I’m still learning how to shoot candid street scenes. This is a relative success story. I got on film what I imagined when I composed and shot this image – shallow depth of field emphasizing the boy with the red sneakers and mirror sunglasses. I saw him coming toward me, guesstimate focused a distance, then clicked the shutter when he hit that point. There was another shot I took on the same walkabout of a little boy clowning around on one of the bikeshare bikes that I had to guess the focus, and I missed, which was very disappointing because it was a cute composition.
I’m on the fence about the crop, though. Does it draw too much attention away from the boy in the red sneakers?
I’ve been photographing the World Health Organization building in black and white, regularly, because the architecture lends itself so very nicely to geometric abstracts. Here it is in color, to show a different take on photo abstraction and the creation of meaning in an image.
The building itself was designed by Uruguayan architect Roman Fresnedo Siri. In 1961, Siri won an international design competition with his arc and cylinder concept. Construction was begun in 1963 and the building opened officially on September 27, 1965. There are bronze plaques on the face of the tower representing each of the 29 member nations.
this is a brand new office/retail/residential complex here in DC. I pass it all the time on my way to and from work, social outings and various and sundry obligations. I’ve seen it in all kinds of light, at different times of day. I particularly like watching it come to life as the sun goes down.
The color changes as the sun goes down and the lights go on. At any time, the abstract geometry of the place makes it highly clinical, but the mood shifts. It actually looks more alive at night.
A different take on abstracting the geometry of the space. The glowing red exit sign adds a tiny touch of humanity in what could otherwise look like a set from Tron, the movie about a virtual world inside a computer.
Sometimes, I do actually break out the 35mm and shoot. These were all taken at a local car show, playing around with my Contax RTS III and the 50mm f1.4 Planar lens. I think you really can tell a difference between shots taken with the RTS III and other 35mm cameras because of the vacuum film pressure plate – sucking the film perfectly flat at the time of exposure does lead to a sharper negative overall, or at least takes the film’s flexibility out of the equation and lets the lens shine through. These were taken with my favorite color negative film, Kodak Ektar 100.
I just love the simplicity of the Corvette rear end design in this composition – the field of cream yellow, offset by the curve of chrome and the two red taillights reflected in the bumper. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Aah, classic design. The Art Deco glory that is the Cord 810 convertible. Considering how rare and expensive these are, the owner/driver gets a lot of credit for driving it to and from the show. I saw him later that afternoon, pulled over with the hood up, so that dashed my fantasies of having one as a daily driver. But it’s still a glorious car to see on the road today.
Another vintage dashboard, from a Porsche 356. Very clean, very simple, no clutter to distract from the driving experience.
I was racking my brain to remember what car this was exactly. It’s British, 1950s, with a big (for the time and place) engine. I was thinking Jensen, or BRM, but I think Jensen was 60s and 70s, and BRM mostly did racing cars. Then it struck me – it’s a 1950s Bristol four-place coupe. They were fast, luxurious GTs in their day, and somewhat rare, especially on this side of the pond.
Here is the engine compartment of the Bristol. A big inline 6-cylinder topped by three magnificent carburetors. It’s almost sculptural.
The modern contingent – a Ford GT, the modern recreation of the 1960s GT40 race car, but this one is street legal, and fully civilized on the inside with working A/C, radio, and leather seating.
And last but not least, what car show would be complete without a Ferrari or two? This is the dashboard of a Ferrari 250 Berlinetta, as seen through the window glass.
Just a reminder we’re having the closing reception for our Silver Visions: Large Format Photography show at the River Road Unitarian Church on Saturday, May 3, from 3-5 pm. Please come out and see the work (and maybe even buy something??? Prices are very reasonable!).
The church is located at 6301 River Rd, Bethesda, MD 20817, but the entrance is on Whittier Boulevard (turn on to Whittier from River Road and make the second left into their driveway – the immediate left is the exit from their parking lot).
For more information about the exhibit or visiting hours or directions, see:
I submitted a photo to a call for entries from the Eastern Sierra Center for Photography the other day, and the photo was accepted! It’s even #1 in the series. The photo is one I took a while back of the Surratt house in Washington DC. The theme of the photos was “Motels”, based on a quote by William Borroughs –
“Motel, motel, motel, broken neon arabesque, loneliness moans across the continent like fog horns over still oily water of oily rivers.”
