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A Week Without Color…

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I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.”

~Kim Hunter


Last week I was invited to take part in black-and-white photo “challenge” on Facebook. The rules were simple…a black-and-white photo every day with no people in them. I usually carry a camera with me so this was not much of a challenge for me. Some of these photos were shot either to or from my way to work, others while I was on my bike on a day off. It’s interesting, I think, in that last week was not a great week for me. Nothing major, just one of those weeks where I was feeling down. In a sense I was seeing life through a colorless lens, so I really think it came through in these photos. In some ways, I believe, photography–like any art form–can me a type of therapy, I know it is for me. Anyhow, the photos are not in a chronological order, they are arranged simply the way the computer uploaded them. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

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Patience in Black and White.

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The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”

~  Paulo Coelho

This photo is an example of patience, or more specifically one that showed me patience…which is something I am often sort of supply. But I’m jumping ahead.

Yesterday someone invited me to take part in the week-long black-and-white photo challenge on Facebook, meaning you post a photo a day in b&w. I gladly accepted. Today was day two and I thought I’d stop by Kleinhans Music Hall (pictured) on my way to church this morning and snap a photo. When I arrived at the said location it was somewhat breezy which caused ripples in the reflecting pool and not offering the reflection I had hoped for. I was running late for worship and feeling impatient so I left without taking a photo. To make a long story short, when I left church feeling rejuvenated I thought I’d stop by the music hall again. When I did the wind had subsided enough to snap the above photo. The thing that was missing when I was there the first time was a bit of patience to see what was right in front of me. Click the photo for a larger view.

A walk in my neighborhood…

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All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday evening was so nice, and I was feeling somewhat stunned from some meds I was on but still needed to get out of the house, so I went for a walk. I have always loved to walk in cities. I may walk a bit slower than I once did, and it may take me longer to get to a destination, but still I love to walk. Walking in cities is always inspiring to me, and I am lucky enough to live in a historic neighborhood where the architecture itself is inspiring. Anyhow, I simply meandered the streets like a tourist in my own town and snapped a few photos. Here’s a few of the things I saw. Click any for a slightly larger image.

Stalking Bellocq.

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 “We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.”

— Ralph Hattersley

So I just returned from New Orleans. Well, two days ago. But in many ways the city is still with me. The uniqueness of the place has not fully sweat from my pores. This was my fourth or fifth time to New Orleans. The first time I was there was the late 80’s when I lived and worked there for a very brief time. But I haven’t been back in almost twenty years. I’ve also never been there during August. I was expecting the heat and humidity but nothing could have prepared me for it. As one local commented on the heat, “Yes, it pretty much sucks the oxygen out of the air.” I had gone there for a bit of relaxation, and to take photos and drink beer. I accomplished all three.

Whenever  I find myself in an old historic city I can feel the ghosts of those before me (metaphorically, not literally). And  sometimes I’ll create my own sort of walking tours. In Greenwich Village, for example, I did a bit of research and walked around to places where Khalil Gibran lived, worked, and drank. In San Fransisco I hunted the old beat hangouts of Kerouac. And thus on this trip I stalked E.J. Bellocq.

Bellocq worked as a commercial photographer in New Orleans about 90 years ago, mostly in the French quarter where he spent his entire life. But he also had a secret side to his life in photography. He kept secret that besides his day job as commercial photographer he also photographed the prostitutes of Storyville, which at the time was a legalized red light district.

This at first may seem a bit pervy…a guy photographing prostitutes and not telling anyone about it. But it is the contrary. Yes of course some of the models are shown unclothed, but many were partially or fully clothed. He showed them in the places the lived and worked. In short, he showed their humanity. And it is beautiful. Keep in mind that while prostitution was legal having these photos at the time was not, they would have been considered pornographic and could have resulted in jail time at the very least, and even worse in many ways, personal and public disgrace. Click here to see a good representation of his work.

It’s interesting to note that his photos were never developed in his lifetime. Plates of his photos were discovered in an old slave’s quarters on St. Peter Street behind the Preservation of Jazz. Many of the plates were water damaged and some even had the faces of some of the models intentionally scratched away. There is a great article written at Exquisite Corpse that goes into this in more depth, to read that story, click here.

The morning after my arrival to New Orleans I headed out to St. Louis Cemetery #3 as this is where I had read that is remains were buried. I thought I’d pay him homage, but to no avail. On this day the temperature peaked in the mid 90’s and at the cemetery there was no shade. It hurt to walk around. I often visit famed cemeteries in historic places and was surprised to find that not only was there no office to offer information there was no information to be had anywhere. There were a few tours going on and I interrupted them to ask information but no one could offer any. Seeing a worker’s van down one of the long rows I approached it to find a man sleeping in the air conditioning. After startling him awake he did offer me general advice but nothing concrete. I approached another worker, this one spoke broken or at least heavy accented English. I am usually pretty good at picking up an accent upon hearing it but could not place this sweating and jovial man’s language. It wasn’t until he spoke into his walkie talkie that I realized he was speaking a form of French…Cajun French. But alas, still no info.

