There's No Place Like Home

In the classic film the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy recites this phrase over and over again while clicking her ruby red slippers:

"There's no place like home, there's no place like home".

I don't have any red skippers and even if I did they probably wouldn't get me home again but I am just back now from being on the the road the past 23 days and driving 4596 miles. Funny, I couldn't wait to leave in early March, feeling pent up after the brutal winter we've had, but I couldn't wait to be home again the past few days. I left New Orleans on Saturday and arrived home Wednesday. 

With so many road trips made over the years this one felt both familiar and foreign. Some general observations while driving all those miles:

-Route 81 is major cross country corridor totally dominated by trucks 

-There are very few interesting cars on the highway these days (note: I was driving in mid March. Might be different in nice weather in mid summer.)

-Just about everyone drives about 80 mph most of the time

-It is very difficult to eat well while doing a road trip. I did best when booked into a motel for the night. I would search on Yelp for what was nearby then head out to eat.

-GPS, hotel-finding and food-finding Apps, and a radar detector seem like necessities these days. I don't understand how I ever did anything while driving without them.

-Booking in advance, usually the night before, but sometimes an hour or so before checking in has its advantages. I tend to use Hotwire a lot as I don't mind not knowing the name of the hotel as I book. I try to stick with 3 stars as a minimum.

- My car takes high test. The lowest on this trip? $2.55/ gal

-I stop and take a quick nap when groggy. That feeling of zoning out at 80 mph is really scary.

-Although the quality of the sound sucks, Sirius radio helped me through endless boring hours. I listen to some music, some comedy and a few right wing political  stations (I enjoy hearing how the other half thinks. Man, they do hate Obama). On regular FM in the South you can't go wrong with a little religion, the calls to support the "ministry" are the best.

-The United States of America is really big.

Did I make some good photographs? I like to think so. I know I grew as an artist on this trip, always a good sign. But photography is a humbling vocation, at least for me. Often I think I've hit gold only to find I didn't.

Stay tuned or you could even subscribe to the blog as I begin to work the files and make prints. I will be sharing these with you as I work over the next month or so to bring to fruition work made on my March 2015 Road Trip to New Orleans and Back.

BTW: I've got work being shown this weekend (Thursday evening-Sunday, March 26-29) at the Boston Print Sale at the Cyclorama Building at the Boston Center for the Arts.  Go here and here for more information. 555 Gallery has a booth. I am going... hope to see you there.

Topics: Road Trip,Commentary

Permalink | Posted March 25, 2015

Kudzu

Mercedes, my friend and former Studio Assistant at Penland  in North Carolina, knows just what I mean when she gets a one word text from me that says: Kudzu! If I am in the south I am on the prowl for kudzu.

Kudzu, the legendary fast-growing vine in the American South, the one that can grow a foot a day and cover your parked car if you're not careful, the one I love to photograph off season when it lies flat and tangled with no leaves, looking like a dark brown lace fell over the landscape.

(Yes, these are going to be dark. Say your trying to see these in bright sunlight on your super smartphone, Spunky? Good luck with that. I suggest you view them in a darkened room on a high end monitor to get how simply wonderful and creepy these are.)

These here are from Mississippi and Kentucky shot the past couple of days as I am headed home to Boston from New Orleans.

What's to say? I do love kudzu, although most hate it as it is invasive and chokes the life right out of most growth plants. 

Next up? I stayed at the simply wonderful Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in Kentucky last night and shot late and early light.

Stay tuned.

Topics: kudzu

Permalink | Posted March 23, 2015

New Orleans 2

A friend asks, via email, if I am falling under the spell of New Orleans?

Let me see if I can answer that.

After last week's wonderful dinner with two young friends at Pascal Manale Restaurant literally a block away from where I am staying I decide, on my own this week, to go back for oysters. I arrive, walk up to the bar and ask for a beer and tell the bartender I'd like a dozen oysters. He pulls the beer, puts it in front of me and says that will be $10. I give him the money and he says to take my beer over to the other side of the room where the oyster bar is. He says, "not bad for 10  bucks, eh?"

He shows me where to get the necessary ketchup and horseradish. There is no one at the oyster bar and no seats. I am the only one there and it is early so only a few people are at the bar. The oyster bar is well worn white marble with a trough at the back. I get ready and wait. Soon enough Thomas arrives and starts shucking. Quickly, he puts a shucked oyster in its half shell right on the bar. I eat it and take a sip of my beer. Next minute or so he puts another oyster on the bar and I eat it. I notice he's alternating between big ones and little ones.  They are very cold, salty and local from a nearby Parish. And yes, they are wonderful.

