Kathleen, Asheville. March 2018

Some pho­to­shoots are fun, some are stress­ful, some are for learn­ing from mis­takes and some are for teach­ing. Some are for­ma­tion­al, and a very rare few are those which you know — even mid-work — there will be a “before” and “after” against which every­thing else is created.

Both times I’ve worked solo with Kath­leen Hahn of idodances.com and Dance­club Asheville have been those last types. Her abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate not just through dance but in the dia­logue before and after a piece is unique and I’m all the bet­ter a pho­tog­ra­ph­er for it. Our first ses­sion was a time lapse of sorts, her danc­ing in var­i­ous places and com­bin­ing them in post­pro­duc­tion. The rep­re­sen­ta­tive piece of that ses­sion is “Ten­nis Courts”.

This ses­sion, indoors at her stu­dio in Asheville, was entire­ly dif­fer­ent. We were look­ing for indi­vid­ual moments where Kath­leen was mov­ing much less delib­er­ate­ly, with quick­er move­ments but with more com­mu­ni­ca­tion between us. It was also a ses­sion where she was using a pole, which sur­faced a num­ber of lay­ers to the work.

As a male pho­tog­ra­ph­er, it’s easy to be in the posi­tion of pow­er in a pho­to­shoot. Ooften the pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio is intim­i­dat­ing itself, and one is work­ing with a sub­ject who can­not eas­i­ly stop and say “show me what you have so far”. There are often dis­crep­an­cies in vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and also the inher­ent prob­lem of “male gaze” that must be addressed in every shoot. Put all of the above togeth­er along­side a ses­sion in a dance stu­dio where a main impe­tus is to reclaim all dance forms from patri­archy (if not too strong a phrase here) and impart con­fi­dence, my emo­tions were all over the place. “Should I be here with my cam­era? Should I be here at all? What is my role, what is Kath­leen’s role? Why can I do this with Kath­leen as a friend, and is that dif­fer­ent than a pro­fes­sion­al? Can I pub­lish these? Should I even con­sid­er sell­ing prints of these?”

For­tu­nate­ly, Kath­leen was more than up for the con­ver­sa­tion before, dur­ing, and after the shoot. And just as before, I came away a lit­tle wis­er and grate­ful for all those I encounter in my photography.

Photo Exploration — FALL Rehearsals, July 2015

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

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

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: Military Street, Hamilton Alabama. August 2014

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]