The cemetery is vast and as aforementioned has no shade so I began walking back towards the road to seek the shade of a tree. But not wanting to give up I googled additional info as I walked. Sweat was literally dripping from me and onto the screen of my iPhone. I emailed a person who had posted a picture of Bellocq’s grave and surprisingly she emailed me back right away. Unfortunately she could not remember the exact location but only general area. I did go back and look again but to no avail (though I did find the family tomb of Chef Paul Prudomme). At any rate, with the risk of severe sunburn or heat collapse I left the cemetery but  know that I had likely walked right past his grave as they all look so similar.

Over the course of the next few evenings I did what I came here to do…walk around and take photos. The temperature would dip to about 80F in the evening so it was still rather stifling. As I  walked I’d make a point of stopping at addresses that were once home to Bellocq’s studios…Rue Conti, Ursulines, Burgundy. And I’d try to  imaging what it must have been like to haul that heavy photography equipment of his day through this heavy heat.

As I walked I also thought about all the places I have been where I myself have walked at night with my camera on one shoulder, tripod on another, and a belly full of beer. In many this was a sort of deja vue as I had walked these same streets thirty years prior with a camera and tripod. In those days it was with my old 35mm camera, whose prints of that time are mostly lost or packed away in some box in an attic or closet in which I cannot find. When I was here during that time I was so young and had no idea of all that lay before me. I have done so much since then…have changed so much but at the same time am still very much the same. And it occurred to me as I walked that I was not only stalking the ghost of Bellocq but also that of my younger self.

To read a very nice article written about Bellocq for the Smithsonian, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

The Angels Were Bowling.

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I woke with a start.
Early morning thunder.
I didn’t get out of bed.
I lay there and listened.
The angels are bowling, I thought.
That’s what my mom would tell me.
A few more crashes.
And then the rain came.
In buckets.
I lay there listening to this, too.
After breakfast and coffee I went out.
For more coffee.
It had stopped raining.
For now.
And the air hung heavy.
So did the clouds.
Off and on, it rained.
For most of the day.
Droplets cover everything.
Drawn up to the clouds.
As a mist.
From far away.
Then released.
And here they are.
Droplets everywhere.
Nourishing, rejuvenating.
Beautiful
.

Flesh on Flesh, the Yam Cutter, and other Photos…

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The above photo is one of mine which will be on view and for sale at this weekend’s one-night-only photography popup. The photo is titled, “Makin’ Bacon,” or alternatively, “flesh on Flesh.” I’m one of 10 or 11 photographers displaying their work. All photos are unframed and for sale at a mere $25.

Here’s a brief description from one of the co-organizers…

“The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.Here’s a brief description of the show from one of the shows co-organizers,  “The photography pop-up series is intended to exist outside of Buffalo’s mainstream art scene,” says Molly Jarboe, co-organizer. “The pop ups are never at a gallery, sponsorships will never be accepted, and work will always be sold at or below cost. This is a people’s art event.”

All the photographers are showing people at work in Buffalo, I chose to do mostly closeups. Here’s a bit of a description describing my series…

“This series is a departure from his usual work in that he shows close up views of kitchen life and the juxtaposition of beauty and grotesque, both of which are present in the image of the butcher preparing a pork belly for bacon. The flesh of his hand is pressing down into the flesh of the pig, restraining it but in a way communing with it. Though you’d likely recognize some of the names of the hands in these photos, Joe has chosen to keep them nameless in honor of all the line cooks, prep cooks, and dishwashers who often toil unnoticed behind the kitchen doors. For some, who have never worked in a kitchen, they may have the misconception that it’s like a television show and all glamour. In snippets it can be, but mostly it is the day in and day out routine of the job. Some days you’re cutting meat, some days vegetables. It’s always hot. And then some days you’re simply buttering toast, lots and lots of toast, for a Sunday brunch.”

To see the official Facebook page, which describes the popup more fully, click here. To see the show profiled at Buffalo Rising click here. To see the show profiled, along with sample photos, at the Buffalo News, click here.

This should be a fun show, I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope to see you here. Oh, and one more thing, I’ve been told there will be free beer courtesy Community Beer Works.

Urban Simplicity.

After the Parade, and a Few Other Things I’ve Seen Recently While Walking or Riding a Bike…

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So a couple things. One is that I’ve begun carrying my camera with me again on a regular basis, hence the photos. It’s therapy for me (seriously). The first three photos (the one above and two below) were shot today just after the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Buffalo recently ranked the #1 city for this event). I didn’t see the parade but as I live very close to where it happens I snapped a few photos afterwards. While the above shot–which is one of my favorites–may seem a bit snarky I don’t mean it to be. It’s three drunk people stumbling along and holding one another up (if you saw them in person they sort of swayed in a synchronized motion as they walked). Anyhow, I thought it was nice how they all held one another up. Years ago (many years ago) that may have been me. This rest of the photos are in no particular order. They were shot over the past week or so, where we basically experienced every season (except truly hot summer) within the course of the week. Click any photo for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

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