Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Often Overlooked

One thing I love about photography and always have is finding the interesting in the ordinary. Bringing permanence on film to the often overlooked.

Gas station interior, U.S. Route 54, Vaughn, New Mexico, November 2004

Hasselblad 500C / Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8
Fuji Velvia 50 reversal film

Monday, June 29, 2015

When The Stars Align

Sometimes when shooting film it's like the stars align. I was out driving around and looking to start back up my series titled "Concrete Cathedrals" when I came across this scene. It was like not only finding the perfect Cathedral, but a pope to go with it. The title of the large vessel is "American Victory", which I thought was suiting given the fact that the 4th of July is upon us this upcoming weekend. That coupled with amazing clear skies and the exact combination of camera and film that I wanted led to this shot.

U.S. Route 53, Superior, Wisconsin, June 2015

Rolleiflex SL-66 / Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8
Kodak Panatomic-X print film developed in Rodinal 1:50

Friday, May 29, 2015

Everything's (not) Always Bigger In Texas

I recently started scanning a lifetime worth of film from the last fifteen plus years with my new Epson V800. I want to share some of my favorites here on the blog. You know the saying "Everything's Bigger In Texas"? Well, I'm guessing that this restaurant didn't get the message! haha. Either way, it provided a great focal point in this shot against an always amazingly blue Texas sky that was even more so enhanced by the use of Kodachrome reversal film.

If you can't tell already, my passion for photographing the small rural towns of the U.S. and especially in Texas runs deep. 

Farm-to-Market Road 471, Rio Medina, Texas, November 2000

Agfa-Ansco 4x5 view camera / Wollensak lens
Kodak Ektachrome SW-100 reversal film
Scanned on Epson Perfection V800 film scanner

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Birthday America

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

U.S. Route 87 (Business), Abernathy, Texas, February 2002

Rolleiflex SL-66 / Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8
Agfa RSX-II 50 reversal film

Saturday, March 14, 2015

All In A Hard Night's Drink

Milton, Massachusetts, June 2000

Rolleiflex SL-66 / Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8
Ilford Pan-F 50 print film

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Glorious Fujifilm Superia 200

Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)
San Francisco, California, October 2014

It is not news that digital has almost completely overtaken film in the past decade.  Film users have been marginalized since around 2003.

But that does not mean that film photography has remained at a standstill.  Fujifilm has continually been improving the quality of its products, even in their consumer lines.  I was on a shoot in the San Francisco Bay Area  this past fall, and ran out of Kodak Ektar 100 print film, so I bought a 4-pack of the only film the Safeway in Petaluma carried.

I popped it into my Hasselblad Xpan, and hoped for the best.  But little did I realize I would get the best.  The tonal range, color fidelity, and saturation easily match Fuji's NPS-160 professional film of just fifteen years ago.  A most pleasant surprise, and a big thanks to Fujifilm!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What's In A Name

Berlin, West Germany, July 1987

Ricoh KR-5 Super / Rikkenon 50mm/f2

Agfachrome 100 film

When you walk into a store like Kroger, or Wal-mart, or any other store that has been built from the ground up by a family and bears the family name, you probably don't really think about the history. This is especially true in America where stores like that don't bear deep emotional scars such as this one in Berlin.

Behind the name Leiser is a history of determination, struggle, success, triumph and heartache all wrapped into one. The Leiser family was a Jewish family in the early 1900's who started their shoe company from the ground up. They became one of the most successful businesses in the area until Hitler and the S.S. finally forced them to sell off completely to Nazi run German government.

What a sign such as this that speaks volumes to the people who know its story. That through the destruction and through the history of all that happened, the name lives on and the sign, while such a simple thing, serves a reminder of perseverance and family.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Colors of Fall on Film

Who doesn't enjoy the colors of fall in the Midwest? I know I do. Color film does too and this Agfa Ultra 50 print film replicates it with an unparalleled beauty. The range of colors and saturation that you get out of it is a treat for the eye. This photo was taken in West-Central Michigan using my Nikon Fm-3A with a Nikkor 50mm 1.4.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Desert Oasis?

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you see this photo? The Sahara? Camels? Well, while you may be able to ride some camels through here, these dunes are actually right here in the United States. Oh, so we're talking Nevada, or Utah? No, and no. These sand dunes are in Michigan.

Silver Lake State Park is comprised of both mature forest land and over 2,000 acres of sand dunes. The park is divided into three segments: An all terrain park in the northern area, the Walking Dunes in the middle of the park, and the southernmost section that is leased to Mac Wood's Dune Rides.

