Earlier this year photographer and friend Rick Harris and I took a trip to Detroit. The plan was to revisit some of the abandoned buildings we’ve explored in past, and photograph some new sites. In addition to a new theatre and church, I also discovered the black and white post-processing project I’ve been working on was well-suited to some of the images I was taking on our trip.
Over the past several months I’ve been going through some of my older architectural images, looking at them again and trying them out as black and white. I post-process images as HDR and I’ve found that I’m able to build up the structure of the images so there’s more detail in my shots, but at the same time the architectural angles and lines hold the images together.
Light often has an unusual quality in abandoned buildings. Paint peels in layers, and colours, including colour in graffiti can mix and create a unique feel to rooms and hallways of buildings, so I’ve always shot them in colour (and when I shoot in colour I like strong, vivid pictures). What I’m finding, though, is that the black and white images reduce some of the flotsam and jetsam of abandoned buildings, allowing they eye to hold on architectural details. For me, it’s a different way of looking at the images. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.
Here’s an example. This first image is from Detroit’s Michigan Central Terminal. Lots of strong straight lines and architectural detail that would be outstanding even without the sense of abandonment. The graffiti is key to this image, changing the image to something that feels almost post-apocalyptic (click on the image to see it larger):
Now here’s the same image, in black and white (click on the image to see it larger):
The image feels simpler, even classical; more akin to what you’d expect from images of Roman or Greek ruins. The grafitti loses much of its force, but that’s okay as it leaves the eye to spend more time with the strength of the lines. Again, neither better or worse, just different, and something that gives me the opportunity to see not only new things in a different way, but also seeing familiar images in a new way.
I got one of the best Christmas presents a fella could have, when a package arrived in the mail containing a pair of copies of the Winter/Spring editions of the literary journal Colorado Review. The journal has a storied life. It’s first edition in 1956 included work by William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Henry Miller and Bertolt Brecht. The Review is carried by university and public libraries across the U.S., and is distributed by Ingram Periodicals and Kent News to both chain and independent bookstores and newsstands nationally. Editor Stephanie G’Schwind at the University of Colorado contacted me in the late fall, inquiring about the use of one of my photos. The University of Colorado’s Department of English has used my work before and they do a really good job of making it look good, so saying yes was easy. I was blown away when I saw the book. Stephanie maintained the integrity of my image, making it wrap around the entire front, back and spine of the book. It’s stunning. It’s also just $10 for a copy, so go ask for one. Thanks, Stephanie!
Fogo Island, best known to Flat Earthers as one of the four corners of the world, has a population of about 3,000 people. Fishing has been the primary occupation since the 1800s, but a few years ago, the Shorefast Foundation began to change that. Shorefast’s motto, “Finding new ways for an old continuity,” has been marrying tradition with arts programming, including four artist workshops, and the creation of a five-star inn near the town of Joe Batt’s Arm.
Three of the four artist workshops are on walking trails and can take from 10 minutes to half-an-hour to get to. The workshops are designed by the Bergen, Norway-based firm Saunders Architecture. Each is situated in a remarkable location with incredible views.
Linda and I spent four days walking Fogo Island’s trails (not nearly enough time!) and you can click here to see a small slideshow of images I took of Fogo Island architecture, including the construction of Shorefast’s Fogo Island Inn. We look forward to more workshops being built, and a return visit to the island.
After mucking about with GumshePhotos.com for two years, I’ve given my website a much-needed revamp. I’m not an html whizz, but I am pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s simple, clean, and offers themed galleries of the types of work on which I tend to focus (portraiture, architecture, travel). The website also links to my flickr page (regularly posted work), tumblr (visuals about music, books and photography), and my wordpress blog, where you’re reading this missive. I hope you have a look at the website. You’re welcome to let me know what you think of it.
A short while ago my friend and fellow explorer Russell Brohier offered me the opportunity to photograph artists participating in the 2012 Riverdale Art Walk. Russell knows how much I enjoy portraiture, art, and artistic process, and I was more than willing to accept. It was a big job this year, as there were over 130 artists involved in the art fair, which is considerably more than the 80 who were present in 2010 (the last time I took on Russell’s challenge).
