Clayton Bruce Lyon grew up in Kansas City, United States. At 22, he graduated with a degree in photography, and currently works as a photographer and video producer in northwestern Arkansas. Clayton hopes to change the way people view the world with meaningful work. His series Sangre de Cristo is composed of images taken in the city of Crestone and in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in southern Colorado, an area rich in cultural and religious beliefs.
Can you give us some background information about how you got to photography?
When I was younger I was really into illustration but I knew I was bad at it. Picking up a camera felt a lot more natural so I gravitated towards that in college and ended up loving it. I sort of found it by accident. I started taking pictures with one of those compact digital cameras that people take on vacations. Then my brother traded me an entry-level camera for my old laptop and I started shooting more with that. Photography really started as a social thing for me, documenting trips I went on with friends and shooting with other photographers. As photography has become a medium for me to make art, it’s grown into something that’s a lot more exploratory and less social.
Introduce us to your series Sangre De Cristo
Sangre de Cristo was my first foray into fine art/social doc projects. I traveled to Crestone, a small town located at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. There are many different stories on how the Cristos got their name, but my favorite has to be the legend of the Spanish priest who lay dying with a Pueblo arrow in his chest, looking up at the unique phenomenon of the blood-red mountains at sunset and calling out “Sangre de Cristo!” with his final breath.
You describe Crestone as a spiritual mecca, that was once a gold mining town. How did you discover the place and what did inspire you at first?
When I started this project I had read about all of the stories and legends that pervade the area and I had to wonder if the beauty of this sacred land had similarly inspired all of these people across cultures and time. Throughout the history of the area is a wide range of mythical stories from different cultures. Gold miners, Spanish conquistadores, and—most of all—Native American tribes, all felt the ethereal quality of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the San Luis valley at it’s foot. Crestone today has dozens of spiritual centers across many different religions, all in a fairly small town. The beauty of the place is undeniable and you can see the impact it has on people even today.
What do ants represent in your photographs?
The ants represent the connection the Native Americans have with the land. The Hopi tribe in particular, whose Pueblos resemble ant colonies, have legends involving “Ant People,” who would rescue the Hopi from the apocalypse by leading them to subterranean caves, called “sipapu.” The San Luis lakes, located just south of the Cristos, were thought to be the location of the “sipapu” due to it’s location in the valley. I find it increasingly fascinating when you consider the surge of European gold miners burrowing through the mountains in search of gold, unaware of the sacred connection the Hopi and many other tribes had with the earth.
Discover his series on his website.