Stats: Nikon FM-3A / Nikkor 50mm/f1.4 / circular polarizerAgfa CT Precisa Plus 100 reversal film

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dr. Strangelove

The "Dr. Strangelove Room" at Diefenbunker, Canada's cold War Museum, Carp Ontario, July 2014

Nikon FM-3A / Nikkor 24mm/f2
Fuji Sensia 200 reversal film, pushed +1

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bodega Head State Park

Bodega Head is part of the Sonoma Coast State Park in California. Sonoma Coast is made up of several beaches that are separated by rock bluffs and headlands. It spans 17 miles from Bodega Head to Vista Trail which is 4 miles north of Jenner. Everyone from beachcombers, picknickers, sunbathers and fisherman can access the beaches from over a dozen trail points along Highway 1.

This photo show Bodega Head, which is a rocky headland that forms the entrance into Bodega Harbor. Crabbing is very popular here and there are many hiking trails on the ocean side that allow access to small coves and scenic views. Many people go to the high cliffs to observe migrating gray whales.

Stats: Hasselblad Xpan / Hasselblad-Fujifilm 45mm/f4
Fuji Superia 200 print film

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Howard Johnson: The Decline of an Era

In the 1960s and 1970s, there were more than 1,000 combined company owned and franchised Howard Johnson outlets. It was the largest restaurant chain in the U.S. at the time.

Howard Johnson started out owning and operating a small corner pharmacy in Quincy, MA. Little did he know that the food industry would become his legacy. After he installed a soda fountain in his drugstore, he realized that the fountain was quickly becoming the busiest and most profitable part of his store. With the mind of an entrepreneur, Johnson decided to branch out into homemade ice cream, quickly accumulating a large variety of 28 different flavors.

During the summers of the late 1920s, Johnson would opperate concession stands along beachfront property on the coast of Massachusetts. He sold soft drinks, hot dogs, and ice cream. With the growing success of his pop-up concession stands, he was able to convince bankers from the area to lend him enough money to open and operate a sit-down restaurant. Finally, near the end of the decade, the first Howard Johnson's restaurant was opened in Quincy. The menu included fried clams, baked beans, chicken pot pies, hot dogs, ice cream, and soft drinks.

Johnson received a rather lucky break in 1929 when the mayor of Boston prohibited a production of Eugene O'Neill's play, Strange Interlude, from performing. The theater moved the production to Quincy, and the influential Bostonians that came to see the play flocked to the closest restaurant, which happened to be Howard Johnson's.

In the 1930s, Johnson persuaded an acquaintance to open a second restaurant in Orleans, Massachusetts which ended up being on of America's first franchising agreements. By the end of the 1930s, there were 107 restaurants all along American East Coast Highways.

By 1944 though, ravaged by the effects of war rationing, only 12 restaurants remained in business.  Johnson managed to maintain his business by serving commissary food to war workers and United States Army recruits. By 1951 though, the restaurants sales were back up and totaled $115 million.

The first motor lodge for Howard Johnson was opened in 1954 in Savannah, Georgia. Shortly after that, in 1959, the elder Johnson turned the company over to his 26 year old son. He would continue to oversee his son's control of the company until his death in 1972.

When the company went public in 1961 there were 605 restaurants and 88 franchised motor lodges across 32 states. By 1975, the company had more than 1,000 restaurants and more than 500 motor lodges in 42 states and Canada. This would be the peak of the business. By the late 1970s though, the signs of the end were beginning. Between the oil embargo of 1974, the fire of 1971, the day-long siege that former Black Panther Mark Essex used the hotel's roof for as a sniper perch, and the $2.5 million dollar judgement awarded to Connie Francis who sued the motel chain after she was raped at the Howard Johnson's Jericho Turnpike lodge, the company started failing. Along with that, Johnson tried to streamline the company operation and cut costs which proved disastrous because guests were unhappy with the "new" Howard Johnson's after being accustomed to the services that they had known for the previous years.

In 1979, Johnson accepted a bid from Imperial Group PLC who sold the company to G. Michael Hostage for more than $630 million.

This Lake Placid restaurant was one of the only three remaining restaurants. It closed on March 31, 2015.

