Categories
Photography

Photography as Maze

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Towards the end of 2001 I started posting photos from my walks or explorations of my neighborhood, using my new digital camera. And though I was pleased at the photos of Yosemite Park, or the Embarcadero and the Golden Gate or Bay Bridges then, I am not as content with them now. Whether this makes sense or not, they fit me then, they don’t fit me now.

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Odd thing is, I see scenes from my memory, that I regret I didn’t photograph: the homeless lady dressed properly who made her home on the Embarcadero benches by my condo; the boats nestled among the bridge bases; the graffiti covering the abandoned warehouses, and the birds among the tall grasses along those fingers of the Bay that stretched inwards.

Still, there were a few Muir photos I like.

muirwoods1.jpg

Photography is learned, and our skills grow over time, as we learn the tools and techniques–like climbing the steps in the path in the Muir photo. What I’ve come to discover, though, is that the art of photography is more like a maze than a simple path.

Categories
Photography

Photography as Maze

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Towards the end of 2001 I started posting photos from my walks or explorations of my neighborhood, using my new digital camera. And though I was pleased at the photos of Yosemite Park, or the Embarcadero and the Golden Gate or Bay Bridges then, I am not as content with them now. Whether this makes sense or not, they fit me then, they don’t fit me now.

yosemite4.jpg

Odd thing is, I see scenes from my memory, that I regret I didn’t photograph: the homeless lady dressed properly who made her home on the Embarcadero benches by my condo; the boats nestled among the bridge bases; the graffiti covering the abandoned warehouses, and the birds among the tall grasses along those fingers of the Bay that stretched inwards.

Still, there were a few Muir photos I like.

muirwoods1.jpg

Photography is learned, and our skills grow over time, as we learn the tools and techniques–like climbing the steps in the path in the Muir photo. What I’ve come to discover, though, is that the art of photography is more like a maze than a simple path.

Categories
Just Shelley Photography

Walker Evans: Real need is a personal thing

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’ve spent the last week reading about the photographer Walker Evans. The more I read, the more I understand why I like his photos so much, and will have more to say on this later.

There are some excellent biographies and compilations based on Evans, but my favorite of the books I picked up from the library was a slim volume of Evans photos matched with the contemporary poems of the poet Cynthia Rylant — Something Permanent. Though a writer for children’s books, there is nothing childlike in Rylant’s poems; however, their wonderous simplicity and humor might not appeal to more jaded tastes. I liked them. Perhaps I like simplicity and humor; or perhaps I like poems meant for the Young Reader (which rather pleases me than not).

Rylant’s words complement the effect of Evans’ photos rather than overlay or alter or detract, and the book was a pure delight. You can read it in less than an hour, though I think it deserves to be consumed more slowly. My favorite approach was to turn each page and look at the Evan’s photo and form my own personal interpretation. Once finished, I would then read the poem, and it was like rediscovering the photo all over again. What an absolutely fun way to spend an afternoon, and I made a special event of it by taking the book to the park with me to sit beside the water in the sun and finish it slowly.

I’ve reproduced a few of photo/poem pairs here, and then one of my favorite poems alone (because I could not find the matching photo).

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Boys

They both loved the same girl
but she wouldn’t have either of them
because she was married–
and to the store owner by god,
so it wasn’t worth thinking about.

But at night,
they each stretched upon a bed
and had her,
had her whole
and leisurely.
And when they were done,
they settled her back in their minds
like a soft peach
will disappear

into a young boy’s pocket,
warm August nights.

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House

She loved it with all her heart
and on warm days would take a blanket
out into the yard so she
could just sit and look at it.

She never once complained about the
work it took to
keep it clean
nor about being so far from things,
living outside of town.
She loved it.
And when her husband said
he was taking a job in Chicago
and they’d have to be moving,

she was sick on and off for weeks
until it finally occurred to her
that staying sick would keep them there.
She developed the most awful cough,
and now and then a patch of her hair would fall out,
but she never felt so bad
she couldn’t do a little dusting.

There wasn’t a poem I didn’t like in the book, or one that didn’t make me chuckle or nod my head. Rylant’s writing, like Evan’s photos, provide a sensuously real look at the world, keeping sentiment to a minimum. By doing so, they bring a true honesty to an experience in both words and pictures.

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Filling Station

Everybody wanted that job
and when Ferrell Brown’s son

got it,
when Mr. Brown’s son got to pump gas
and flirt with the pretty girls all day long,
they all said it was a crock,
that that boy never worked a day
in his life, never had to,
with his rich daddy,
so how come he got a job that

plenty of decent boys with real
need wanted.
Then word got around about
the boy’s mother
and how she walked through that
house stark naked and
trying to hang dinner plates on the
clotheline,

and people shut up about the
Brown boy.
Real need is a personal thing,
they said.
And his mother’s a loon.

Categories
Photography Places

Funky Towns: Nashville, Indiana

Yesterday I took a much needed drive into the country, stopping at Nashville, Indiana along the way. Nashville is one of my favorite places, and I wanted to get some photos for an article proposal I’m working about funky towns.

What does a town need to be a genuine funky town?

Old, old buildings lovingly preserved, usually hosting one or more art galleries or other shops. The buildings should either have colorful window displays, and be painted bright colors or left in a careful state of oldness. It also helps if there’s some interesting historical reference about the community. For instance, Nashville’s most interesting aspect is that it has been an artist colony and tourist spot since 1905–long before funky was invented.

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A funky town must be described in at least one guidebook as either quaint, charming, or both. It must encourage walking, and be big enough to make it worthwhile to visit, but not so big that a person feels frustrated by the size. Shops should carry items appealing to all tastes and budgets, and totally ignore the concept of ‘less is more’.

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It helps if the town has an old movie theater, or playhouse.

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Most importantly, the place should have at least one fudge shop, and one ice cream parlor.

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Funky towns don’t hide their funkiness. During my walk about Nashville yesterday, two older guys were sitting on a bench talking about the town, and I hovered around pretending to take photos and shamelessly eavesdropping. One guy says to the other that the town has changed in the last twenty years, with all these shops and tourists.

“Never used to have all these stores around, ” he says. “I don’t like it. The town would be a lot different if it didn’t have all these shops.”

“You’re right, ” says the second man. “There’d be a stripmall where we’re sitting.”

Funky towns aren’t ashamed of what they are, and cherish their funkiness; wearing it proudly, like a woman gaudily bedecked with all her jewels.

As soon as you see one, you’ll know you’re in a funky town.

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