Category Archives: Street

Mexico City, in Black and White

This was a return trip, just a quick three-day weekend over the Veterans’ Day holiday, so I only shot four rolls of black-and-white and six rolls of color (to be processed today). Here are some highlights.

I took a trip to the UNAM (Autonomous National University of Mexico) campus, which is famous for its 1960s architecture (it’s the site of the 1968 Olympics, and the Olympic stadium which seats some 80,000 (if I recall correctly) is across Insurgentes Boulevard from the campus). My partner is in law school at UNAM, so we met up after class and wandered around a bit. These images are from the Architecture school buildings, another program that UNAM is famous for.

UNAMArchitectureStairs

AngelUNAMArchitecture

You may be wondering- what’s with the rectangular images? He almost always shows us square photos! Well, I traded in some gear I wasn’t using and got a Mamiya RZ67 and a trio of lenses for it. The RZ67 is effectively a Hasselblad on steroids – unlike my Rolleiflex, which is a TLR (Twin Lens Reflex), the RZ is an SLR (Single Lens Reflex). The advantage is that with an SLR, interchangeable lenses make a lot more sense, since you only have to have one of them per focal length. The RZ also shoots 6x7cm negatives on 120 film (NOT 120mm!!! Pet Peeve alert – 120 is the film size, not 120mm. 120 was a Kodak internal designation for the format that became universal, kind of like Kleenex). The RZ solves the problem of having to rotate the entire camera when switching from horizontal to vertical by instituting rotating backs. This of course makes the camera bigger and heavier. It’s an additional challenge when traveling, but I think the images speak for themselves.

Back in the city center, I was wandering around on the street where my hotel is located, Calle Londres. Down the block are a pair of markets – the Mercado del Angel, which specializes in antiques, and the Mercado de Artesanias which specializes in modern handicrafts of all varieties from wood carvings to ceramics to sterling silver jewelry. The Mercado de Artesanias had a Day of the Dead altar still up in their entryway.

DiaDeLosMuertosAltar

DiaDeLosMuertosAltar2

You can’t tell it in black and white, but those pumpkins on the ground were fluorescent purple and pink. I like them better in b/w, don’t you?
BronzeDoorsLondres

Also on Calle Londres, these bronze doors can be found. I’m still not sure what they belong to, but they’re quite impressive.

 

GaleanaMonument

Another aspect of the trip was to take in some of the exhibits of FotoMexico, a nation-wide, three month long photography festival that covers some 600 exhibits around the nation. The headquarters for the program is the Centro de la Imagén, located inside the Biblioteca México (I’ll have more to say about FotoMexico in another post). The Biblioteca México is located in an 18th century tobacco factory-cum-military facility that was used as a prison during the waning days of Spanish colonial rule. This monument is in the park in front of the Biblioteca, commemorating Jose Maria Morelos, a Mexican general who led a valiant 40 day resistance against colonial authorities at Cuautla, after which he was taken prisoner, held in the jail in the Ciutadela (now the Biblioteca) and then executed for treason.
ParkSweepMexicoCity

The cart and broom of one of the caretakers of the park.
MorelosMonument2

Another view of the Morelos monument. It was erected in 1912, as part of the centenary commemorations of Mexican independence from Spain, and coincidentally the Mexican Revolution of 1911 which overthrew the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
GlorietaInsurgentes

Last but not least, the advertising billboard structure in the Glorieta Insurgentes. The Glorieta is a major traffic circle on Avenida Insurgentes Norte, and is a transportation hub – the subway and express buses have stops in and around the Glorieta. I photographed the billboard structure because it has a look to it reminiscent of a Bernd and Hilla Becher photograph of industrial structures.

Ghost Man, Columbia Heights

GhostManCoHi

This is a case of where the mechanics of photographing lead to something emotionally resonant in a powerful way – the blurred moving man under other circumstances could be considered a flaw, but here becomes a metaphor.

