getting to know …
Photographers rely on inspiration and imagination for their work ” Mike Crabtree uses both with passion. The self-taught professional photographer has lived in the Vail Valley for close to 30 years. He still has a little bit of hippie left in him, minus the drug-taking and excessive partying, he says. Crabtree came from a big family ” nine children ” and now has five children of his own. He loves people and examining their characters through his images ” one of the many reasons he says he finds so much inspiration in Colorado.
I kind of became a hippie in the Navy. When I got out of the service, I went to school for about a year. I was back in Chicago and a buddy of mine stopped in to visit me. I jumped in the car with him. … We just knew we were going west somewhere.
I was looking to get out of there.
I was a real environmentalist and the ‘sky is falling’ kind of guy. I was just kind of hating life. My buddies were coming home in body bags. … We didn’t have money.
A cousin of mine was a police officer in Aspen. He had just gotten out of Vietnam and he was doing fairly well.
I said ‘this is a pretty interesting town;’ it gave me a taste of Colorado. I went back to Chicago and packed a gym bag in June of 1971, and moved to Aspen with $100.
I had a window-washing business and then I had a pretty good ski wreck in ’88 or ’89. It was taking me three days to do a one-day job. I began thinking I was going to have to change occupations one of these days. I was doing a little bit of photography, but nothing serious, but then several years later a friend sold me a more sophisticated camera. My friends that would see what I had would encourage me. There was a photography club at the old Vail Camera Shop in Crossroads that included several professional photographers and a handful of emerging ones. We would put slides up on screen and critique each other. The professionals were really pushing me. That’s when I really thought maybe I could really do something with this someday. I was scared to death, because I thought, ‘How am I going to make it with a camera?’
It was kind of like there were two families. I was third in line. When I went off to the Navy five of my siblings were still in grammar school. It was pretty neat. We’re all close now. We have a reunion somewhere every so often. All in all, it was nice to have a large family.
Colorado is such an incredible state. It has so much to offer; there’s so much beauty in this state. I keep taking trips and exploring it when I have the time. There aren’t many states quite like it. The development is way overkill in my taste, though. It’s just getting a little crowded.
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.