The motel connection in my image is a little tenuous, but Mrs. Surratt took in boarders to her home to help pay the bills before she was hanged for her alleged role in the Lincoln assassination (she was the first woman ever executed in the United States for a crime she may have only ever been tangentially involved in). I also felt the mood of the scene put into image the words in the Burroughs quote.
There was a requirement that the image be made with a large format camera (one of the primary missions of the Eastern Sierra Center for Photography is the promulgation of large format photography).
The photo was shot on Kodak Portra 160 with a Canham 5×7 wood field camera using a Kodak Commercial Ektar 12″ lens.
Please go visit the Eastern Sierra Center’s website and read about their very worthwhile mission – supporting the continued use of view cameras for contemporary (and future – they have a program to expose kids to view cameras!) photography.
Here are some color shots I took on my neighborhood walk around, last weekend. I noticed a theme of small businesses in the shots I was taking, so I decided to make a grouping out of them for this post. The areas I was photographing are actually very bustling and vibrant, but A: this was on a Sunday afternoon, and B: it was about 93 degrees Farenheit outside, so it looks far more desolate than it actually is, but that allowed me to focus on the appearances of the businesses themselves. My interest in photographing them without people is not to portray an economic state that may or may not be true, but rather the overall feel of small businesses that are in a neighborhood in transition – these are businesses, mostly minority-owned, that have not yet been gentrified in an area experiencing rapid gentrification.
To me, the loss of these businesses to gentrification is the biggest downside to the process. They are what makes up the character of the neighborhood, and why all those gentrifiers moved there in the first place. I will be very sad when Tex-Mex Burritos is displaced for yet another Chipotle.
Sun’s Discount is obviously shuttered. I don’t know how big a space it is on the inside, or what kind of (probably insane) rent the landlord is asking for, but I love the murals on the wall and the protest/message posters plastered on the whitewashed windows. It reflects the character of the neighborhood, and particularly its past – the small ethnic “discount” store that would have carried a hodge-podge of inexpensive products, primarily catering to the Latino community, which has adopted the small business strip along Mount Pleasant Street. Historically a mixed race, upper-middle class neighborhood, after the 1968 Martin Luther King riots, the neighborhood experienced a significant turnover and transformed into a poor Latino barrio in the 1970s. It is in the process of changing back into a largely white, upper-middle class neighborhood, as the housing stock off the business district consists of large, elegant rowhomes and single familys that are being snatched up, fixed up and turned into two and three unit condos.
There is still an African-American presence in the neighborhood – a touch of soul remains amidst the sazón. The neighborhood was always multi-ethnic, but the blend has changed over the years.
Another one of those small businesses that when a real estate developer sets their sights on the block will be one of the first to go. Leon’s operates out of a space not much bigger than a coat closet. In the land of big-box stores and franchises, there’s no room for a 200-sq ft retail operation. And signage like that would never fly in a homogenized shopping mall.
Here’s one that has been around for decades – witness the missing letters and the layers of paint applied to the original Alfa Omega Tax Service on the wall. Having them there in the 1970s and 80s when this was one of the police patrol beats officers dreaded to be assigned would have been a huge deal to the residents, as there would have been few legitimate businesses willing to provide quality services of any kind in the area.
The bohemian precursor to gentrification – Marx Cafe (“Revolutionary Cuisine”) brought a little touch of culture and chic.
A typical neighborhood mom-and-pop eatery. This one is newer, keeping within the theme of the neighborhood but brightened up and appealing to the incoming Anglos as well as the long-time residents.
Heller’s Bakery has been here forever, witness the neon sign, from back when the neighborhood was originally an upper-middle-class, white/jewish/African-American neighborhood. It stuck around through the hard times. If you saw the movie, State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, you’ll recognize this as being from outside his apartment.
I’m not sure Barbara’s is still in business – granted I usually never walk by it during the work day mid-week, so it might in fact operate then, but whenever I see it, it’s shuttered, blinds pulled, and half-dead plants in the window. I don’t know if they were a victim of shifting demographics, or just sloppy management – I don’t know that I’d want to trust what little hair I have left to someone whose plants look like that!