Washington DC at Twilight

More specifically, the Georgetown neighborhood. Georgetown may be many things (incredibly overpriced, a tourist trap, insanely busy and difficult to navigate because they refused the Metro when the system was being built) but it is very vibrant and there’s always something going on. It still retains much of the late 18th/early 19th century architecture from when Georgetown was actually a separate city from Washington DC, and has a very distinct feel. I like getting out and photographing there, especially at twilight into the sunset hour, because Georgetown’s position on the crest of a hill overlooking the Potomac really captures the light of that hour like no other part of the city.

This is looking east along M Street, one of the main commercial corridors in Georgetown, from the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street. The sun is setting, the light is fading, and the traffic and street lamps are glowing with the first hints of night lights.

EastOnMStreet

The cyclist is moving just fast enough to be blurred as he passes through the scene.

Here is the famous Farmers and Merchants Bank at the corner of Wisconsin and M Streets. This is an absolutely iconic structure in Georgetown, and is instantly recognizable around the world to people who have visited Washington DC.

GeorgetownBankNight3cars

I love the dull gleam of the gilded dome of the bank catching the last rays of the sun.

And here is a glimpse of Georgetown’s industrial waterfront past, where the C&O Canal carves its last yards of waterway through the city before meeting the Potomac River, and where the warehouses for tobacco, wheat, corn, cotton and local products were stored, bought, and sold at the last navigable port on the Potomac.

CanalSunsetGtown

Today, fancy boutiques and high-end condos line the canal, the smokestacks of power plants remaining as decorative follies to remind us of the town’s industrial past.

Cyborg at the bus stop

Well, not really, of course. But that’s what it looks like with the lady in the leg brace.

BusStopCyborg

I wish I’d had a second film back for the RZ that I could have had loaded with Ektar 100, as her hair was pink. This was a test shot for me with the Mamiya RZ 67 and the 180mm f4.5 wide open. It gives a lovely compressed depth-of-field look, and the bokeh of the lens is very smooth and pleasing.

Meet And Shoot – Columbia Heights

Today was my session of the “Meet & Shoot” class I co-teach with several other instructors at Photoworks. The class is a five or six session workshop on street photography where each instructor takes a group of students out for a guided photography excursion to a location of their choosing. Students can sign up for all sessions, or pick and choose which ones they want as their schedule and/or instructor preference dictates.

This time, I had three new students and three repeat students from the last time I taught this class. Due to some last-minute scheduling snafus, three of the students were unable to make it, so it was a very intimate walkabout, and I was able to teach as much as I was playing shepherd.

We met at the Columbia Heights Metro station, and once the crew was collected, we took a walk up to the little plaza in front of the Tivoli Theater where a saturday farmers market was in full swing. My three students, seen below (L to R: Matthew, Suzan and Bobbi) wandered around and took full advantage of my guidance for the session to use color as a foundational theme. The farmers market was a perfect opportunity, with all the fruit and vegetables on display.

Columbia Heights is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, with a strong Latin-American presence. This is very obvious in the colors and styles of signage on shops and restaurants, and makes for a great subject for a color-based exercise.

Here Bobbi, Suzan and Matthew are examining some signage on a Dominican restaurant on Park Road.

We continued along Park Road over to Mount Pleasant, another neighborhood in Washington DC that also has a significant Latino presence. I took the opportunity to discuss including graffiti and public sculpture in your work as a “street” photographer. If you’re going to include other peoples’ art in your photography, make sure that you have a solid reason for doing so- it’s fair game as documentary, or if your capture and interpretation is transformative (abstract/close-up, for example), but if you’re planning to exhibit and market photos of other peoples’ art, even if it is displayed in public, you’re at best in an ethical gray area, and potentially in a copyright violation scenario.

Street photography is very much about found images – you’re not setting out to intentionally create compositions, but rather responding and reacting to things you encounter, like this poster that fell into the street and got run over until the rough pavement surface pierced through turning the whole thing into an abstract composition.

We had a great morning of shooting, and wrapped up for a chat at a cafe on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan (another neighborhood bordering on Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights). I’m very pleased with my students, and I’m looking forward to seeing their images from today at our recap class in three weeks.

