Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hungry Like the Wolf

State Highway 41, Lemoore, California, October 2009

Doesn't this sign make you hungry?  It did me, but to no avail:  This diner has been closed down and boarded up for years, in this depressed farming community in the Central Valley of California.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fruits of Labor

State Highway 152, near Los Banos, California, October 2009

If you've been wondering where I went for the past week, I've been out in the San Joaquin Valley of California working on my next project, for which I will divulge details soon.

Now that I am devoting myself full-time to this project, I am pleased to present this as the first image from this upcoming series, a photograph I took of the side of a fruit stand October last.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, March 2000

As readers of this blog can surmise, I spent a lot of time in the city of Piedras Negras.  The genesis for a series on the brilliant colors found in the state of Coahuila was here.  The juxtaposition of forms, of ostensibly ashen masonry and dry-rotting wood miraculously brought back to life by mere coats of paint is at once the simplest thing in the world, and also the most fascinating.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, March 1999

Any urban or even small town landscape in Coahuila would be incomplete without telephone and power lines to establish the image's geometry.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rediscovered Negatives: Portraits

Alisaith, Cookstown, New Jersey, 2003

A frequent subject of my camera's lenses is Alisaith, but this roll escaped development for years, until I pulled it from the freezer last month.  I usually use available window light to illuminate my indoor portraits, but we wanted something with a more nocturnal feeling.  Using a low-wattage table lamp (upper right) for backlighting, we set up two candelabras for our prime lighting source.  Shooting with some of my stash of old school Kodak Tri-X (expiry date, August 1972), we were able to obtain a very painterly portrait.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Bernard Jones (9), Plymouth Belvedere (10)
Bowie, Maryland, Spring 1977

When I was twelve, just having joined the Boy Scouts of America, I began working in earnest on my first merit badge, Photography.

My father very graciously let me drag him away from his yard work, to be my guinea pig for my "improper technique" shot of posing him directly in front of a tree, so that the trunk appears to be growing out from the top of his head.   The next exposure is of his 1968 Plymouth Belvedere, my favorite car he ever owned, parked on the street in front of our house.

Happy Father's Day, Dad, and thanks for putting up with me all those years! 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Channeling Homage

Highway 17 (Trans-Canada Highway), Ignace, Ontario, May 2010

Last week, I was subconsciously channeling the great color photographer, Keith Laban.  On my recent trip to Canada, Ed Ruscha?  Walker Evans?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I sure miss tableaux such as these.  They're disappearing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rediscovered Negatives: Im Augenblick

Somewhere in the Texas Panhandle, c. 2006 or 2008

I usually have a photographic memory, but in this instance when I found this orphaned negative, which was the only shot exposed on the whole roll, I had no idea what to match it up with.

Still, I was lucky to get this.  I remember driving through the Palo Duro Canyon, but there were two trips I took through there, one in 2006, the other two years later. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hopscotch grid, Highway 17 (Trans-Canada Highway)
Town Square, Ignace, Ontario, May 2010

This sure brings back memories!  Take the video consoles out of your kids' hands and take them out to the playground for a couple rounds of hopscotch!

Signs From Oblivion

Farm Security Administration building
U.S. Route 181, Karnes City, Texas, May 2002

One that has disappeared from my repertoire.  Actually, I don't think I should have dropped it in the first place. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Things Found While Driving

Corrugated Wood Separating Drums
Highway 11 (Trans-Canada Highway Extension)
Emo, Ontario, May 2010

I didn't find any "emo punks" in Emo, but I did find these amazing specimens of rugged technology.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Los Colores de Coahuila

Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, April 2002

Coca-Cola may be American, but it is ubiquitous in Mexico.  Not for nothing was their previous president, Vicente Fox, also president of Coca-Cola before being elected national leader.

This one is for a photographer now vacationing in Galicia, who's on a similar wavelength.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Camera Phone Heresies

Soo Line GP-30 diesel unit No. 703
Colfax Railroad Museum, Colfax, Wisconsin
June 2010

Not planning on taking any pictures on this dreary day, Evan, Sarah, and I packed up, and drove to the Colfax Railroad Museum, where we had an enjoyable weekend afternoon.  Evan and Sarah ran amok among the rolling stock, and I did my best to make certain they stayed off the Canadian National right of way.

