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Slipping Away


Aztec Motel

Once upon a time.

This place existed. It was one of those old motor courts located on Route 66, or Central Avenue, in Albuquerque. New Mexico. In fact, it was the oldest, being built in 1932. It was one of the five most important historical motor courts on Route 66.

In later years it fell on hard times. It became sort of a group of studio apartments. All sorts of folk artists lived there. You could walk through the courtyard and make hundreds of pictures of all sorts of different things. If the artists got to know you, you could photograph them. I was invited inside a couple of the motel rooms/apartments. It was minimalistic living before that became a thing. Cooking? Outside on all sorts of little barbeques and camp stoves. When I lived in the city, I would pass by about once a month just to see how things had changed. Yes. It was that fluid.

Then, I read that it was being torn down.

Because.

It needed about a million dollars worth of work to bring it up to code. It wasn’t worth it. So the motel was demolished in 2011. The sign was deemed historical, so it remained. Until 2015, when it was moved supposedly to be restored under a Route 66 cost share grant because the sign, itself, was deemed historical. As of 2015, nobody knows where the sign went.

The newly cleared land? Well, it’s now something really important. A parking lot, in a section of town where nobody needs one.

You know what Joni Mitchell said about that many years ago. “They paved paradise and put in a parking lot.”

The picture. Oh, I made it probably in 2011. Just about the time the motor court was torn down and just before I left for the swampy climes of New Orleans. After all, who needed my dry alligator skin, when I could have real alligators?

I tinkered with the image again. As usual. Because somebody I know is going to ask. First, I bleached the picture. Then I brought the color saturation down. Then, I brought the red up slightly. I added a rust-like filter. I added a folded gray paper filter. Then, I re-desaturated it and added a little corner darkness.

If you want to know why I did all these things, ask me. There really is a thought process behind it. It isn’t about just adding filters to make a bad picture worse. I see that all the time on Instagram. Always remember, and never forget, it starts with the subject itself, And, as buddy of mine says, “if you want better pictures stand in front of better stuff.” He single-handedly turned a little town in Kansas into an arts mecca.

 

 

Junk on the Wall


In the alley.

Long ago. And far away.

I used to spend a lot of time in Hong Kong. Six years worth of time. When I wasn’t working, I was working.

Uh, what?

My day job was book production. Large press management. Anybody who knows anything about that industry knows there is an incredible amount of downtime. And, work hours that are around the clock. Two am. Your phone rings. “Press check at 2:45.” You race to get there because you live in Central and the press is about as far away in the new Territories as you can get.

However, boredom can set in. Often, expats develop a serious addiction to booze. Or, other stuff.

But, not for me.

I wandered around endlessly. Making pictures. I found the usual stuff. I found the more esoteric stuff. And, I found the nooks and crannies that many Hongkongers don’t even know about. Or, if they did, they forgot about it. This place isn’t in that deep of a cranny. It’s located on Cat Alley, or Lascar’s Row. Either name is fine. It’s become a tourist attraction because you can find really high-end art in the stores, or less expensive knockoffs along the alley. I doubt many tourists walk this far down the street to find the oldest “antique shops.” Most of the stuff you find here has been ripped out of older buildings in Hong Kong’s never-ending cycle of rebirth and rebuilding. It’s not exactly junk. But, if you were on holiday in Hong Kong would you bring an old fan home?

I didn’t think so.

The picture. I saw it. I pressed the shutter button. I forgot about it. It was one of those so-called lost files that Google Pictures dug up. I’m not even sure how it did that since this image is not on my current computer or even on my plugged in portables. Apparently, it was transferred around somewhere along the way.

That’s a good thing. It also tells me that I have to get into my deep archives. This file is tiny. A lot of my “creative” post production was done to hide that problem.

 

South of Santa Fe


Drifting.

“Well, they say that Santa Fe is less than ninety miles away, And I got time to roll a number and rent a car. Oh, Albuquerque. I’ve been flyin’ down the road, and I’ve been starvin’ to be alone, And independent from the scene that I’ve known. Albuquerque. So I’ll stop when I can, find some fried eggs and country ham. I’ll find somewhere where they don’t care who I am. Oh, Albuquerque, Albuquerque.” — Neil Young

That about says it all. Out on the road somewhere. Flying along. Taking pictures through the windshield of my car. This one was made a few miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. On Interstate 25, where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour, which meant most traffic was blowing along at around 90 miles per hour.

I did have a sort of interesting revelation while I’ve been editing, er, culling, my work for the project that I described to you. I’ve been taking pictures to their extremes for at least a decade. Maybe longer. I just never did much with them. I wasn’t sure that they had a place. So they languished in my archives as experiments. Not anymore…

The Other One


Chapel at St. Roch Cemetery.

The other one.

While I was making my Easter picture selections, the choice came down to the yesterday’s picture and this one. Two things put this one in a sort of second place. First, you’ve seen it in the past if you’ve been hanging out on Storyteller for a long while. Or, a version of it. Second, I’m not sure how much it has to do with Easter.

The main subject is a statue of Father Peter Thevis, who came to New Orleans during a yellow fever epidemic in 1867. He prayed to St. Roch for delivery of his parish from the illness. In exchange, he built a cemetery, shrine and this chapel. That’s a very short history. I can post more about that if you’d like.

Today, there is a neighborhood that bears the name of St. Roch, which is really located in The Bywater, which is located in the 9th Ward. Yeah. It gets confusing around this place. Sometimes.

