someone later on as being too personalised for Wikipedia.
    That woman had added (+1,043 bytes).

    After her not a great deal more happened re Nothing at Wikipedia until I just added some more yesterday:
    cur | prev)12:32, 13 November 2017‎ 58.17327.252 (talk)‎ . . (11,276 bytes) (+8)‎ . . (cur | prev)12:22, 13 November 2017‎ (talk)‎ . . (11,268 bytes) (+44)‎ . . (→‎History) (undo) (cur | prev)11:56, 13 November 2017‎ (talk)‎ . . (11,224 bytes) (+695)‎ . .


    I added this bit yesterday:



    There appears to be no comprehensive references to the history of Nothing or its vicinity, and it has been claimed that locals told travellers it “got named by a bunch of drunks.” However the area around Nothing does have a history to be researched and by some accounts it will be a prospecting history going back to early 1900s or latest 1800s (with likely Spanish/Mexican prospectors). It is said that people living can ‘always’ remember a garage being there, and in times of less competent cars the place was a saviour to those in difficulty or with fears of running out of petrol. Nothing was once also a ROCK SHOP, supposedly selling interesting stones found in the district that included agate and Apaches’ tears (obsidian). A belt attractive to prospectors runs from Nothing northeast to Bagdad.


    For the Nothing area will most surely have a prospecting/mining/rockhounding history if we can dig it up : …….
    ( nothing-rock-shop-3.jpg ) In 2005.

    ( nothing-jesus.jpg ) This is not the “historic Jesus” but rather a modern-day roving “Jesus” – Seen here arriving at Nothing in his desert travel. Jesus came strolling along the roadside and asked Mike for some water. Then Mike asked Jesus to stay for a while. There followed some reflection on why this is called Nothing and why Mike had chosen to be at Nothing and why he drinks such cheap vodka, etc. Jesus and friends DO predict that Nothing could live forever …. because it has to do with discovering “truth” – and truth is often thought best found when you isolate yourself from the hectic world and society. That may even be why Jesus went out into the desert in the first place.

    A bit similar to Nothing in our West is the MOUNT LAMBIE service station. It burned down an was a vacant patch when last I went by one the way to Yetholme etc. BUT it will, like Nothing, I am confident …. RISE AGAIN! (Why? Because it is an idea spot.)

    ( burro-creek-arizona-1.jpg ) This shows some of the things I already know of around Nothing. There is an ore zone that runs NE from Nothing to Bagdad. The main mine in this zone was the Zannaropolis (run by Greek brothers named Zannaris). It had a mill at the junction of Burro Creek and Bonanza Wash (a 10 mile truck haul .. largely along the dry wash). Zannaris fought with the big companies upstream at Bagdad — Cyprus Mines, Bagdad Copper etc. — and reckoned they were taking 3,000,000 gallons out of Burro Creek, making his mill impossible to operate.

    ( bagdad-open-cut.jpg ) Copper-molybdenum ore, about 200 million pounds weight of copper annual production. Bagdad town itself had to be relocated in 1953 as the pit expanded.

    Bagdad is a porphyry copper deposit but the zone running from there down towards Nothing is VMS.

    ( phoenix-kingman.jpg ) Shown-black patches between Phoenix and Kingman are the belts of copper-bearing middle Proterozoic volcanic and volcano-sedimentary rocks. Bagdad Belt enlarged in inset, with B=Bruce, DD=Old Dick, Q=Copper Queen and Z=Zannaropolis (“Zenaris”).

    There are 70 known early Proterozoic massive sulphide deposits in Arizona. The above map is from “The Precambrian massive sulphide deposits of Arizona” by Phillip Anderson and John Guilbert of University of Arizona ( in Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 33 “Papers on Mineral Deposits of Western North America”).

    In the mid ’60s Bagdad and many other deposits began being reclassified from epigenetic to the then revolutionary newly arising syngenetic (volcanic massive sulphide theorization). Bagdad yielded general consensus to the sygenetic model by the early 1970s. The copped rich deposits flank complex rhyolite centres (thought to have fractionated from calc-alkaline basalt-andesite-rhyolite differentiation sequences). Besides the ‘proximal’ massive sulphide deposits, the new modelling accomodated “distal” ore type which is Pb-Zn rich and occurs in well-bedded rhyolitic tuffs and sediments. Anderson and Guilbert classified Zannaropolis’s base metals prospect as one of the “distal” occurrences for this model. They actually published it however misspelled, as “Zenaris”, so they may not have known all that much about it(?) No Archaen rocks and no granitic basement is known beneath these Arizonan belts. Instead, foliated mafic-ultramafic complexes underlie them. Anderson and Guilbert regarded them as Precambian island arcs built on oceanic crust, tentatively analogous to the Kuroko deposits of Japan.

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