I love this statue that sits in the boulevard at Woodward and Jefferson in Detroit’s financial district, across from Hart Plaza. It’s the boxer Joe Louis’s fist. Pow, you’re in Detroit. To me it denotes strength, grit, power.
I’m a little unmoored this month. My daughter’s graduation and move to Texas for work. A lack of focus and direction on my part. Work is busy; that’s good. But I feel unsettled and a bit lost, and rather suddenly not young anymore. Sort of waiting for Joe Louis and his giant, bronze fist to punch me in the gut. Pow, ideas and focus, a project, artistic inspiration.
I took some pictures in Austin last week, but haven’t dropped the film off yet. Maybe the greenery and blooms and Lake Michigan’s freshly-scrubbed shoreline will set me straight this weekend, or some other light bulb will go off in my floaty head.
Growing up, my parents never took us to Belle Isle, an island park in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. They were huge nature lovers, too, but Belle Isle, let alone downtown Detroit, just wasn’t in their rotation. So I grew up never experiencing the delights there. Then again, I’m not quite sure how delightful Belle Isle was in the late 1960s and 1970s. I know the Detroit riots in 1967 shook my dad up. He was a middle school teacher at the time, a new father, young and politically aware, a bit of an outsider himself as a bearded, dark, Italian man in a very golden suburb.
We didn’t go there as teenagers in the 80s, either. There was Greektown and Hart Plaza and Mexican Village, all places to find some trouble and have some fun. And then I left town for a decade and by the time I came back, Belle Isle was neglected and in disrepair. But some years ago the state took it over and it just keeps getting better.
One of my favorite places on Belle Isle is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. It’s muggy and green and earthy-smelling and feels like a sauna and makes your glasses and camera lenses steam up.
I was there in early March and used the Bronica SQ-A with Fuji Velvia 50 ISO, which is slide film, and which I don’t totally know how to work with. I brightened up a few images in Lightroom but mostly these are as The Darkroom developed and scanned them. Slide film is less forgiving and I think I have to figure out how to meter it differently. I also think the roll turned out much more blue than color negative films I’ve used. Anyway. All experimentation, but I’m not unhappy with these results.
Also, I really have no idea what I’m doing with Flickr. I set up an account and added some albums so that I could link to photos there rather than fill up space here. I’ve made the albums from the last two posts public. But, I’m not sure I want to have public Flickr albums. I’m just not sure how I feel about Flickr in general. Pros, cons, anyone?
So many things I’m looking forward to. One is the time change this weekend. More light! Longer days! I’m kind of acquiescing to the fact that I’m not a morning person, so I’ll relish in the addition of late afternoon light. I’m spending a few days with my dad next week, and I’m going to attend a writing workshop at the end of this month. A graduation next month, and then I will help my daughter move nearly 1,400 miles away. Road trip! New scenery!
After what seems like (aside from work travel) a few months of humdrum and not much else, I’m starting to get excited about what’s coming. I’m thinking about summer, and travel, and projects, and new adventures. Here’s to the coming light.
Two weekends ago I joined a group of photographers to shoot a former grand theater-turned-parking garage. Here in Detroit, we are in the midst of a renaissance. We are repurposing, rebuilding, revamping, recreating. Like crazy. But this place doesn’t fit in, at least to me. A nondescript square of a building from the outside, bits of grandeur left inside, gutted and exposed.
I’ve seen some interesting photos from this place, but it was different than I expected. Much darker, less visible color. I wanted to capture it on film so I brought the Bronica SQ-A and used Kodak Ektar 100 color film. It was challenging, but a learning experience.
I put a roll of Ilford HP5 in my Olympus Pen EE3 last winter, maybe sometime in January or February, with the intent to shoot it through and develop it during my class. But, I don’t know, I got distracted by 120 film and I just had a hard time looking at things in a half-frame frame of mind, you know?
Then summer came and I really only envisioned the world in color, so the EE3 sat. And then summer ended and I started thinking about black and white again and wondered what I’d already shot on the half of the roll that I’d managed to go through, so one day in October (or maybe November?) I met a friend on the riverfront for a wander and the EE3 fits nicely in a pocket, so it came with me.
I finished off the roll hunting for light and shadows in my house, but it really energized me for the half-frame format again. I feel a project coming on.
Also, I’m trying something new… hoping I can utilize flickr to upload private photos (still deciding if I want a public gallery over there) that I can then show here, but I’m not quite getting how it all works. I mean, I see these images in my post, but I’m worried once I publish it I’ll have mucked the process up and the images won’t show up for you.
I’m not on the beach. I piss and moan about this a bit, and when I’m not on the beach and I’m in the city, I think about all the things I’m missing on the beach. The fact that cherry season is well over, for instance. And that the corn grew tall in my absence. Have the peaches come in yet? And, how many sunsets on the lake have I missed? Have I missed the best one of the season?
Sigh. Shame on me.
Yesterday evening I walked my city for miles. I walked on blocks and streets I either haven’t been on in a few years or simply haven’t appreciated. I like this city, with its modest older houses and orderly city blocks, lovingly tended gardens and lawns. There are sidewalks here. I said hello to people sitting on porches (and they said hello back). I watched a squall come in and the sky turn into a fireball in the west where the sun prepared to set. Granted, there were houses and trees and power lines in the way of an open-sky view, but it was still shockingly beautiful. And, when the sky dropped tremendous raindrops and I took cover under a corner tree for a few minutes, but still got soaked anyway, I had an attitude adjustment. I’m so lucky I can spend time on Michigan’s west side gazing at the lake. I’m so, so lucky. And I’m lucky to have a roof over my head here on the east side of the state, in a living, breathing, working neighborhood just outside of Detroit.
