Lindsey DeStefano and Brian Velde’s first date took them—riding together on his Harley Davidson—to Two Guns, Arizona. Formerly home to a gas station and motel whose kidney-shaped pool is now coated in colorful spray paint, the A-frame lodging has been rendered a spine of its former self, its pink insulation quivering in the desert wind.
DeStefano and Velde were married at the same place a year later and are now the masterminds behind Abandoned AZ Photography. Their prints are currently on display at Northern Arizona University’s High Country Conference Center as part of the exhibit Colored Spaces.
Abandoned AZ is the product of long- and short-distance rides on the selfsame Harley, road trips and walks in the couple’s own backyard in Cosnino, east of Flagstaff. They seek to document that which is oft-overlooked: rusty trucks, old cacti stretching toward the Arizona skies, empty mining towns.
“It’s a lot of highlighting the beauty of the everyday things we see around us,” Velde said. “I think that’s what we try and achieve is finding the beauty in an old dead flower on the side of the road, for example. It’s rotting, but maybe looking at it in a different way makes it worth capturing.”
In one photo, railroad machinery sits forgotten and peeling in a field, in another a snarled tree rests on a hillside near Jerome, Arizona. Collections of the unnoticed corners of the state, objects, plants and wildlife pile high on the Abandoned AZ website.
The couple’s interests also extend beyond the photographic and into the three-dimensional. Together, Velde, a woodworker by trade, and DeStefano, a classically trained framer, manufacture and sell custom frames using sustainably sourced wood and the keen eye of two practiced craftsmen.
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“[Framing] is an art form in and of itself,” Velde said. “There’s a lot of things that go into it that people don’t expect. Wood is a living, breathing thing.”
“It moves, it twists, it does what it wants at times,” DeStefano added.
While photography allows Velde to tell a story, framing is the means to communicate that story to others, bring it to life on a wall for people to see.
“I feel like our generation especially has forgotten the art of putting things on a wall,” DeStefano said.
The couple’s business model, offering their expertise at an affordable price in an arena that many artists can’t afford, is important to them. Being artists themselves, DeStefano and Velde have made it their de-facto mission to help others put their work on display.
“I think a lot of us artists, we stop at a certain point but we don’t go into framing because of the cost or finding the right frame. We want to help [our customers], this is their baby and we want to make sure we take care of and put it in a beautiful frame that fits,” DeStefano said.