Stats: Nikon FM-3A / Nikkor 24mm/f2
Agfa RSX II 100 reversal film
Taken July 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Human Spirit on Film

The human spirit. It's something that only a photo can so uniquely capture. It can portray a thousand different stories to a thousand different people if you put it up without words, or you can use it to portray a specific story that you want by putting the words behind the picture. Pictures of people are also one of those things that when you sit down twenty, thirty, forty years from now, you will look back and memories will come as well as questions. What ever happened to them? Did they ever do that thing they talked about wanting to do so much?

While you can see the majesty of nature in a landscape from New Mexico, Northern California or Pennsylvania, the way that a portrait evokes emotion is unparalleled. The human face is a landscape all in itself with expression lines and feeling that can be felt simply by looking into that person's eyes. The power that architecture like the grain silos in the southwest can create in a photo can't be compared to the power that a person shows in a photo simply by how they're standing or how they're dressed. The story behind the portrait is always something that will hold a place of highest regard in the society of film photography.

Stats: Leonard, Proprietor, Leonard's Barber Shop
Augusta, Georgia, June, 2001

Sunday, May 4, 2014

City of Warriors

In the state of Coahuila is a municipality called Guerrero. It's a small city, with less than one thousand inhabitants. Even such a small city, it's filled with lots of beautiful and bright colors that are well known to the south-west culture in Mexico.

Guerrero is a surname that means warrior. These small municipalities are home to a large number of Roman Catholics and even though the state of Coahuila has over two million citizens, given the size of the state that only equals out to be 15 people per square kilometer. While that may seem small, Coahuila is home to the country's largest coal reserves and the state's capital Saltillo also has a growing automobile industry with plants for both General Motors and Chrysler.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Steam-tastic Invention

While visiting Vancouver, one must stop into Gastown and take a look at the steam-powered clock that has become a major tourist attraction, and rightly so. While boasting a vintage appeal, the clock was actually constructed in 1977 as a means to cover a steam grate and also prevent the homeless from sleeping on it in cold weather. At first the clock was wrought with malfunctions and had to be powered electronically, but once the local businesses saw how much revenue it bought in because of the tourists it brought, they grouped together to have the steam mechanism completely rebuilt.

Once completed, the new steam mechanism worked by a miniature steam engine that drives a chain lift. The chain lift then moves steel balls upwards where they are then transferred to a descending chain. The weight of these steel balls on the chain controls a conventional pendulum clock escapement that is geared to the hands on the four separate faces of the clock. The steam also powers a whistle, instead of chimes, that have become known as the Westminster "chime" to denote the time.

The long exposure of this photo and the black and white aspect give it a very "Sherlock Holmes" feel while the lights on the trees add a fairy tale-esque dimension that draw you in and pull your attention to the clock itself.  Think Scotland Yard meets Peter Pan.

This image was taken in March 2014 using a Hasselblad 500C with a Zeiss Planar 80mm/f 2.8. Exposure time was f/22 at 1 minute on Agfapan APX 25 Film.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Black Gold

U.S. Route 50, Capon Bridge, West Virginia, June 2013

Rolleiflex SL-66, Zeiss Planar 80mm/f2.8

Kodak Ektar 100 film

Oil. It's been a part of our history for generations. Rockefeller provided the nation with fuel for lamps and streetlights and then figured out how to use the "trash" as fuel for the horseless carriage. We have fought wars over it, rejoiced in the finding of it, cringed over the prices of it, all in the name of convenience and demand. 

Gulf Oil, or the company that we know as Gulf oil, was started in 1901 after the discovery of oil at Spindletop, near Beaumont, Texas. A group of investors, the largest being William Larimer Mellon of Pittsburgh Mellon banking family, joined forces to promote the development of a modern refinery in the nearby Port Arthur to help process the oil. 

Spindletop's output peaked early on at 100,000 barrels per day. The early peak and decline forced Gulf to find alternative sources of supply to sustain its substantial investment. The effort to do so resulted in the construction of a 400-mile pipeline connecting oilfields in Oklahoma with Gulf's refinery at Port Arthur. This pipeline was known as the Glenn Pool pipeline. 

The distinctive Gulf logo was an assurance of sorts for the "name brand" oil so people purchasing it knew they were getting good quality gasoline. At this time in the United States, non-branded gasoline was often contaminated or of unreliable quality. 

This photo shows a sign, though old and worn and riddled with holes, that defined a company. Logos are an influential part of today's society and oftentimes a logo is literally the first and last impression people get from a company. A brown and gold shield, a white eagle on a blue background, a blue oval or a red target. All these signs are what influence us and stay as reminders in our mind. 

