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Last updated 5:47PM ET
December 16, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Photographer Brings Voices To Desert Rock Opponents
(2007-11-05)
TOP Photos: Two of the 40 black and white photos which are part of Tapp's exhibit. In the first, tribal police confront protestors in January. In the second, Lucy Willie would lose her home to the power plant.

BOTTOM: Santa Fe Photographer/Artist Carlan Tapp. (Photos Courtesy: Carlan Tapp

(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A Santa Fe Photographer is putting faces and voices with the opposition to the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant project, in an exhibit opening today in Durango.
KSUT's Victor Locke Reports.

VICTOR: As the proposed 3-billion dollar, 15-hundred megawatt coal fired Desert Rock Power Plant continues to plod its way through regulatory approval, those opposed continue to raise their voices.
The biggest concern aired: adding a third coal fired plant in Northwest New Mexico will foul Four Corners air and water more than the existing Four Corners and San Juan power plants already have.
Carlan Tapp is a documentary photographer and educator now living in Santa Fe.
Since 2005, he's been looking through the lense of his camera, into health issues facing those in the Four Corners, and in particular on the Navajo Reservation near the area where Desert Rock would be built, Southwest of Farmington.
TAPP: MANY OF THE PEOPLE, AS YOU KNOW, THE DINE PEOPLE, THEY LIVE OUT IN REMOTE AREAS AND THEY DON'T HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF ACCESS. A MAJORITY OF THEM DON'T HAVE RUNNING WATER, TELEPHONE OR IN SOME CASES, EVEN ELECTRICITY, AND SO THEIR VOICES HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT FOR THEM TO BE HEARD ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON, WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE AREA WITH DESERT ROCK. WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THEM, THEIR GRAZING PERMITS, THE EFFECTS THE TWO POWER PLANTS HAVE HAD. SO MY PHOTOGRAPHS ARE A VISUAL VOICE FOR THE PEOPLE.
Tapp says of what he's seen and photographed over the last almost three years, what's most surprised him are the environmental conditions the Dine' are living under.
TAPP: THE FACT THAT THERE WAS NOT, NOR HAS THERE BEEN A LOT OF MEDICAL TESTING DONE AND YET THEY KNOW THEY HAVE A TREMENDOUS HEALTH PROBLEM. AND YET, IT'S JUST YES, THERE'S A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF ASTHMA, YES THERE'S A LOT OF LUNG CANCER, YES, THERE'S A LOT OF BIRTH DEFECTS FROM MERCURY POISONING AND YET NO ONE WILL COME DOWN AND SAY THIS IS THE CAUSE.
Forty of Tapp's photo's, traditional silver gelatin black and white prints, go on display starting today in the Fort Lewis Art Gallery, in an exhibition Tapp calls: A Question of Power.
TAPP: IT WAS ONE OF THOSE THINGS, THAT AS A PHOTOGRAPHER YOU WORK LONG AND YOU SPEND TIME ON SOMETHING THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU'RE OUT ONE DAY WORKING AND YOU SAY, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A POWER ISSUE HERE.
VICTOR: AND YOU AREN'T TALKING ELECTRICITY?
TAPP: WE'RE TALKING A POWER ISSUE.
As a documentary photographer, Tapp says it's not his responsibility to draw conclusions about Desert Rock, just to witness what's going on.
TAPP: IT WOULD BE MY GOAL THAT PEOPLE WOULD DRAW THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS BY LOOKING AT THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND HEARING THE TRUE STORIES AND READING THE QUOTES FROM THE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON AND THEN SIMPLY DRAW THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS. THE GOAL OF MY WORK IS TO SHOW THE SITUATION EXACTLY AS IT EXISTS, AS I SEE IT, ONCE AGAIN, AS THAT WITNESS.
But Tapp has taken his effort one step further.
He was there in January to photograph and record tribal opponents of the power plant, Dooda Desert Rock, as they marched in protest outside Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr's innauguration.
He recorded about 30 interviews at that rally...
...and again later in January as group members built and occupied a protest camp outside the Desert Rock Site near the Burnham Chapter.
Among them was Lucy A. Willie, who stands to lose her lifelong home to Desert Rock.
WILLIE: I CAN STAY HERE FOR ALL WINTER, UNTIL EVERYTHING'S STRAIGHTENED OUT AND COMPLETELY STOPPED, AND THEN I CAN GO BACK, OTHERWISE I STAY HERE. Tapp's posted some of his pictures and the interviews on a website, questionofpower.org, to further give voice to the Dine who oppose the plant.
He says he's fairly convinced a significant problem exists in the area.
TAPP: WHEN YOU SPEND ENOUGH TIME IN THE AREA, AND YOU SEE WHAT'S GOING ON, AND YOU SEE AND BREATHE THE AIR, CERTAIN THINGS BECOME OBVIOUS TO YOU. YOU DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE TO BE A SCIENTIST, YOU CAN USE YOUR INTUITION A BIT, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T BELIEVE IN THAT. AND YET WHEN YOU TURN AROUND AND YOU SAY WELL HAVE ANY SCIENTIFIC STUDIES BEEN DONE THEN? AND THEY SAY, NO, NO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES HAVE BEEN DONE.
Proponents of Desert Rock, including the Navajo Nation, say the plant will mean hundreds of jobs and millions in income for the tribe, which could correct the problems Tapp has witnessed.
Tapp will attend a gallery reception Thursday at five marking the opening of his exhibit.
A panel discussion, Renewable Energy On Tribal Land sponsored by the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center and others, will follow at 7pm in Noble Hall Room 130.
The exhibit, A Question of Power, runs through November 29th.
Tapp says his work is ongoing. He'll keep following the Desert Rock project.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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