Q&A: Past Meets Present on Tucson's Tumamoc Hill

Portraits from "Tales From Tumamoc." | Courtesy of Bill Hatcher
Portraits from "Tales From Tumamoc." | Courtesy of Bill Hatcher

Bill Hatcher is a frequent contributor to the pages of Arizona Highways, and his images also have appeared in National Geographic and other publications. For his latest project, the Tucson-based photographer is focusing on a subject close to home: Tumamoc Hill, a Tucson landmark owned by the University of Arizona. We caught up with Hatcher to ask a few questions about the project.

Tell us about this project.
The project is by the University of Arizona Confluencenter and the Desert Laboratory. Just in the past year, Tumamoc Hill was opened up to the public for all-day visitation. It's kind of astonishing what the impact has been. Before, there were a few hundred visitors a day; now, there are 1,500 to 2,000. I'm shooting portraits of the people who visit Tumamoc, and researchers are collecting oral histories from those people, for a project called Tales From Tumamoc.

How did you get involved with the project?
I've had a relationship with the Desert Lab and its director, Ben Wilder. They do a lot of research in the desert regions and go to some really cool places and landscapes. When Ben mentioned this project, I didn't think I'd be interested — I'm more of a landscape and discovery kind of guy. But he also said Tumamoc has been kind of a gathering place for about 2,500 years. On the hill, there's evidence of Native American tribes from the surrounding regions who gathered here for trade, social occasions and so on. I thought that was really cool — and it's still happening.

How does the process work?
It's a scientific process, so it has to be replicated. They have very set days and times where they meet with people on the hill. They're doing the interviews on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays for about five or six weeks, and they want to interview a minimum of 60 people. The interviews are recorded in a mobile studio on the hill, and I shoot the photos along the trail.

What are some of the interesting stories you've heard so far?
From a lot of the people, what we hear is that they like the exercise, they like getting out, they like the views, and they like seeing all the people. It's one of the more spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the area, and they get 360-degree views of their city. They even have a spiritual connection to it — we keep hearing they love Tumamoc because it's a place to reconnect with the place where they live.

To learn more about the Tales From Tumamoc project, visit the project's website. Interviews will continue on Tumamoc Hill through the first week of April; check the website for dates and times.

Add new comment