Ten years. In my coming-on-early-mid-lifetime, I’ve experienced a few ten year anniversaries. Ten years after the spaceship Challenger. Ten years after high school graduation. Ten years after 9/11. And now, ten years after Hurricane Katrina decimated the gulf coast across three states.
There are many, many, many remembrances and notes and stories and testimonies that will be shared today. I don’t have much of a tragedy to share — all my family survived, nearly all our homes were intact, and although I was without power for three weeks, it was a small price in the larger pattern of destruction. I don’t carry much in the way of personal sorrow or loss.
What I do carry with me is a brick. One brick I’ve kept from the millions and millions that once formed thousands and thousands of homes that were damaged or lost in the storm.
The facts have been known for so long and the analysis of the failures so detailed that it’s almost rote at this point to discuss the day. I do have my own memories and emotions from the day and what happened afterwards for sure. But I think that a better story isÂ one of a single piece of masonry that was in a home for year and years, then ripped away from its place and left in the mud by nature being.…well, nature. We can’t be mad at nature and we can’t fault storms for growing into monsters, but what we can do is examineÂ at a piece of what remained to see if we have better prepared ourselves for the next time climateÂ comes knocking at our door.
I was fortunate to be the Sideshow Fringe Festival 2015 photographer, and as always there were many incredible sessions of theater, aerialists, puppets, and music. There are many, many, many tactics one can utilize when photographing performances. Long exposures, high-ISO captures, processed images to highlight the performer — all are good options. Another option on engaging the subject: shoot once, process none. Shoot film, process, and take what develops.
In addition to the actual live performances, I was also invited to check out some rehearsals, including the work of the FALL company. It was pretty incredible to listen in and hear some of their process as they rehearsed through the work, and to try and unobtrusively capture some of the discussionsÂ in photos. Below are three of those images next to one of the performers during the rehearsal set.
FALL Rehearsing, Side Show Fringe Festival 2015
Giving up some control with the medium lets me work in the available lighting and motion without stressing over the upcoming post-processing. A chance to photograph the mood and ambience in the unpolished environment. A bit of a looser, yet more focused, feeling from the performers seems to come out in rehearsals. When the dancers are continuing the commitment of their work to muscle memory it’s almost like a photo critique. People are looking for input, looking for encouragement, but also anything that helps rise the level of the work is welcome.
Many thanks to FALL for allowing me to shoot the rehearsals!
Downtowns centered on Main Streets are still around, and they often provide a view into the past. And sometimes there is a perspective into transition between the past and present as well. In Hendersonville, North Carolina, there is a vibrant downtown with music instrument stores, bars, knick-knacks shops, ice cream counters and delis. Including this old pharmacy with the dog treats, cigarette receptacle, and kiddie horse lined up outside the front door.
I see this photograph as a document of tension. I tried to limit the surrounding context to a minimum, although I did sneak in the historical plaque on the left wall. Between that decoration and the tiled entryway, what is original? We see a proclamation of this “new” ownership, management, whathaveyou — “The old ‘Justus Pharmacy’ ” — so somethings haveÂ changed. Maybe the Coke barrel by the door, probably the dog biscuit offering — those are certainly new. The neon sign could go both ways — maybe original? Our reflected awning is likely original, if not restored. But the horse — what of the horse? Definitely weather-worn, and from an earlier day when the motor casings were still metal instead of shock-proof plastic. I’ve no idea if it works or not — unfortunately I’m always bereft of loose change.
Is the restaurant merely trading on nostalgia and reputation? Do they have genuine respect for the history of such a space, or are they leveraging the horse to hook tourists into spending some quick cash? I should say that I don’t know at all — but I would imagine that the new owners are probably on the “respect and restore” side of the coin than the “appropriate and abuse” the past viewpoint.
This photograph was made on a rainy afternoon in June 2015, with 35mm Superia X‑TRA 400 in my Leica M3.
It had been a long time since I’d clambered into the woods, dirt under hands and scraping knees, to makeÂ that meticulously framed photo. The more found-and-street photography I do, the less of the compose-recompose-recompose-againÂ process I had done. Last weekend was just such an opportunity. Walking in Percy Warner ParkÂ there was up on a hill a large tree that had fallen across another tree and, over time, twisted away and settled on the ground. In the future it will probably be a nurse log for other growth. Unfortunately it was a good was up that hill and too far for any lens to get it from the road.Â It was a very cloudy day making handheld shots tricky at best, and this being under cover of trees I had no choice except to scramble up carrying my tripod to setup for the shot.
Shooting with the Leica M3 at 35mm can be tricky. On the technical detail side, this was made with the Leica M3 with aÂ 35mm f/2.8 lens. Expired T‑Max 400 shot at 200, f/11 at 1/2 second. With that 35mm lens there is an attachment to the viewfinder to ensure proper framing, but when the camera is low to the ground in an already uncomfortable situation, it’s tough to ensure that the setup is just the way you want it. With a little time and patience, that part came together.
Next was metering and setting the shutter. Getting the exposure downÂ is thankfully a breeze with my handheld meter. Since it was a long exposure, a self-timer was going to be used. With the Leica there is a strange little half-winder on the front that you set, trip to start, and then when the winder finishes it fires the shutter. It takes a few tries to trust it — especially as the winder can run whether or not the exposureÂ has already been tripped by the shutter button.
But when all was done, the photo was made and can now be shared.
I had worked with Boneyard Clothing in early 2012, and loved everything they did. When another opportunity came up in May 2012, I was thrilled for a studio shoot.
It was lots of fun with a variety of looks among three models, and I was excited to get BYC the work. I slipped the memory card in my bag and went home to process the photos. And at home, I opened the bag and looked for the card. And looked, and looked, and looked. And panicked. I had never physically lost a card before (and haven’t since), and wasn’t really sure what to do. I did the only thing I could do — call BYC, apologize, and accept that I had let them down.
Until this past week.
As I was digging around in a long-repurposed bag for something else, I felt what could be a memory card. Lo and behold, there was a little sleeve inside a zippered pocket. When examined, it was the lost card! I was greatly relieved to get the session back (although two years late) and was surprised at how much my style has changed, at least in what I was taking for the majority of the shots. Although my personal favorite picks from that session are still (roughly) in line with what I would shoot today, I liked seeing a little bit of progression here and there.
My sentimentality gauge is pretty unbalanced with this work, as I believed for years that it was completely gone. The rediscovery of these images has been a great boon, not least of which for the freedom that I see in the work. There are many elements in much of the rest of the series that I would be sure to clean up now in the studio rather than in post, and even in the above I see a few bits that I would try and adjust in the moment. But isn’t that a little bit of what makes nostalgia nostalgic? That we can’t go back and relive the past, but we can at least learn and laugh a little at the experience?
Thanks to Boneyard Clothing for setting up the shoot, and Justin of The Go Devils for being the model in the above photograph.