Image Published on fslashd!

For those unaware of it, fslashd (f/D) is a website devoted to pinhole photography. I’ve had one of my images published on their site as part of their Inspiration of the Week page –

http://fslashd.com/2016/07/inspiration-week-of-725/

Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting
Foggy Bottom Metro, Waiting

Kier, the editor of the site, also included a few remarks by me about my photography and why I appreciate and enjoy alternative/lensless image-making tools.

Scott Davis is an experienced photographer in historic printing processes, and has recently started to work in pinhole for additional inspiration. He’s developed an appreciation for the simplicity of pinhole and how it lets him focus on the image, not the equipment. As he states: “Working with cameras that don’t have lenses or shutters per se, or at least that have primitive ones, means that serendipity becomes important in my work…What interests me is the capture of whole seconds, minutes and even hours of time in a frame, contrasting the things that move in the scene with things that remain static.”

For anyone interested, he’s also running a call for entries for pinhole work – http://fslashd.com/call-for-entry/. This is your chance to get published not just on a webpage but in an actual physical book.

Mexico City part 2 – people at work

More from Mexico City – people at work.

Throughout the Centro Historico, there are organ grinders playing their portable instruments, hat in hand for tips. A five peso coin is sufficient a tip if you enjoy their music. I gave this man a 10 peso coin for photographing him.

Organ Grinder, Calle Madero
Organ Grinder, Calle Madero

At the Templo Mayor museum, this guy was washing the windows, dangling from the roof basically on a couple of ropes.

Window Washer, Templo Mayor Museum
Window Washer, Templo Mayor Museum

Mexico City is a very musical city, if you give it a chance. It has a definite rhythm, and part of that is the sounds. The organ grinders are out, cranking away, and on seemingly every street corner, there’s someone intoning the litany of what they have for sale. This lady was outside the taquería next door to my hotel every day, pretty much all day, reciting the kinds of tacos they had and extolling their best quality. I never heard her voice waiver or decrease in volume.

Taco Lady
Taco Lady

All around the Zocalo, and at various spots through the Centro Historico, there are these shoe-shine booths. While the canopies shade the patrons pretty well, the shoe-shine men (and women) are out there in the sun and the heat all day.

Shoe Shine Booths, Zocalo
Shoe Shine Booths, Zocalo

Another part of the daily rhythm of Mexico City – people hauling stuff on carts.This guy is pulling a load of plastic baskets, but this is a pretty small load compared to some I saw.

Hauling Baskets
Hauling Baskets

Outside the Catedral Metropolitana, skilled day laborers set up soliciting work. Here are two plumbers specializing in gas, an electrician, and a plasterer/house painter.

Day Laborers, Cathedral Metropolitana
Day Laborers, Cathedral Metropolitana

My first full day in Mexico City, I got up early and walked around through the Centro Historico and got to see the city as it was waking up. Here was a street food stall set up on a pedestrian passageway cooking breakfast for the businessmen and shopkeepers in the neighborhood.

Cooking Street Food
Cooking Street Food

Across from the cook was the lime juicer making fresh limeade.

Juicing Limes
Juicing Limes

This is my tour guide who led us up through the bell towers at the Catedral Metropolitana. The cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in the Americas.

Cathedral Bell Tower Tourguide
Cathedral Bell Tower Tourguide

These dancers in traditional Aztec/Mexica costumes could be found most days performing on the plaza beside the Catedral Metropolitana. Here they were sheltering from a light rain in front of the Hotel Ritz (which is, unlike its namesake in Paris, a budget hotel) after a performance.

Aztec Dancers, Hotel Ritz
Aztec Dancers, Hotel Ritz

In the park area across from the entrance to the Anthropology Museum these traditional dancers were performing. At the top of the pole is a musician playing a traditional flute. The dancers are suspended by ropes at the ankles, and spin around to extend the ropes and lower themselves from the top.

Dancers, Chapultepec
Dancers, Chapultepec