Nonetheless, this particular diesel engine -- long past its prime, and quietly rusting in the station yard -- piqued my attention, and this lovely color accident found its way onto my camera phone.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rediscovered Negatives: Im Augenblick

Off U.S. Route 87, Happy, Texas, November 2004

This is my Texas.  A hundred years from now, this scene will still be there.  

God willing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Help God Fight Evil

Political protester, Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 2004

This gentleman is obviously in a different religious camp than mine.  Obviously, he's not a Deist, though he's ostensibly in the same political party that I was back then (am Independent now, btw).  

Incidentally, God is not a Republican.  Or a Democrat.  I filed a FOIA request, and found that He is a registered member of the Symbionese Pan-African Green Natural Law Party, in Smuggler's Notch, Vermont.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

U.S. Route 130, Burlington, New Jersey, August 2003

The geometry of these power lines intrigued me greatly one hot and humid day in New Jersey.  If I may be so bold, I think this image belongs in the same company as photographs of telephone lines by Albert Renger-Patzsch, Tina Modotti, and Walker Evans.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Camera Phone Heresies

U.S. Route 169, Blue Earth, Minnesota
December 2009

My son Evan asked me to take a picture of the Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minnesota.  How could I not?  So, I trudge out into the snow to get a closer shot, and -- leaning against a tree to stabilize the camera -- took this rather conventional picture.

Still, it's one of Evan's favorites!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Garish: The Cutting Room Floor

Ceramic wares and wall
Canyon Lake, Texas, April 2002

This arrangement of ceramic-coated tinware was made by photographer Sonja Heldt-Harris at the Rebecca Creek Gallery, near Canyon Lake, Texas.  I loved the way the red and the cerulean blue of the wall worked together.

This image was not included in my book, Garish, because, well, it is too subtle and not at all...garish.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Here, kitty kitty!

Jane Eyre, San Antonio, Texas, July 1997

Pictured is our lovely cat Jane, who was born in late 1996.  We named her "Jane Eyre," as she was orphaned.  She suffered a horrendous mauling under the wheels of a garbage truck, but held on for life, and was nursed back to health by a dear friend who worked as a veterinary assistant.  She was adopted soon after her recovery.

She is still quite an active cat, going on fourteen and living a lazy life of eating, sleeping, and protecting her territory.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rediscovered Negatives: Los Colores de Coahuila

Federal Route 57, near Progreso, Coahuila, May 2007

The sky was beginning to clear right about the time I photographed this billboard early one spring morning.  To bring a little more color to the image, I used an 81A warming filter.  Apparently, it warmed up the sky enough to saturate the blue to such an extent that during processing, uneven development occurred, and you can see where the developer made the sky denser at points away from the sprocket holes.

Still, the sign made me hungry enough to stop and buy some beef jerky.

Friday, June 4, 2010


The Proprietor of Gartch's International Pub
Fort Frances, Ontario, May 2010

If you happen to be passing through the border city of Fort Frances, Ontario, in Canada, a great place to go for libations and a pretty good place for food is Gartch's International Pub, which is on Highway 11, running through the center of town.

There, I found some interesting inebriates and even more interesting conversation.  A patron kept good-naturedly referring to me as "Russian," (I am Welsh/Irish/English/Scots) and another warned me against the food, which I actually found quite palatable.

Pictured above is the pub's proprietor and host, Gartch himself, a lad of obviously Scottish descent and a true gentleman.

P.S.:  Myung told me she thought this photo was a still from a Hitchcock movie.  Made my month!   R.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Couchiching Nation Takes Down Toll Booth, Wins Fight to Have Government Clean Up Contaminated Land

Councillor Dan Mainville stands before the toll booth
erected by the Couchiching Nation on Highway 11
before the bridge crossing over Rainy Lake

I was in Western Ontario vacationing about a week and-a-half ago, and read in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal that members of the Couchiching First Nation had erected a toll booth on Ontario Highway 11, which is also the Trans-Canada Highway extension, and only one of three routes into the city of Fort Frances.