Another small business that will probably be driven out by gentrification in the next ten years. Massive re-development of the neighborhood has happened a few short blocks down the street, with upscale restaurants and pubs, a shopping center with Target, Best Buy, Marshalls, Staples, Radio Shack, GNC, a Washington Sports Club gym, and across the street is Chipotle, a wine store (not a liquor store, but a WINE store), and a FedEx outlet. Like I said earlier, no room in that for a riot of pink selling Central American baked goods. And the neighborhood will be poorer for it.
In contrast to the wine store down the street, this is a good old-fashioned ghetto liquor store. This one, I could let go, but the Colony Liquor up the street I’d like to see stay around if for no other reason than the fantastic Deco facade and neon sign (see previous posts of mine for pictures).
Part of the gentrification wave in my own segment of the neighborhood- its ethnic cuisine by hipsters. Don’t get me wrong, they have very delicious and authentic tacos (and insanely cheap happy hour prices – you can get three tacos and a beer for $10-11!!!), but the truly authentic taquerias don’t have roof decks, bar seating reclaimed from former diners, and waiters wearing plaid flannel, sporting a well-maintained three-days stubble.
Alongside the hipster taqueria you have the basement beauty parlor, which you’d never know was a beauty parlor if not for the booth for rent sign in the window.
The Pinch is a neighborhood dive bar featuring live music on the lower level. The graphics outside scream 1970s blaxploitation movie, the patrons now scream suburban white kids who moved to the city to have an “authentic” experience. But it’s good to have a venue that provides space for local live music, where up-and-coming bands needing a break can perform, as there are definitely not enough performance spaces in this town to adequately support the creative talent here.
This is an exploration of twilight into dusk in and around the 14th Street and U Street corridors in Northwest Washington DC. All these shots were taken in the same evening, and are within walking distance of one another (although in the name of time efficiency I drove from one area to the other so I wouldn’t lose the last light in the sky).
Nellies is a gay sports bar (betcha never thought you’d hear THAT particular combination!) at the corner of 9th and U Street and Florida Avenue (U Street turns into Florida Avenue at 9th). I’ve driven by hundreds of times and always thought about photographing their lights, specifically the “OPEN” arrow on the corner. The night I started this project, I decided to shoot the building from two different angles, one to capture the general ambiance of the intersection, the other to specifically address the OPEN sign.
Around the corner from Nellies is this abandoned warehouse which has some really wild and cool and somewhat disturbing graffiti on it. I shot some of this graffiti through the chain link fence around the side lot. The disturbing piece I intentionally cropped out of the shot, as it is the nude lower half of a female body that appears to have been severed from its torso.
Over on 14th Street, we have had an explosion of new restaurants in the last five years, with a huge spate in the last year alone. Rice Restuarant is arguably the best Thai restaurant in DC, and certainly the most innovative. A good friend of mine opened it gosh, maybe ten years ago, virtually pioneering the restaurant boom in the neighborhood. Now next door to Rice is Ghibellina, an Italian joint that opened this year, and next door to that is Pearl Dive, an oyster bar, which opened perhaps 2 years ago. Le Diplomate is a French bistro across the street in what was originally a car dealership in the 1920s, then became a laundromat. Le Diplomate also opened earlier this year.
At the intersection of 14th and Q Streets, I pointed my camera south on 14th to try and capture the energy of the neighborhood, through the traffic, the lights, the construction boom represented by the crane, and the people on the sidewalks.
Here is a second version of the shot, a longer exposure, that captures the car sitting at the traffic light, then traffic taking off when the light changed. The funky stuff in the sky is a combination of reflections of the tail-lights and head-lights of the cars reflecting off the clouds and lens flare caused by the lights directly shining into the lens.
I’m not sure if I like this one well enough to keep it or if some other night I go back and try to re-shoot it. Feedback welcomed. All shots, as is becoming normal to say now, were taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, on Kodak Ektar 100 film. This was in part an experiment to see how well Ektar would fare against Portra 160 as a low-light film. I’ve loved Portra as a low-light film for its ability to handle mixed lighting conditions. I’d say this put to rest any thoughts of Ektar 100 being inferior- it does look different, to be sure, but I’d say it did a pretty darned good job. I think I might even prefer it in some cases.
