Photos provide a visual trace of a community, of transitions undergone and critical junctures in its history.
And that’s what the organizers behind the “Sharing the 81328 Perspective” exhibition in Mancos aim to do as they collect photos from over the years that document the valley’s changes, constancies and people.
The exhibit hangs at the Mancos Visitor Center. This year’s selection is themed “A Retrospective Gathering” and features 28 photos previously exhibited from 2005 through 2017, according to volunteer Patricia Burk.
The 81328 collection was initially established in the early 2000s. Ray Martinez, a local photographer and town trustee, saw a National Geographic article series featuring photos from ZIP codes across the nation and was inspired to replicate that concept in the 81328 valley.
Martinez teamed up with local artist Heather Leavitt – his then-girlfriend and later wife – and they sent a group of Mancos residents out with disposable cameras, instructing them to take pictures on a common theme. After developing the film, one image from each roll was selected for a public exhibit, on display for the first time in the Bauer Bank building during the 2002 Mancos Days celebration.
And the exhibit grew from there – although it has changed over the years. As disposable cameras have become increasingly scarce and the film more difficult to develop, the group has had to make adjustments. Most recently, the show has spotlighted images from the Montezuma School to Farm Project and the Montezuma Land Conservancy.
This year, Burk and fellow volunteer Ginny Getts sifted through the archives and chose 28 photos that they felt embodied the ideas of “belonging” and “abundance.” Images of farm life from throughout the seasons feature prominently in the 2019 selection.
The project has been supported by donations: Early on, the Ballantine Foundation Fund provided a $500 grant in order to mat and frame photos, and over the years, donations have paid for film and print processing, photo albums and cameras.
The exhibition will hang at the Visitor Center for the year, although it will be displayed at Outlier Cellars on March 15 and 16, as part of the Mancos Melt celebration. Burk said she doesn’t know what next year’s theme will be, but hopes they will move to digital.