As it was on my way of my trip's route, I went there to check it out, and talked with many members and a councilor from the Couchiching First Nation.  For decades their land -- which was granted the tribe by the federal government of Canada -- has been a hazardous materials zone: The tribe's members residing on the reserve land live on the grounds of a former sawmill, whose processing left the land poisoned with unsafe levels of chemical byproducts.

Susan Smith immediately volunteered to work eight-hour
shifts collecting tolls.  "I live in Fort Frances, but
this is my community," she said.  "I've lost friends over
this issue, but we have to do what's right for our

According to Nation member Ed Yerxa, "The government has studied the soil contamination, and their assessments confirmed ten times the base unsafe level of both furon and dioxin.  If you had people cleaning up this mess, they'd be wearing protective suits against the contaminants.  Yet, we have families, children, and elders who have to live here every day."  Of the 1,800 total members of the Couchiching Nation living in Canada and the United States, there are approximately 650 members living on the reserve lands in Ontario.

After the studies were completed -- some, decades ago -- both the federal and provincial governments did...nothing.  No cleanups were forthcoming, however, according to Dan Mainville, Council to the Couchiching First Nation.  "The federal government made us a cash offer," Mainville explained, "which we turned down.  Over the years the offer went up to $2 million [Canadian]."

Ed Yerxa prepares industrial outdoor lighting as night
approaches, to ensure safety of toll collectors and
motorists. "We worked with the Ontario Provincial
Police to make sure that putting up the toll booth was
done peacefully," Yerxa said.

Wanting nothing more than their governments to live up to their obligations to First Nations people, the Couchiching voted to peacefully erect a toll booth on the highway -- which runs through their tribal land, and for which they have never been reimbursed under Canadian eminent domain laws.

All during the day, I queried non-Native Canadians for their opinions on the Couchiching collecting a $1.00 toll on Highway 11, which runs through their sovereign land.  Half of the responses from non-Indians were along the lines that it was "extortion," and that the Couchiching were "bullying" the "captive motorists."  The other half were politely non-committal, but I only met one non-Native Canadian squarely behind the Couchiching's efforts.

Yes, I personally witnessed no behavior by the toll collectors matching these fears, rumors, and preconceptions.  The two women taking tolls, Susan Smith and Holly Cogger, did not demand payment, and although many drivers sped past the stop sign on the toll booth, when other motorists slowed down (but did not pay a toll) the two women were cordial, and politely thanked the motorists for safely reducing their speed.

Holly Cogger, about to collect a loonie from
a motorist entering the Couchiching First
Nation. "I'm doing this for my children
and grandchildren," she said. "This land
belongs to them.  We're just caretakers.
We have to make sure this land is in
good shape to pass on to them."

Fortunately, the Couchiching's message was heard loud and clear by the government, and down came the toll booth, less than two weeks after its erection.  According to Minister of Parliament John Rafferty (N.D.P.):

While I am satisfied that the public health hazard faced by these families on the Couchiching reserve has been resolved, I am very disappointed that an agreement was only struck after public action was taken by the Couchiching leadership.   It is my understanding that the federal government paid $1.7 million for two engineering reports that were completed several years ago and showed that dangerous chemicals were present (i.e. dioxins, etc).  I’m thankful these families will finally be relocated, but the burning question that I still have is 'what took so long'?

Sara Mainville, another councilor the the First Nation and niece of Dan, exclaimed:

"We’re happy about that. The fact that they’re going to take direct action and there aren’t going to be any more studies done on the contaminated lands, that they’re going to move the homeowners and they’re going to remedy the soil contamination so that we’ll have those lands for future development I think, that’s just wonderful news for us."
Peaceful activism in defense of one's sovereign rights -- no matter whose -- is always a great thing.  Pilamaya, Couchiching!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ghost World

"Cupcakes," London, Spring 2010

Ana Perez de Rada sees the simple, everyday things our eyes see, but our hearts and minds miss in her photography blog, The Ghost World.  

"Hello? Can I come in?"  Canterbury, 2009

Inspired by Terry Zwigoff's movie of the same name, Ana's photography of the quiet, but poignant, things that make up the private moments of our lives is a serendipitous and somewhat offbeat visual diary that is a constant and reassuring source of pleasure to me.

"That Top Hat," London, Winter 2010