The picture. This is actually a digital image. Then I went to work on it. Again. And, again. And, again. This is the result. There are a couple of other versions that I like a little bit. But, they didn’t quite of the energy of this one.

 

 

Easter Sunday


On Easter Sunday.

This was harder than you’d think.

I wanted to post an Easter Sunday picture. But, I want to continue to explore my emerging vision. So the question was fairly simple. How do I do that without offending many of you with some weird post production? Art is art. I know that. But, Easter is symbolically a time of rebirth. Bright colors are normally used to portray that. It’s a huge day. So what do I do to make that happen?

Well.

I had to find the right picture. I wanted it to be something you’ve never seen. And, that maybe I had forgotten.

No bright colors. But how about a kind of glow from the heart of the picture? A glow that pierces through the darkness. An illuminating glow. Maybe a glow of hope.

Maybe.

Happy Easter. Happy Passover. However you believe, have a great day.

For those of you who are keeping score. I made this picture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the Cathedral of St. Francis Assisi. In the side chapel. I was looking for something a little different. This is the place where people go who want a little peace and quiet away from visiting tourists.

Road Trips and Other Matters


The Road and Route 66

Once, as I was entering the small Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona, I stumbled upon this old Air Stream trailer on the eastern edge of town. At first, I thought it was abandoned. But, as I started making pictures I realized two things. It wasn’t abandoned. And, it was functioning as an artist studio. Those square objects in the window are actually canvases in various states of completion. The artist wasn’t there or I would have asked to see his or her work. And, step inside.

Seligman. And me. The little town is a touchstone to my own history. When we were young, our parents liked to go to the Southwest. Often, they didn’t have enough time for a really leisurely road trip, so we’d leave after normal work hours on a Friday, drive all night and stop in Seligman. That became a day long rest stop because you could explore from there.

In those days, the little town wasn’t the tourist attraction it is today. Most buildings were abandoned and boarded up. There was a little motel and a restaurant called the Copper Kettle. My memory is not that great. I know this because it is still there today, some fifty years later. It was marginal then, and it is marginal today. Vegetables were, and are, an unknown to them. The best they could do was either glazed carrots or creamed spinach. From a can. But, they served great country breakfasts. They still do. Go there for breakfast. Go to another town for lunch.

Today, as small as it is — you can see all of it in about five minutes if you are in a hurry — the town is booming. It seems to be the depository for all things Route 66 in that general region. Old cars. Old signs. Old gas pumps. If you like the kind of rolling junk iron cars you can find in Cuba, you can find them in Seligman. Without the humidity. If you like road food like burned hamburgers, cheap hot dogs and soggy french fries — yep — you can find it in Seligman. If you are trying to photograph Route 66, like I was at the time, you can probably do most of it in Seligman and just tell your client you drove 1,200 or 1,500 miles.

I didn’t do that. I’m kind of OCD about that stuff.

The picture. Well you know. More of my playing around. The Air Stream is actually in really good shape. Even its tires were properly inflated, which is one of the first things to go in the dry desert heat.

One more thing. I usually do these kind of road trips in the spring or fall. The light is better and it’s not so hot. But, for the full Route 66 experience I suggest you do it in the dead of summer. When, even with an air-conditioned car, you stick to the seats.

The Days That Are Left Between


Once and again.

If all art is autobiographical, what does this say about me? In fact, what does any of my latest series say about me? The problem is that you can’t know. Because, you make your own meaning from art.

I have an idea of what I’m trying to do. Someone very close to me says be yourself, and proceeds to hide behind her own wall. We laugh about that all the time. I suppose that for me, it means not restraining myself. After all, isn’t a photograph supposed to look like a photograph?  It does for some people. For journalists. For pure documentarians. For my clients who hire me because of a certain photographic look. Even for the folks who think they are street photographers, which is about 90% of the people with mirrorless cameras. But, what about what I call my art?

I suppose, if I thought this through — and, I have — as I come toward the end of my career, I’d like to work on  jobs for which the client pays for the style that you’ve seen for about the last week. I’d like to sell art… instead of licensing stock pictures. What nobody wants to admit when a new stock company appears, is that clients turn to them when they want the same old thing. The propping might change to suit the era, the diversity might change but that’s it. One picture pretty much looks like another. We won’t even get into the sole reason to produce this kind of imagery which is to earn a living. Good luck with that.

So…

I’m making changes. A new “commercial” website which will be completely art focused is on the way. There will be three genres. The art you have been seeing this week. A black and white collection. And, a New Orleans culture collection. Each will be on the small side. Probably no more than 20 pictures each.  My archives are deep and broad, so I’ll rotate the collections more frequently than normal, but keep all the pictures where they can be found.  The site will allow for direct sales, pricing will be fairly simple, the site itself will be simple. The only possible hangup is with Storyteller. The new site will allow for a blog. I’m just unclear if can link WordPress directly to that. If not, I’ll back link from here. I like Storyteller too much to just let it wither.

Oh, and now that I seem to be recovered and can walk again. I’ll be making some new work with my newly evolved vision. Yeah, I know. Down here in big Baptist churches, I’d be a miracle. You know, “Praise God” all of that… make no mistake, I love those big boisterous churches.

No. I won’t be photographing any more street culture. Ne second lines. No Mardi Gras Indians. I’m pretty sure how I hurt myself. Potholes inside of bigger potholes and 12 miles of walking in a crowd are not good for any human being. As Jimmy Buffett once wrote, I’m not sure if the pleasure is worth all the pain. Of course he was talking about a three-day bender followed by a three-day hangover. But, still…