Being at the 2012 RAW was a bit like old home week. I was a member of the Riverdale Artist Network before work got in the way, and Linda and I own work created by a number of east Toronto artists. It was good to see familiar faces, make a few new friends and talk with a whole lot of artists about what they love to create, their creative process, and why they make what they make.
My challenge was creating portraits that featured both them and their work. Sometimes that meant photographing a booth, but my favourite images incorporate the artist’s work as backdrops to their portraits. You’ll find a select few of my favourite images from the weekend in the portrait section of my website, and you’ll find even more of them on my flickr site.
The Bethlehem Steel North Office Building in Lackawanna, New York, remains of the finest buildings I have had the pleasure of photographing. Beth had a class all of her own. The original way in was through a gap in the fence, then a quick dash to a door at the side of the building. That doorway led to a long, dank, dark, muddy underground passageway. It in turn led to stairs covered with decades of wall and ceiling debris. Beth was a building where every room had something to offer. A beautiful building with tiled floors and long hallways with the original ceiling lights still mostly intact. It had a rooms that were originally used for testing the steel the company manufactured. It had drapery. It had staircases that could last decades into the future. It had a main staircase that was rotten and fallen in on itself. It was floor after floor of mysteries waiting to be discovered. I loved Beth.
It was the building Toni used as a set for one of her wonderful self-portraits.
It was the building where Olena found detail after detail that encapsulated the building’s history, and a sense of its demise.
It was the building where Rick discovered grunge, and found it to his liking.
It was the building my friend Maria Nguyen and I entered one freezing day in March, 2008, and used as a set for a series of images, one of which sits above this paragraph and to this day is my ‘calling card.’
My friend Olena Sullivan, with whom I explore Beth on numerous occasions, told us today that Beth will be demolished this week. For me, it’s the end of an era.
Click here to see a short slideshow of my favourite images from the Bethlehem office.
Beth, we hardly knew you. You’ll be missed.
Acts of Exposure
Show runs from May 16 – 27
Gallery 1313 – 1313 Queen Street West
Featuring work by: Chris Blanchenot | Linda Briskin | Keith Davidson | Dennis Duncan | L. E. Glazer |
Kye Marshall | Thomas Hlavacek | Wendy Jones | Robert Teteruck | Timothy Neesam |
Christine Marshall-Smith | Judy Ruzylo | Oliver Pauk | Paula Grgurich Shewchuk |
Artist talks will be held on Saturdays at 2 pm during the show. Selected works from the show may be viewed at www.actsofexposure.com.
Structured around the theme of Acts of Exposure, each photographer has evoked his or her own individual perception of the theme. Among others, these include the use of portraiture as a means to examine the multi-faceted relationship between the subject and the photographer; documentation of public spaces and their human-inflicted deterioration; and exploration of the effects of corporate branding on the social landscapes of non-western cultures. The photographers present a diverse range of expression of ideas with imagination, passion, talent and knowledge of the medium.
The Building Storeys 2012 exhibit opens Wednesday, May 2nd.
Through the adventurous lens of the Building Storeys photography group and Heritage Toronto, intriguing images of often unseen rail and marine transportation infrastructure in Toronto are unveiled.
Building Storeys changes the perception of transportation heritage in our city, by revealing the hidden beauty of these structures. The exhibit is co-curated by Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star and Gary Miedema, Chief Historian at Heritage Toronto.
Building Storeys opens with a public launch reception on Wednesday, May 2 from 7pm-11pm at Steam Whistle Brewing at 255 Bremner Blvd and is open daily until May 31st.
I returned from Mexico this past weekend to find Ciel Blue Media had collected a number of my images from Turkey and presented them in a one-page package of images. You can visit the collection of images by clicking here and I strongly recommend you visit the website on a regular basis as Laura’s collections of images are striking. She’s got a great eye, if I may say so myself.