Gulf oil may not be in its hayday anymore, but the distinctive orange sign will always be associated with it. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The American Motor Lodge

There is something beautiful about vintage motels and Polaroid film. It's like they were made for each other. In my travels across the U.S., I've made it my goal to try and capture and preserve the great American family vacation culture. Reminiscing about times growing up when these motor lodges were the place where memories were made. Back then times were simpler and customer service was about quality, not just quantity. These motor lodges possessed a certain individuality to them that you don't see anymore in the cookie cutter style hotels of the modern era. Among that individuality was the sign that posed as a "first impression" of sorts. This sign was something that the customer would see coming down the road and depending on how unique and individualistic your sign was could determine whether or not a family would pull over for the night and also how they would remember their stay. These iconic motor lodges are fading out of existence, but the photos that I hope to show of them still hold a lingering breath of the original spirit of travel in the mid-century United States.

Stats: Polaroid Colorpack III, Polaroid 690 Instant Peel-apart film
San Pedro Avenue, San Antonio, Texas, October 2000

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oh, Canada

Near Beardmore, Ontario, Canada, June 2012

Nikon FM-3A Nikkor 50mm/f1.4
Agfa RSX-II 100 film

Construction of Canada's Trans-continental highway began in 1950 and it is one of the world's longest national highways, stretching an amazing 8,030  KM (or 4,990 MI). It was officially open for business in 1962 and completed in 1971. 

The highway is recognized distinctively by the white-on-green maple leaf route markers, such as the one pictured above. 

As you travel across this highway, prepare to be awe-inspired by the scenery. A traveler will experience everything from the majestic peaks in Banff National Park to the prairie areas of Saskatchewan.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Los Colores de Coahuila

Sabinas, Coahuila, Mexico, May 2007

I've resumed work on my forthcoming book, Los Colores de Coahuila.  Stop by here for details on the release date.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Right Wing Art

Loop 335, Amarillo, Texas, February, 2001 

Apparently, I am a right-wing artist (See their December 3, 2013 entry).  Not that I make right-wing art, but I am a libertarian, and I am an artist.  But, I am not a propagandist.  My "political artistic credo" is here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ektachrome, Requiescat En Pace

Bathhouse, Coney Island, 
Brooklyn, New York, November 1988

Richoh KR-5 Super / Rikkenon 50mm/f2
Kodak Ektachrome  200 reversal film 

The Eastman Kodak Company, which operates on the business model of leaving their most loyal customers - i.e., film photographers - high and dry, while rolling out slipshod products in their never-ending quest to play catch-up in the digital photography arena, apparently got rid of Ektachrome, it's line of E-6 reversal films, that have been the poor relations to their proprietary process, Kodachrome, which they killed off (amid gnashing of teeth, wailing, and spinning Paul Simon's 45 record of the same name) in 2009.

But, unlike Kodachrome, the demise of which was known to film lovers well in advance, it appears that Ektachrome has gone out not with a bang, but a whimper.

The whimper came - at least to me - when I tried ordering some at B&H Photo and Video, and noticed only a few available rolls, in off-sized (such as hand-spooled 620).  I Googled Ektachrome, and found this on Eastman Kodak's website:

As of March 1, 2012, Eastman Kodak will no longer manufacture Ektachrome reversal film.

Well, then.  I guess that's that.  It looks as though Fuji and Agfa (reorganized after it spun off from Agfa-Gevaert as Agfa Photo) are the last men standing.  And, judging from the "Made in Japan" notation on the box of Agfa CT Precisa 100 I got last month, it appears that Fuji is the only manufacturer left in business.  And, even they have been winnowing down their selection of reversal films.

Thank God my Frigidaire is in good repair.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Vivian Maier and Sins of Omission

Vivian Maier, street photographer, c. 1950s

In all the reading I have done about Vivian Maier, the celebrated photographers (many of whom cannot touch her work - e.g., Mary Ellen Mark) and critics who now fawn over her work, all offer many theories as to why she never put her work out there.  Most are plausible: She was rather private, she lived for the trip of the shutter, not the adulation, and so on.

Yet, what goes unspoken in the thousands of words I've read is this: Vivian Maier was an intelligent, educated woman, yet took menial jobs to finance her own photography.  It would be wrong to say she was not ambitious. However, Maier kept her only work to herself and a few close acquaintances. Perhaps she understood the very nature of the sort of people who run the fine arts photography racket.

