Photo Exploration: Brick from Katrina, August 2015.

August 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm

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 is 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 exam­ine at a piece of what remained to see if we have bet­ter pre­pared our­selves for the next time cli­mate comes knock­ing at our door.

Photo Exploration — FALL Rehearsals, July 2015

July 29, 2015 at 4:34 pm

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 dis­cus­sions 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

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!

Photo Exploration — Kiddie Ride, Hendersonville North Carolina

July 20, 2015 at 1:32 pm

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 have 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.

Kiddie Ride

This pho­to­graph was made on a rainy after­noon in June 2015, with 35mm Supe­ria X‑TRA 400 in my Leica M3.

Photo Exploration: Nurse Log in Percy Warner Park, May 2015

May 31, 2015 at 7:40 pm

It had been a long time since I’d clam­bered into the woods, dirt under hands and scrap­ing knees, to make that metic­u­lous­ly framed pho­to. The more found-and-street pho­tog­ra­phy I do, the less of the com­pose-recom­pose-recom­pose-again process I had done. Last week­end was just such an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Walk­ing in Per­cy Warn­er Park 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. 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.

Nurse Log, Percy Warner Park. May 2015

Shoot­ing with the Leica M3 at 35mm can be tricky. On the tech­ni­cal detail side, this was made with the Leica M3 with a 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 down 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 expo­sure has already been tripped by the shut­ter button.

But when all was done, the pho­to was made and can now be shared.

Photo Exploration: The Lost Fashion Shoot

August 28, 2014 at 2:05 am

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.

Bone Yard Clothing, May 2012

 

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.

Photo Exploration: Military Street, Hamilton Alabama. August 2014

August 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm

When you dri­ve down the road on a sun­ny day, some­times you have a cam­era in hand and it’s set­up for 1/500 sec expo­sure. Maybe man­u­al­ly set­up for f/11 and hyper­fo­cal con­ver­gence. Burn­ing through a few frames, or more. And there is one shot, maybe, when it is worth stop­ping. But where on earth are you? Film does­n’t give you much by way of coor­di­nates. If you’re lucky, you can remem­ber the most recent town, or some­thing unique about where you turned around to trace back a quar­ter mile to find that shot.

Military Road, Hamilton Alabama

This pho­to was made ear­ly August of 2014 on a dri­ve from Nashville to Colum­bus, MS. It was only after I devel­oped the film that I real­ized I was­n’t real­ly all that sure where I had been. It cer­tain­ly was­n’t going to come up in a search for Tex­a­co sta­tions between the two points.

Grate­ful­ly there are plen­ty of ways to trace one’s steps. Work­ing back­wards from the end of my dri­ve, look­ing at a Google Maps satel­lite view along High­way 17 in Alaba­ma, I was able to find where the above was tak­en. 34.170103, ‑87.962499. The street view is from Decem­ber 2013, and you can see the branch­es bare. The tree seems much more frag­ile then, as if it could be ripped out of the ground with­out effort. But in the sum­mer, it seems that with­in a few years the entire loca­tion will be one mass of green.

It was occu­pied at least since 1989, when System3 gaso­line was intro­duced. And prob­a­bly much more recent­ly than that. My guess is that it was dam­aged in 2011, pos­si­bly relat­ed to the EF5 twister that in that area. This is a snap­shot of a moment of tran­si­tion. I feel the bal­ance very pre­car­i­ous­ly in this spot. Will we come to clean our mess? And, fur­ther, will we come to clean the mess that we were hand­ed by nature, in a way? Or will we let nature take back what was claimed by storms?

I felt like a tourist there. I was no more invest­ed in this space than I am when I vis­it ancient won­ders. I admire those who built it, and I even more so, in some ways, admire those who knew to walk away. “Yes we are OPEN” — was that left as a bit of jest? As a state­ment say­ing we will be back? It is like those places aban­doned mid-meal, when some ter­ror or need was so great that all was left behind with hope of return­ing, but maybe know­ing in some sliv­er that no one would be com­ing back. And now it is cap­tured in film, in this state of tran­si­tion, forever.

 

[EDIT: Oth­ers have not­ed that the EF5 tor­na­do passed a few miles north of the ser­vice sta­tion. So, dam­age is prob­a­bly not from the tor­na­do itself but I would still guess from the relat­ed storm]

Photo Exploration: Cabin Wall with Guitar Strings, June 2014.

