Nine weeks living and working in the desert of Arizona for the fall! After working in Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to travel again to do coronavirus ICU relief. It’s quite literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but it felt unreal and so much bigger than myself to be a part of such large scale relief. Originally, I was trying to get into anywhere in Texas for the fall, but every door into an ICU in Texas seemed to close for me. I randomly got an email one night about a lottery type system in the Greater Phoenix area where they would be hiring 250 ICU nurses to distribute out across hospitals in the area. I sent my resume over and got into a hospital within 12 hours.
Just like when I was living and working in LA, it was such a time of self rediscovery. You work so incredibly hard during the night in the surge and leave in the morning empty from what you had seen. But in my time off the excitement of being in a new space just made me so fulfilled. I would go to a new coffee shop every week it seemed just to sit and journal calmly without hearing sounds of ventilators or alarms. Truly it was a way to dump everything out of my head and onto paper.
The state of Arizona is beautiful.
A year ago I used to only care about photographing and being up in the mountains. Now the desert is my favorite landscape to exist in. I loved slowly learning about the saguaros and the teddy bear chollas and prickly pears that made the desert so alive.
My first week living here I visited Saguaro National Park alone. I would end up visiting the park two more times in nine weeks as it was so fascinating to me, I kept wanting to share it with the people I loved. I woke up at two in the morning to drive my sister and mother to the Grand Canyon so they could see it for the first time for sunrise. We would spend the whole morning there learning about its history and hiking down into the canyon. I experienced a Sedona sunset with the love of my life and hiked all along the red rock. Then going to Page, Arizona for the first time. Photographing at Antelope Canyon on a whim and then off-roading two hours in my good friend Clark’s little subaru to this point that felt like it was hand painted.
I shot more film than ever before when I was in Arizona. My work overnight was constantly reminding me that life can change in an instant and nothing truly lasts. I wanted to capture every moment of the earth and the people I love visiting me. Even in Saguaro, seeing photographs of how dense the hills used to be with the cacti years ago and how climate change has led them to grow so sparsely made me realize how lucky I was to be present here getting to experience these moments.
Love the desert so much. Mostly 35mm film (Portra 400 and Kodak Gold 200) and a small bit of digital images with 35mm 1.8!
March 10, 2022
Nicole Lenia Kiser is a Traveling Elopement + WEdding photographer based out of Tennessee, MOntana, & Wyoming.
through experience in working with landscapes, she is able to create storytelling imagery connecting couples to the earth.