Here are a few shots from my visit to the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The Folklife Festival is held every year on the National Mall, and it is a celebration of cultures and traditions from around the world. This year’s featured country is Hungary, and the overall theme is “One World, Many Voices”. There are representatives of many indigenous cultures around the world from Hawaiian Islanders to Penobscot Indians to Quechua speakers from Bolivia and Peru to Tuvan people from Siberia. The “many voices” part has to do with showcasing efforts to preserve vanishing languages and cultures. Go to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Official Page to learn more about the events and programs for this year’s festival.
This pavilion is part of the Hungarian exhibit – playing on traditional Hungarian crafts like lace-making and using the forms and styles in a wooden structure.
And here is a sculpture of a Puli shepherd dog, rendered in blackened wood. Pulis are similar to Komondor sheep herding dogs except they are black, not white. They used to get shorn along with the sheep they guarded, but now are left to grow their coats out as a fashion statement, to the impairment of the dog’s mobility.
The door of a Yurt, representing the various nomadic peoples of Siberia who are sharing their culture this year at the Folklife Festival. Yurts are traditional nomadic home structures – they are portable like tents, with canvas or fabric tops and latticework side walls.
Paper flowers in the Mexican pavilion:
Quechua musicians, getting ready to perform a traditional Quechua song, talking about the meaning of their indigenous language and the importance of preserving the language, to pass on the connection to their cultural traditions of respect for the environment.
A Tuvan instrument maker, carving the body of a lute:
A Tuvan stone-carver, demonstrating hand-carving techniques, making a bull out of soapstone:
These last three shots are not specifically of the Folklife Festival, but are representative of the location and the spirit of the day. The weather was quite hot, but at least we had a relatively dry day with periodic breezes (Washington DC, particularly the area of the Mall, was built on a swamp, and big chunks of the Mall area, especially west from the Washington Monument, are actually landfill. Which is why the Washington Monument is sinking very slowly. So summertime in DC can be particularly miserable – almost New Orleans-esque in its heat and humidity).
The sculpture is outside the American History Museum, which caps one end of the Folklife Festival and plays host to the temporary festival gift shop.
It was tough waiting for people to NOT be walking through the shadow of the sculpture on the pavement. I’ll have to come back and shoot this again in the wintertime when it casts a longer shadow and there are fewer people out on the plaza so I can catch it as more of an abstract piece.
All shots were taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, on Kodak Ektar 100 film.
We got ice cream here at the Brooklyn Creamery- some of the best ice cream I’ve had in ages.
There is a line going down the block out the front door of Grimaldi’s Pizza basically every minute that they’re open. I don’t know if you can see the sign or not, but on one of their banners it says, “coal-fired pizza. Cash Only, No Slices”. I assume they mean charcoal when they say coal – I couldn’t imagine pizza made in an actual coal-burning oven. A little coal tar with your pepperoni?
Despite the image in most people’s minds of the New York City subway being gritty, grimy, old and just plain filthy, once you get out of Manhattan there are some very attractive stations. This tile-work was in the entrance stairs to the station at Prospect Park for the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Arriving at Coney Island from the Subway.
Nathan’s Hot Dogs – they’re a cliché, but still – you can’t pass up a Nathan’s hot dog and cheese fries your first time at Coney Island.
We had to ride the Wonder Wheel, and of course, we had to take one of the swinging cars, even though they don’t get as high.
While in line for the Wonder Wheel, I saw the sign for the pay toilet and wanted to take a picture of it – the sign and the old metal turnstiles are just so cool (and before you ask, I didn’t pay to go in and find out exactly what they looked and/or smelled like- even though it was opening weekend, it’s still Coney Island!). This old man with a fancy walker (purple anodized aluminum frame with a hand-brake and a fold-down seat) saw my Rolleiflex and struck up a conversation – he had been a camera salesman at a store in Brooklyn for many years and remembered selling them.
Here is the world-famous Cyclone roller-coaster. The ride was fun but frightening, not only because it is bone-jarring from the wood track, but because the coaster operators were not paying enough attention and allowed the incoming car to slam into the back of my car as we were getting loaded in. Fortunately we were already strapped/safety-barred in, so the shockwave of the impact passed through instead of knocking me forward into the back of the seat in front. Much as I love riding roller-coasters, especially the old wooden ones, I don’t think I’ll ride the Cyclone again.
Lower Manhattan, Evening:
This was how I ended the day, back in lower Manhattan, hanging out around Union Square, and doing some book shopping at The Strand.