America, Life, Photography

Remembering East Colfax

I met a girl who lived in the Blue Spruce Hotel when I was still in elementary school. She was Asian and I had a crush on her. I grew up in Aurora and I lived two blocks from East Colfax. I didn’t find out that the Mon Chalet was a nude orgy hotel until I met the girl I was dating in the early 2000’s. I used to walk these streets as a young boy, oblivious to the seediness that was going on around me. I walked to the Gas-Rite with my sisters, and we bought candy cigarettes and slushies and just hung out doing nothing but eating candy and goofing off.

I used to walk this street in my teens in the wee hours of the morning after I finished my closing shift at Taco Bell. It’s a miracle I never got jumped, with my Sony Walkman with the digital readout, playing Digital Underground or the Beastie Boys or Iron Maiden, I never would have seen them coming. Maybe that’s why they didn’t bother. I just blended in I guess. I would walk that mile or so to my house at like 2:30 in the morning, let myself in the house, still smelling like I took a bath in tacos and burritos and I would fall asleep to nightmares of that night’s shift. My mom would tell me that I was talking Taco Bell lingo in my sleep. I made $2.85 an hour.

I worked at a car dealership as a customer relations guy for a few years, back when I wasn’t completely socially inept. Something happened between the late 90’s and now that soured me on social interaction and I’m still recovering. Being on the road is going to change that. I’ve already been befriended by a woman named Han. She made my daughter sandwiches and seems to enjoy having conversations with me. So we’re making strides. Little by little. So it’s the late 90’s and East Colfax is the place I go every day for work. I learned that “coolo” means asshole in Spanish here, I learned how a prostitute and a John make a transaction here. I learned that car dealerships are a sleazy place to work.

East Colfax is home to me. My Grandmother, Joan, died on this street, on a hospital floor, at Fitzsimmons Hospital, from a stroke. They didn’t even give her a room to die in peace. She had a curtain for privacy in a row of three or four beds. I held my grandmother’s hand on her deathbed, listening to strangers conversations on either side of us. I visited her every night until she passed, and lamented her lack of privacy. It really bothered me. The family has never been the same since she left.

I watched Unwritten Law play the Bluebird, and walked up and down these streets time and again, something about this street just pulls me in. So much of my life has been spent exploring its alleys and bars and hotels and places of employment. Many people would tell you to avoid these streets, and probably with good reason, but Colfax is a part of me and if I died there it would be appropriate. To my mind, Colfax is Denver. And even though I’m leaving, this city will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart, and if you asked me where I’m from I’ll always say Denver, and I’ll say it with pride. There is no other place like it.

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Color Street Photography, Life, Photography

Suspenders and a Bow Tie

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butterfly on hat

suspenders and a bow tie

capturing moments

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Landscape Photography, Life, Photography, Urban Landscape

Illuminating

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streetlight in Denver
 a beacon in the dark sky
illuminating

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Uncategorized

Doors

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home to the homeless

Three Thirty Three East Colfax

off the beaten path

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DENVER,Colo-October 22,2014-Dino holds a sign quoting Margaret Mead  during the 19th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. "Every little bit helps," he said.
Black & White Street Photography, Photography, Photojournalism

The Lazy Masses

DENVER,Colo-October 22,2014-Dino holds a sign quoting Margaret Mead  during the 19th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. "Every little bit helps," he said.

DENVER,Colo-October 22,2014- Dino holds a sign quoting Margaret Mead during the 19th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. “Every little bit helps,” he said.

protesting murder
the activist speaks for us
the lazy masses

Dino

DENVER,Colo-October 22,2014- Dino takes off his mask for a portrait.

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early_morning_light
Color Street Photography, Urban Landscape

My morning commute: The final destination

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Commuters wait for their buses and trains at the Auraria West Station, Friday, September 19, 2014 in Denver, CO. The early morning sun casts a long shadow as the week comes to a close and classes begin for the day on Auraria Campus.

Early morning light

casting long, slender shadows

revealing beauty

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Color Street Photography

The People of Colfax

j_nix_streetwork (1 of 1)-600His name is Scott, but his friends know him by his middle name, Mordecai. I met him while shuffling my way up Colfax. I dug in my pocket and gave him a dollar to which he replied “I need a dollar like I need another hole in my head.” I said “Oh, I’m sorry I hope I didn’t offend you.” He assured me there was no offense taken and that he would go ahead and accept the money this time. I spent about 15 or 20 minutes with him, we chatted about life and he told me many stories. Eventually his good friend Al joined us and Mordecai explained his situation with much care. You could tell that he held his friend in high regard and was proud of their friendship.

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He spoke about his belief that Al will someday walk again, and proceeded to justify his case by physically showing me why he believed it. We didn’t really talk about anything in particular, we just talked about whatever came up.One of my biggest obstacles as a photographer is my ineptitude in social situations. While walking down Colfax it dawned on me that I talk to more people on Colfax then any other public place that I frequent with my camera. Some of my favorite street portraits I’ve taken happened on this street.

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The people I meet on Colfax are almost always outcasts by nature. Every encounter with an actual human being is a valuable learning experience for me. I’m learning how to listen. Taking street portraits is a little different than just snatching a decisive moment discreetly, it is slightly more direct. You have to talk to people, hang around with them and just let them tell their story. I only asked one question: “What happened to your face?” he never actually answered the question, but he talked a great deal on many things for a good while. I was just grateful  to be talking to someone in person.

j_nix_streetwork (1 of 1)-601The people I talk to might not know it, but they are making my day by letting me into their world for a brief moment. Each experience like this makes the next one that much easier. I’m infinitely curious about everyone I come across. I hope to continue meeting more people and breaking down those ridiculous barriers that are only holding me back from living my life to its full potential. We don’t talk enough anymore.j_nix_streetwork (1 of 1)-604

In my experience it’s been avoid any unnecessary human contact at all costs. Don’t make eye contact, don’t get in anyone’s way, don’t even say hello. Just put your head down and carry on. Then I got into photography and all that changed. Instead of staying home to avoid the crowd, I insert myself into the middle of the throng and I watch life happen before my eyes and I compulsively start click, click, clicking away, but this isn’t really about me. It’s about my new friends Al and Mordecai, two guys down on their luck, two kind strangers, two human beings who can still smile despite it all. They are the people who inspire me to keep working through the uncomfortable moments and click the shutter anyway. Sometimes I close my eyes while I take the shot, in anticipation of a possible punch to the face. Maybe that is just the nature of a photographer. That slight amount of risk that makes the experience that much more memorable. Thank you guys for letting me turn my lens on you. I appreciate it more than you know.

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