But anyway, the ships.
There is an organization, the Columbus Foundation, that sails two ships, replicas of Columbus’s Niña and Pinta, floating museums as homage not so much to Columbus’s voyage but to the type of ship he sailed. They sail most of the year and make stops around the U.S. and through the Great Lakes system, and one such stop happens to be right down the street from me in a neighborhood park on the Detroit River. While freighters regularly go by here, and they are beautiful to watch, there is something different about seeing these two beauties docked here for several days.
I got up early one morning to catch the ships in the sunrise with some friends and brought my trusty Minolta SRT 102, which had some shots left on a roll of Kodak Gold, a cheap 200 speed film that I’ve decided I like quite a bit.
I shot a roll of black and white 120 film that morning on a camera I’m testing and may buy (ahem, don’t judge), but I’d like to hand develop that and I haven’t gotten to it yet. And, the first roll of expired color film I ran through it has me scratching my head a bit as the results are, well, weird. But that’s for another post.
It’s been the grayest month. Gray everywhere. After some teaser days in February we got just the grayest, dreariest March ever. Well, until last Friday, which was a big, blue, bright, bold, sunny and lovely day with a wind that blew the winter’s dust around and sent the cobwebs packing.
Of course the rain came over the weekend but whatever. It’s spring now and rain happens. But let’s get back to Friday. The temps even hit the low 70s. It was glorious. You shoulda been there.
But you weren’t, so I’m going to share some photos because I sneaked out of work a tiny bit early and went in search of color with my friend Jane.
Detroit’s Eastern Market is the perfect antidote to a too-gray month that has gone suddenly, brilliantly bright. On Saturdays the market is alive and crowded, but other days it’s fairly quiet. Go on Saturdays for people-watching (and food buying) and on other days for wandering and mural-gazing.
I’ve got it bad. I sort of made a deal with myself to not acquire any more cameras for a while and focus on the ones I have (and the one I’m borrowing). But I broke my own deal in January when I used gift money to buy a Lomography Sprocket Rocket. And then some fascination with the Holga made me buy one of those, too, earlier this month. I kind of don’t count these two cameras in my deal with myself because they’re plastic. Not that they’re not real cameras–I’d argue with anyone on that. But, they’re really inexpensive. Faulty logic, but there you go.
I fall in love too easily. 120 film is my current crush. These Holga images from Friday’s adventure make me happy I don’t listen to myself sometimes.
More of Detroit’s downtown buildings, these things that make me swoon and forget to look where I’m going.
This time in black and white, also 35mm film. A study in shapes, lines, angles. I took these on both the last day of 2016 and on the first day of 2017, closing out and opening up the new year looking up.
These were shot on two different different Minolta SLR cameras and both with Kodak Tri-X film–an SRT-102 using the suggested film speed (400) and an X-700 pushing the film two stops to 1600. I’m not certain I can tell the difference, but this is my first stab at pushing and I think it might not be my last.
You’re not what you were. You won’t be the same tomorrow, either. You had a heyday, you declined, then a recession. Today, a resurgence. You are loved and loathed, fought over, talked about, dismissed, underestimated, maligned, deified, abandoned, thriving. Through it all, you stand tall. You’ve got chops. You are what we make of you, but you have your own heart and our stories don’t define you.
I didn’t appreciate you when I grew up in your suburbs. I left; you called me back. Today I honor you–your shape-shifting, your grit, your perseverance.
So nice, I like you twice.
I took these double exposures on a sunny and not-so-cold New Year’s Day. Seemed a perfect way to honor the old and ring in the new.
I’m finding now that even though I do love a city adventure, I really want to be outside. Not just outside, but preferably in nature, surrounded by growth and wind and water and wild (and yeah, bugs even).
So even when I am base-camped in urbanity I’m drawn to the wild areas. In the Detroit metro area, thankfully, there really are many.
When I’m not on the west side of Michigan I gravitate to this marsh, Pointe Mouillee State Game Area. It’s a game and nature preserve south of Detroit and encompassing some 5,000 acres, butted up against Lake Erie, and I love every bit of it.
My friend Jane and I ventured there last evening. There’s always something new to see (like one of the smaller parking lots, this time filled with discarded furniture in varying states of decay, a bed, used condoms–hey, urban nature isn’t always beautiful). And even when there’s nothing new, there are different things blooming or drying (depending on the season), different colors, different angles.
Even with the marshy smells here, and last night’s prolific mosquitos that only seemed to be biting me and not Jane, it was a nice break from the inside world of work and the concrete of my suburban neighborhood.
A new blog, a new format, so much newness to get used to. Here’s some old to counterbalance the new.
I toured an unused but not abandoned church, with permission, a few weeks ago. If you know me personally, you know I do a bit of abandonment photography. You might not know that I am conflicted about that–it involves trespassing and putting myself in some occasionally dangerous situations (scary, but exhilarating). For me it’s not about capturing the demise of the city but more about documentation, a journalistic view. I don’t attach myself to the right or wrong of a church or a factory that once was great but that can no longer be supported anymore, or a neighborhood in demise. These things beg for change but they are what they are in the moment that I come across them. I try to see the beauty in them where they stand.
But this church, and the building that housed the church offices and activities, has some new owners with all sorts of exciting, artistic, community-focused ideas. I love that new life will be breathed into these two structures and, hopefully, in the neighborhood around them.
Say what you will about Detroit. I know what’s happening here. I know the people who are fighting for change, and I know that regrowth is happening. There is art and food and culture and commerce here. I may live in the suburbs, but I patronize the city that centers our metro area. If you don’t step foot within city limits, your opinion means nothing.