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Facing Arizona: New series will shine spotlight on everyday people

(Thomas Yoxall/Sure Shot Photography)

Editor’s note: Facing Arizona is a series that will appear on and social media  — follow KTAR News on Instagram and Facebook for updates — highlighting unique and everyday people across our state and give you a glimpse into their lives.

Almost 45 years have passed since my birth, and I am proud to say that this great state of Arizona has always been my home.

Born at Saint Joseph’s Hospital and raised in Glendale, the west side of the Valley has always been my stomping grounds. Though I am most comfortable within the northwest corridor, that has never stopped me from roaming the streets through the Valley of the Sun.

I have always felt a need, if not importance, to be familiar with every area of my hometown and the people that reside here.

In the early 1970s, the Phoenix metropolitan area covered a mere 245.5 square miles with a population of only 571,562, a far cry from the current vastness: 9,071 square miles with a population topping 4.5 million.

Many things have changed in Phoenix from the time I was born. However, there are a few constants, and one of the most important features of Phoenix people.

You see, the advantage that I feel Phoenix holds over other major metropolitan areas is also one of her greatest weaknesses.

The city ranks 57th for population density. With her communities and populous scattered across such a vast region, we, as Phoenicians, have lost touch with one another.

We have grown presumptuous in the belief that what affects one will not affect another. It saddens me to think with such a diverse culture calling Phoenix home, we do not put forth more effort in shattering such single-dimensional thinking.

Though I could cite several different social hypotheses for this, the incongruent nature of ourselves should solely bear the brunt of this responsibility. Simply stated, we, as her citizenry, have nothing, and no one, to blame but ourselves.

This simple fact needs to change if we are to bravely push forward into the future. Though the sprawl may continue, at some point the empty pockets that reside within will get filled. What will we do then if our habitual nature for avoidance continues?

How will we live with each other then, if we do not know each other now?

With this new series, I will take you on an adventure of intrigue and mystery. This journey will encompass the totality of my beloved state, complete with her landscape of people and places.

My mission is to speak to everyone I can and document these encounters not only in the written word, but photographically as well. In doing this, I will present to you, in raw form, your neighbors in their most natural settings.

My goal is simple: I want every person who reads my stories to see themselves, if just for a moment, in the eyes and the souls of the people they are learning about; to reconnect with their humanity.

This is our state, the place we call home. I admit it may not be perfect, but it belongs to us. This is the place we raise our families, spread our roots and call home.

These are just some of your neighbors. You’ll meet more. Lots more.

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