EL RITO: The Rite ~ The Little River, 1997 - 2003
Walter Chappell acquired a home for himself in the small village of El Rito, New Mexico, in 1987. An acre of land with seemingly magical properties and limitless possibilities. It was located at the end of the road, beyond which were a cattle guard and a dirt road which led into the woods and the higher pastures of the Carson National Forest. The adobe house was modest and very homey. Originally built by Opal Null, a secretary at Los Alamos National Lab with the aid of a local teenager,
it received numerous additions from subsequent owners, including Walter, who enclosed the porch to make a sunroom, whose windowsills were lined with plants— angel wing begonias, epiphyllum and aloes— and which was the most important room of the house, and built a room with stones gathered from the river. He made this a sauna, placing in it a tall window, and there was lovely light within. The river was the most important feature of the property. A little river, perhaps twenty feet wide, which could be waded in, with a little pond at one end, for dipping into. It was filled with beautiful stones. The little pond collected foam periodically, which formed wonderful, spiralling patterns. The river froze in Winter, with swirling patterns visible in the ice, and it swelled greatly during the period of the Spring runoff. In Summer it invited many things: the balancing of stones; bathing in the tub set up on its bank; building and rebuilding dams which formed water terraces and tuned its sound; companionship and contemplation, silence. Around the property were cedars, cottonwoods, and many slender, dancing oaks which turned to gold in Autumn. It was an environment which suited Walter perfectly. I would live there for four years, and find that it would me as well.
All photographs from this series were made on black and white film with either a 4 x 5 or 8 x 10 view camera, and realized as silver gelatin contact prints or enlargements in the darkroom.