Perhaps Maier, living in New York and Chicago, had taken her portfolio around.  And, perhaps after the first couple dozen times being shown the door by the curator-in-black-turtleneck types, she gave up trying. 

Perhaps she got bitterly resentful of seeing lesser talents lauded because they had the social skills she lacked - running the gamut from schmoozing, sycophancy, making Faustian bargains, domineering, to backbiting - to "make it" in the gallery scene and the Museum of Modern Art.

And now, that she is dead, her estate having been purchased for a song by people who are at present living the good life, after she spent the last decade of her life living in penury, scraping by on her Social Security checks. 

The people now making a very comfortable living off her abandoned negatives and prints have brought in all sorts of the hangers-on of the art scene to laud her in death.  How magnanimous they are. Now.

I wonder what kind of experience Maier had when she approached the forebears of these taste-makers and gatekeepers of the art world.  I wonder if she even approached them at all.  Perhaps she was onto them, all along, and knew she would never last a moment among all those social climbers.

As long as this possibility goes unspoken (and it certainly is going unspoken, not even the bread crumbs of hints have been strewn in the wake of her sudden posthumous fame) - from people who know damn well what game they are playing, and who haven't the consciences to care when they crush the aspirations of young artists, and who call people who've already made it "emerging artists," we cannot help but assume that the praise they're heaping on her now is to cover their own asses and assets.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Small Town U.S.A.

A few of my favorite things: Film, the Southwest, and small towns. Put them all together and I'm in heaven. I love capturing the small town feel of the places out in the Southwest that don't look like they've changed in 40 years. These mom and pop stores are the heartbeat of America and it's sad to see them being over-shadowed by big corporations. This photo was taken about 13 years ago and I wonder if that business is still there?

Photo Specs: U.S. Route 87 (Business), Stockdale, Texas, 2000

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Reyjavik, Iceland, August 2001

This is the only HDR photograph you'll ever see from me, but none of the earmarks that define that gaudy genre were done in the computer, but rather, through stacking an NDR filter and a mint-green filter (Cokin System A) over a circular polarizer.

As you can see, this is overdone, which is why I don't do it at all, except while experimenting.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Russell Means, 1939-2012

russell means
Russell Means at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 2000

I just heard from a friend that Russell Means has died. The Lakota leader for American Indian rights was 72. To everyone who prayed for him, thanks.

Russell was a great man, a fighter for the libertarian principles he believed in, and the people from which he came. He spent the final years of his life establishing an independent, sovereign, Lakota Republic.  He was an inspiration to me, and so many others. May God rest his soul and watch over his family in their hour of need.

I photographed Russell in the spring of 2000, at his home in Santa Fe.  He and his wife Pearl were the most gracious hosts, and Russell gave an engaging interview.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kodak Ektralite 10

Windmills, Grand Meadow, Minnesota, October 2012

What you can still do with a cheap pocket camera and a roll of 110 film.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Howard Johnson's, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Motor Lodge, U.S. Route 11, Harrisonburg, Virginia, June 1991
The iconic orange roofs of Howard Johnson's restaurants and lodges were once ubiquitous across the United States and Canada.  

Now, the motel chain is but a faint shadow of its old self, the poor relations in the Wyndham hotel consortium.  As for the restaurants, they have all but disappeared. There is now only one of the HoJo Restaurants left in operation.

But in 1991, which does not seem so long ago, there were still dozens of restaurants left in operation. This is a premier example.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kodak Ektar 25

Erika Gross, Sharpsburg, Maryland, 1988  
When we left Shepherdstown, West Virginia - just five miles away - the sun was high in the sky, though it appeared a storm was coming in on the edge of the horizon.

Less than ten minutes later, these black clouds came rolling in, and transformed the construction site at which we were shooting into a setting for great visual drama.

For once, foreboding clouds were harbingers of an unforgetful composition, instead of a washout.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Is Here

Alisaith, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, October 2003

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

eBook "Looking Down" Released

I am pleased to announce the release of my second book, Looking Down: Photographs From the Sidewalks of Hyde Park, Boston, published by Middlebrow Books.
Looking Down is an intricate look at the ephemera found on the pavements of one of Boston's more quiet, outlying neighborhoods.  

This handsome edition includes a duotone monograph with 75 original prints. With a very personal essay by motion picture historian Dan Auiler, and cover design by Deidre Adams, Looking Down is a beautifully understated book that will lend charm, grace, and dry wit to your eBook reading device.

Looking Down is on sale at, and Barnes & Noble.