July 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Since I first start­ed play­ing gui­tar I had wound my strings into a lit­tle round object as they came off for new strings. It was real­ly more a func­tion of keep­ing the strings in place as they came off the instru­ment and not lay­ing around haphazardly.

But over time I start­ed to real­ly love the cir­cu­lar shape and I tried to put a lit­tle inten­tion in how I wrapped the strings. I cer­tain­ly am not the first (or ten thou­sandth) to do so, but I did real­ly like the way they looked. Espe­cial­ly the old­er strings when I was lax on chang­ing them. Their worn down feel was beau­ti­ful when woven togeth­er — all the dif­fer­ent thick­ness­es and mate­r­i­al in and out, with enough nat­ur­al flex and resis­tance to man­u­al posi­tion­ing that each set of strings was a lit­tle unique.

At Kanu­ga this past June, the time came to change strings on site. I’d been delib­er­at­ing on tak­ing a pho­to of the cab­in wall by itself, but I real­ized that what I real­ly need­ed was to make a pho­to of the strings on the wall. The con­trast of the organ­ic wall with the two nails (which have been there since who knows when) and the met­al cir­cles all came togeth­er very well in a late after­noon long expo­sure (I believe it was 2 sec­onds at f/11).

Cabin Wall with Guitar Strings. June 2014. FP4+ 120 film.

Cab­in Wall with Gui­tar Strings. June 2014. FP4+ 120 film.

I am grate­ful of my his­to­ry at Kanu­ga. I’ve been going there twen­ty years this sum­mer, and it con­tin­ues to be as for­ma­tive then as it was that first year. I’ve almost always stayed in the #30–36 cab­ins and the tex­tured green walls are as famil­iar as my own skin. I’m pleased with this image, as a remem­brance of a qui­et time and place in the midst of a hec­tic life.

Using the cam­era as a tool to record a staged event is of mixed regards, and the ten­sion of still life vs more “street” or “organ­ic” com­po­si­tions still goes back and forth in my own aes­thet­ic. How­ev­er, I do believe that it is pos­si­ble to cre­ate a clear­er state­ment of place and/or time by lay­er­ing objects delib­er­ate­ly and then record­ing that con­tent than by wait­ing and hop­ing to chance upon arrange­ments that speak the same. If we are to have clar­i­ty of our mem­o­ries and our rec­ol­lec­tions, we must be able to express those same through what­ev­er tools we have available.

Now, an inter­est­ing step fur­ther is that I left the strings there on the wall. If anoth­er pho­tog­ra­ph­er was to come onto the porch and see those strings and make an image, they would have the oppo­site rea­son­ing for doing so — their record­ing of a found for­ma­tion as opposed to my inten­tion­al cre­ation. Would they feel any con­nec­tion to my work? Would their prints be at all relat­ed to mine of the same scene? Maybe next time I vis­it Kanu­ga they will still be there and I can inves­ti­gate, at least con­trast­ing my own estab­lish­ing vs find­ing work.

Photo Exploration: Theo in the Backyard, June 2014.

June 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Theo, June 2014

Theo play­ing in the back­yard as we do a lit­tle lawn main­te­nance. He real­ly loves his “dig­gers and dumpers.”

When you play with expired film, some­times you get a mash of spot­ty col­or and weak con­trast. This roll turned out fine, and I’m grate­ful. There are some oth­er shots of Theo, but this is the one I real­ly took as a favorite. There aren’t any par­tic­u­lar­ly amaz­ing mes­sages com­ing from this, but it is still a nice “day in the life” work.

I’m spend­ing more of my time work­ing on series for show, get­ting gallery work togeth­er and real­ly striv­ing for a more “fine art” pre­sen­ta­tion. It’s a bit exhaust­ing, and it does­n’t always give me the space to just shoot. I’ve got­ten more hes­i­tant about shar­ing work on social media, as if the respons­es won’t be hon­est enough. I want to just work with shar­ing­prints these days, but even that has become a block and I’m not print­ing as much as I was ear­li­er this year. I feel that if I bring this work out into the world, I need a wor­thy place to present and dis­cuss. And that’s still being searched for.…maybe indefinitely.

All that said, I like this pho­to as it takes me away from all that navel gaz­ing and is just a nice time hang­ing out with Theo.