Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Clea G. Hall

Clea G. Hall with a furry friend Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

c. Clea G. Hall

c. Clea G. Hall

Fine art photography, by Clea G. Hall

c. Clea G. Hall

Mimi, photograph, by Clea G. Hall

Memorializing magical moments: The photography of Clea G. Hall

—Oli Robbins

Those who document the world around them, via photography, film or journalism, often try to maintain distance from their subjects in an attempt to deliver a non-biased perspective. But perhaps the best documentary work is that in which the documenter has a vested interest. In the work of Clea G. Hall, for example, the most profound photographic statements are those that reflect her own reality. Says Clea, “Photography allows me to see things more clearly, from a different perspective. By using a camera, I see things that I might not see.” Photography is now so synonymous with Clea’s everyday, that rarely a day goes by without her shooting. It has taught her to take pause and notice the ubiquitous beauty in nature, from rocks that bare resemblance to hearts, to the artful footprints in the dirt beneath our feet. This awareness is a gift shared by many photographers, eager to capture what might otherwise be overlooked and forgotten. Yet Clea has the unique ability to deeply feel and experience what she documents, to not only record but also engage.

Clea is a child of Placitas. Her connection to the earth, the desert and its animals, was shaped by this land, which permeates her earliest memories and much of her body of work. Clea left New Mexico in seventh grade, when she attended a boarding school in upstate NY. It was there, at a small farm school, that her love affair with photography began. From middle school through college, her days were suffused with manual film cameras and dark rooms.

In high school and college, Clea jumped at opportunities to document cultures unfamiliar to her and took photography classes in both Costa Rica and Brazil. In Brazil, Clea worked on her thesis, which documented the lives of reforestation workers and their families in the poor “favela” neighborhood. Clea has also documented the places and people that impacted her childhood—in college, she fortuitously reported on the dome that is now her home. Clea had wanted to memorialize the dome, since it was there that she kept her very first horse. She never imagined that she would actually live in the dome as an adult, much less share the surrounding space with many free-roaming horses.

Clea’s travels, her education, and her ever-budding connection to horses were made possible by her grandmother, Mimi, who, around the time of Clea’s college graduation, developed dementia. Clea didn’t hesitate to move to upstate NY after graduation and give back to the woman who had facilitated so many of her blessings. For seven years, Clea lived with Mimi as her care-taker, companion, granddaughter, and advocate. While caring for Mimi, two transformative events occurred: Clea turned her hobby into a business—and began shooting for events, companies and a newspaper—and she also discovered Crystalline Consciousness Technique (CCT). CCT, an energy healing modality, proved so powerful and beneficial that Clea underwent training to teach it to others.

Clea watched as dementia shifted Mimi’s perception of self and place. Mimi’s world was one in which she couldn’t dwell on the past or worry about the future—she was forced to free herself from much of what we attach ourselves to, and be present always. Clea documented her time with Mimi, capturing both the banal and the painfully personal. But it was in the moments that Clea refrained from chronicling that she, like Mimi, gave herself fully to the present. Says Clea, “In the end, what I remember most is the actual time that I was with her. The pictures can bring memories back, but it’s also finding the time to not take pictures and to just be. That disease, it taught me to always be present.”

After Mimi passed, in 2012, Clea considered moving back to Placitas. While checking out potential homes, she stayed at the dome. There, she was greeted by a band of horses. Clea was reminded of both her childhood—when she sometimes witnessed these horses from a distance—and Mimi, a fellow horse enthusiast. Strangely, Clea has almost no memories of Mimi visiting Placitas, yet she does have one photograph of her at that very dome, standing next to one of the Placitas horses. Clea realized that she was, indeed, coming home, and that her journey had come full circle. Says Clea, “I was grieving her loss, and to come to a new place and have wild horses, well, there was a little bit of magic coming into my life.”

During Clea’s first year back in Placitas, she didn’t use her camera much. Instead, she mourned and walked, re-exploring the land as she snapped pictures with her iPhone, enjoying sharing images of the free-roaming horses through social media applications. It wasn’t until last summer, when Clea became aware of the horse round-ups, that she threw herself back into photography—realizing that the horses may not always be community fixtures. With purpose and fervor, she began documenting the rambles and relationships of each horse she encountered.

For Clea, the horses are what make this land one of enchantment. She photographs for Placitas Animal Rescue, and helps find homes for horses that have been rounded up. She recently adopted the remaining horses that traversed the village highway, and her current photography centers around them coming to terms with their new identities as domesticated animals. Says Clea, “By watching and observing them, I am learning from their interactions and relationships—the joy, the pain, the love, the loss. I use photography to document, and CCT to connect with and support their journey.” The horses have revealed themselves to Clea as beings of the present—very much like Mimi. They are her new family, for whom she cares, and who act as her teachers. 

To view Clea’s work, visit To find out more about CCT, go to, or email Clea at Clea offers CCT classes and sessions, some of which allow students to study alongside and do healing work with the adopted horses.

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