I can't help but ask obvious questions as Thomas shucks oyster after oyster. Nine dozen he says he saw one man eat a few years ago. I tell him what oysters cost in New England and he whistles, saying he sure is glad he doesn't live there. Me too, I am thinking. Oh shit, I think. I do live in New England.

New Orleans casting its spell?

As I am downing each oyster I am counting as Thomas lines them up on the bar, balanced right side up in the trough, thinking to myself with sincere loss, this is going to end sometime. We get to twelve, Thomas having shucked and me having eaten and Thomas provides one more, with a flourish, a baker's dozen in the land of oysters in New Orleans. I slurp the thirteenth, grateful to have it. I have paced this well as I now have the last sip of the Presentation Ale before me. Thomas is cleaning up the thirteen shells and I realize this is over. I ask him if I may leave him a tip and he nods and says, "sure". I put $5 on the bar, thank him and walk out of the restaurant.

These are from my neighborhood on Danneel Street.

Is New Orleans casting its spell over me?

You think?

Topics: New Orleans

Permalink | Posted March 17, 2015

SPE NOLA

Hold on. What the hell is SPE NOLA? It is the national conference for the Society for Photographic Eduction held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Much like most conferences there is sitting, schmoozing, presentations and panel discussions. Ours was at the Hyatt, big enough to have several conferences going on at the same time.

This photograph above was a guy from Freestyle, a large retailer to schools and students, talking about all the different inkjet papers on the market. He had made prints on every one.

SPE is traditionally mostly for university educators and graduate students but has expanded into high school photo teachers as well. I spent the day yesterday in portfolio reviews and saw photographs from a dozen teachers.

It has been a few years since I've been to a SPE conference and I can report that the organization is healthy with about 2200 members. Next year's conference is in Las Vegas.

The day before it all began, as people were getting into town, a few of us met up for Po Boys at lunch.

Jim Stone on the left and Stan Strembicki on the right.

We then headed over to the river to toast to colleague Bart Parker, who died last year.

This is Keith Johnson putting a flash on his camera.

Bart's ashes had been sprinkled on the river by Stan so we met to have a little whiskey in his honor:

Bart had been the head of the Photo Program at the University of Rhode Island for many years. Bart was eccentric and brilliant; he made wonderful photographs that pushed you, questioned your assumptions and made you think. He was also much loved by students and colleagues.

During the rest of the day there were many stories about Bart, famous (or perhaps infamous) for many road trips with Keith, Stan and Jim over the years to make pictures. One road trip rule was that the driver would stop for anyone who wanted to make a picture. This was called "The No Veto Rule".

Here's to you, Bart.

Permalink | Posted March 15, 2015

New Orleans 1

It took what seemed like forever to get here and now that I am here it seems I've been here a long time. I drove from Boston to New Orleans last week. Don't know this town at all and am enjoying learning my way around a little. I am here principally to attend the SPE Conference (Society for Photographic Education) coming up this weekend but have rented a place for two weeks in the city.

Waiting to take a bus tour of damage from Katrina, this happened:

along the river downtown in mid day fog as thunderstorms were rolling through and the air was like putty, thick and viscous. I saw this and was so shocked I ran back to the parking lot to the car to get the right lens. This is a typical "one shot shoot" in that it was all there was.

Okay, so shoot me if this comes off sounding like "ten hot tricks and tips to wow your friends" but I tweaked it a little:

not hard to do. Many ways to do it. I use Viveza quite often for this. There, tips and tricks over.

So, day before yesterday, in the rain, I photographed in a very different way, working to make a series or perhaps a couple of connected triptychs (sixtychs?), sliding along under buildings's overhang to stay dry in the swamp*, going click, moving four feet to the left, going click, moving along four feet to the left and going click, moving along four feet to the left; well, you get the idea.  

all glistening in the rain and fetid. Perfect, actually.

and then towards the end something sticking in there, imposing upon the space with total disregard

curving out like one of those elevated concrete ramps that take traffic off in a new direction on the interstate, 

and then at the very end, after I'd made this last one

I turned to make this, this skull sitting on the top shelf of a bookshelf about 8 inches from where the camera sat on its tripod:

Just go with it, I heard myself say.

I did.

* BTW: the swamp pictures are from Jean Laffite Barataria Preserve, south of the city.

Topics: New Orleans

Permalink | Posted March 11, 2015