The term “end of an era” speaks of change and it speaks of history. And thus it was at the 24th and final Photographers Rendezvous organized by eminent California photographer, teacher and mentor Al Weber in October 2012. The goal of giving photographers a chance to talk photography, show their work and view work of others remained a constant through all the years, building lasting admiration and friendships among colleagues. The site of Weber’s last Rendezvous was at the San Antonio de Padua Mission near Kings City, CA.
Of the 70 photographers who attended the final Rendezvous, most were former attendees of Al Weber’s photographic workshops over the years and many had been making the trip from numerous locations across the country to attend the annual October Rendezvous for decades. About a dozen could recall the very first event held in American Flats, NV, to which they had received a postcard invitation from Weber.
Among them is Jim Noel, who shared in running the 2012 San Antonio get-together. He offered a few recollections. American Flats, once a thriving gold and silver processing community in the late 1920’s, had been long abandoned by the time Weber and the photographers arrived for a fall weekend in 1988. The tall processing buildings had been stripped of both their metal roofs and floors and were colorfully decorated from top to bottom with graffiti by local youths who held rowdy parties every Saturday night. These were complete with a raging bonfire into which they threw empty spray paint cans, which exploded with a mighty resonance. They were surprised to find the photographers camped out on their turf, but an agreement was reached, and the party went on in one building, while the photographers did their thing in another, and ‘a good time was had by all.’ No one can use the site today, as safety restrictions are now in place to keep people away from the dangerously deteriorated structures with concrete chunks dangling by wires and numerous open holes. Jim said that one of the photographers had the misfortune to fall into one of these. He was pulled out and otherwise saved by taking a shower in a motel in a nearby town. A few cameras that suffered a similar fate were beyond saving.