by Pam Zubeck
There are at least 26,000 stories to tell about the Waldo Canyon Fire, maybe more, and Johnny Wilson wants people to tell them.
Wilson, 51, who retired from the Navy in 2005 and has lived in Colorado Springs ever since, has been collecting stories since the fire hit the Mountain Shadows area in June, and might wind up with a book. At the least, he's shooting for a compilation of at least 120 stories to form into a gallery showing.
Here's his own story from June 26.
I live in Peregrine. I was on the east side doing a photography job, and then I got the reverse 911 call of the mandatory evacuation of Peregrine. I went to my studio, on Garden of the Gods Road, about 4:30 to get my camera equipment. Then I was going up Centennial because I had my three dogs in my house. The traffic was so bad. Then the police knocked on my door and said, 'You need to go.' It was about 5:30, and Mountain Shadows was already burning. I spent three hours in the traffic. I put my dogs in the studio and then went and stayed in a friend's basement.
Having been a Navy photographer for 24 years, documenting the story of men and women of the military, Wilson began collecting stories three years ago on his own of military members who had served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He had a gallery display at East Library and Information Center, 5550 Union Blvd., recently of 21 people who suffer from lupus.
"When the fire started, I turned my focus to the fire," he says.
So far, he's finished 25 stories, which include a hand-written account from the subject. Their accounts then drive the photos, he says. Forty more people are in the process of writing about their experiences, and he's expecting to hear from Denver firefighters, who helped fight the fire, as well as El Paso County sheriff's employees, Springs firefighters and those with Colorado Springs Utilities.
While his goal is to mount a gallery showing, he's been asked repeatedly about compiling the stories into a book. "I'm trying to secure some funding through private people and a grant, but I'm still running my own business," he says, referring to his photography studio at 750 Garden of the Gods Road.
He also might compile the stories on a CD, he says.
Some of Wilson's portraits along with the stories that go with them are displayed at the Colorado Springs Together office at 6840 Centennial Blvd.
If you're interested in sharing your story and having your portrait done to go with it, which costs you nothing, contact Wilson at 719-210-6780 or email@example.com.
He's most interested in these folks and the tales they can tell: