Saturday, September 11, 2021

Finding the last analog photo booths in the country.

A couple years ago, when I first began collecting snapshots and photo booth images, I started to wonder where all the photo chemical booths had gone and if any still remained. In a bit a luck, while planning a trip to Chicago in December 2020, I checked the locator and found the most recently updated listing (3.5 years prior) at Quimby's Bookstore. After giving the store a call and excitingly receiving confirmation that the booth was still up and running, I visited Quimby's not once but twice during my trip. Producing 4 strips in total, each costing $4 and taking around 5-7 mins to develop, I happily recreated (sometimes quite failingly or sillily) some of my favorite poses.

Just about a week ago, while on a trip to the Whitney Museum in NYC, my girlfriend and I came across another booth in their gift shop. We produced 2 strips in total, one for each of us and each costing $10. Having wanted to take photo booth images of us together for the better part of year now, it felt quite serendipitous that we happened to be at the right place at the right time with one of the last 100 or so machines in the country.

All the best,

Monday, March 15, 2021

Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona

There are so few photo's that I love as much as Dorothea Lange's Migratory Cotton Picker, Eloy, Arizona. In fact, I think it might be my all time favorite. Every time I see this photograph I feel an overwhelming need to jump back to November 1940, stand right next to Dorothea and watch her make this image.

Unfortunately, I can't do that. But when I had the opportunity to go see what I think might be the largest printing of this image that exists in Sarah Meister's show Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, I knew I needed to go. And so that is what I did.

One day before the show was slated to close, I took the 4 hour train from Boston to NYC and went to MoMA. It was one of the most worth while trips I have ever taken and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had never seen the photo so life size before–only in a small print at the Boston MFA. I felt so overwhelmed with joy upon walking up to it that I could not help but cry a little bit.

I have no idea why this image means so much to me but I have the rest of my life to figure it out.

All the best,

P.S. Thank you to the wonderful stranger who took my photo... you made my day.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Looking at: Beautiful Coincidences

Wow, it's been quite a while since I've made a post. Which in all honesty seems to be the pace around here; short bursts of posts every couple of months or so. None the less, I'm still here.

This evening I wanted to take a moment and highlight a beautiful coincidence that I happened onto this summer. In July, I had the joy of visiting my close friend Marie in Oregon for a costal/rural road trip. This was my first time in Oregon and the farthest West I have gone in my life. One of the many features I discovered during our excursion was the abundance of wild flower fields along rural highways.

On our second day of travel, leaving from Eugene towards Devil's Punchbowl, I coaxed Marie into climbing through one of these fields for the sake of a few pictures. I snapped a few Polaroids as well as digital for about 10 minutes or so, climbing through prickly, sometimes waist high grass. It was about this time Marie began complaining of some severe itching and we carefully climbed out of there.

Back on the road, I pulled out the images from where they sat safely tucked in my pocket, shielded from the summer sun. Shuffling through the pictures, one stood out. Marked by the distinct summer hue of a warm Polaroid, was a picture of Marie. Her eyes closed, cheek slightly rotated with flowers just ever so slightly draping over her. 

I went on to take a couple dozen or so more Polaroids on that trip but none quite as alluring as this.

Marie in roadside flower field. Oregon, July, 2020.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, back home now, and a used photobook arrived in my mail: Intimacies by French photographer Édouard Boubat. Flipping through the book and nearing the end I came across a photo that was strikingly familiar.

After scanning the image with a burst of excitement, I got Marie on the phone to share my discovery: 44 years prior Boubat at taken almost the exact same image in an Oregon wild flower field. I couldn't believe it.

It's the coincidences and connections like these, to people I have never met and worlds I would never otherwise experience, that drive me to continue to make pictures. Pure bliss.

The trip into the fields and another like it led Marie
and I to discover her allergy of tall grasses. Oregon, July, 2020.

My cover of Intimacies.

With more to come.

All the best,

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Looking at: Grave II

I hope to have some longer form writing here in the future. At the moment I'm head first in the life and work of William Christenberry, a great hero of mine. I just wanted to take a moment and share this wonderful painting, Grave II (1964). It depicts a scene that was often the subject of Bill's little color snapshots, those colorful graveyards so frequently found on Southern backroads.

William Christenberry, Grave II, c. 1964, Oil on canvas.

In The Early Years 1954-1968, Christenberry offers greater context for this piece:

"I was at that graveyard, which I go back to to this day. After all these years I continue to go back to it. And I'm there and one of those late spring monsoon-like rain showers comes up. He went to his car. parked a few feet away, and waited for the shower to pass. "The sun comes out and the landscape is literally steaming. And here is this wreath on a fresh mound of red earth, this fresh grave. This wreath of flowers was made out of crepe paper. That wreath is literally dripping lavender, blue and pink dyes. It is dripping color." 

William Christenberry, New Grave--Havana, Alabama, c. 1978.

William Christenberry, Grave, Windy Day, Stewart, Alabama, c. 1964.

William Christenberry, Untitled (Wreath on Tomb), c. 1977.

All the best,

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Listening to: Little Wooden Church

Heard this lovely gospel blues song in the trailer to Alec Soth's Photographic Storytelling course from Magnum. Spent about 20 minutes trying to find it only to realize it was in a reply to a comment on the video ... oh well. Reminds me of little old churches in the country and William Christenberry, for obvious reasons.

Little Wooden Church by The Trumpeteers

All the best,

Monday, October 5, 2020

African American Snapshots, James Van Der Zee, an Original Print?

For the last year or so I have been a pretty casual collector of snapshot images and related photographic ephemera. I initially started this many years ago through casual browsing of antique stores and junk shops throughout rural South Carolina. After coming back home from school early due to COVID, I was left with quite a lot of free time and very little motivation to go out and make pictures. Instead, I took up this quasi-image making by buying other peoples photographs on eBay. This curation seemed to largely satisfy my attachment to photos, photo history, etc..

After about 2 or 3 months of this I came to the realization — partially due to the racial reckoning of 2020 — that my collection contained not a single photograph of an African American or person of color (at least not immediately discernible). The next logical step was to search for African American photographs. This was made easy by the evident labeling as "African American" of the comparatively few snapshots that were listed.

When searching for "snapshot" under collectible images on eBay, refined by "original print," I am yielded 281,695. When doing the same for "african american," I am yielded a mere 2,387 results. When I narrow my search even further by selecting "Vintage & Antique (Pre-1940)", only 572 results. As my collection is made up of primarily pre-1940's photographs, I have an incredibly small pool to work with. This is nice for searching the overall pool but reflects the incredible lack of early 20th century vernacular images of African American domestic life.

So far I have only discussed this briefly with my professor who focuses on topics of race and the American Civil war. Though, I hope to focus more on this topic for a thesis or more expansive essay.


A few weeks ago while searching for AA snapshots, I came across a listing of a photo from a black wedding in 1926. I was immediately interested because of 1) the subject matter 2) period and 3) size of the image. After a little research I discovered the image was by James Van Der Zee, a prominent Harlem Renaissance photographer. The seller, from New York, had very little information about the print and I could find only one very low resolution copy online.

The general aging and paper quality has me optimistic this is an original print by the artist or from the original negative. While I am optimistic I won't get my hopes too high. Either way this is an incredible image and I am excited to have a copy of it. I plan on reaching out to the Howard Greenberg Gallery, who is the authority on Van Der Zee, in the near future to assess the find.

As always, hope you enjoyed this one.

All the best,

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Lee Friedlander Photographs William Christenberry

 I have long been a serious admirer of Lee Friedlander and William Christenberry. Lee for his enduring, unique vision and Bill for his significant contributions to Southern visual arts. Coincidentally the pair had been decades long friends which, in true Friedlander fashion, he unwaveringly documented. In reading more about their relationship I came across this portrait of Bill taken by Lee, which immediately struck me as a testament to Lee's status as a master portraitist.

The print has a contrast I would consider uncharacteristic of a Friedlander photo, likely attributed to the incoming beams of late afternoon light. Bill's frozen, pensive stare evokes the feeling of an action interrupted by a sudden realization. You can spot where Lee dodged Bill's hand and arm to emphasize his frozen posture.

I especially love the peaked highlights on Bill's forehead and cheeks — in parallel to the glowing orb of the lamp — intensified by the shadows of blinds.

Lee Friedlander, William Christenberry, c. 1990

I really enjoyed writing this little piece and really hope to do more like this in the future. I would like to get better at writing about photography and photos, especially so that I can write lengthier pieces. So far I feel like I have a lot of ideas but I can't quite put my finger on how to write about their impact, emotion, etc. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this one.

All the best,

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thinking Of: A New Photo Idea

In a recent meeting of my Book Arts & Editions course we had a remote interview and studio tour with artist Antonia Contro. Above her studio sink I noticed a photo on stretched canvas which she explained to me was simply an accordion folded paper in the shape of a cone or tent.

However straight forward and believable that explanation was, it was not satisfactory with what I saw. Instead, trough my grainy Zoom connection, what I interpreted was much less mundane. The image appeared to show a small figure with their upper body/head completely dwarfed by this enveloping dress with perfect folds and what I imagined to be a tulle torso. The head appears slightly askew with long dark hair.

The absolute contrast in size between the imagined head and dress creates an incredible illusion of scale in mind. Since then I've haven't been able to stop thinking about how to recreate my perceived image. For now this is what I have to work from:

All the best,

Monday, July 27, 2020

Alec Soth's Favorite Photo from NIAGARA

In a Guardian article 13 years ago, Alec Soth discussed his favorite photograph from NIAGARA. In his 2019 Magnum course "Alec Soth: Photographic Storytelling," Soth revisits that fateful image.

Melissa, Flamingo Inn, c. 2005

Consequently, this has come to be one of my own favorite images from the series.

All the best,

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Thinking of Charles White

I recently discovered Charles White, an artist who's drawings, lithographs, and murals create powerful images of African Americans -- what White called “images of dignity.” White's contributions to American muralism and the "New Negro" cannon are significant but had gone unnoticed after his death in 1979. The subject of a major retrospective at MoMA in 2018, White's work reemerged into the public eye.

Love Letter III 

I Had a Dream

Folksinger (Voice of Jericho: Portrait of Harry Belafonte)

Goodnight Irene

Our War

Name Unknown

Name Unknown

Banner for Willie J


Mary McLeod Bethune

Charles White, c. 1950

I definitely have more thoughts/ideas/questions about Charles' work and I look forward to sharing them sometime in the future.

All the best,

Walker Evan's Final Thoughts on Photographers & the Medium

In 1969 Walker Evans was invited to write the section on photography for Louis Kronenberger’s anthology Quality: Its Image in the Arts (1969). It was his last major statement on the medium.  He chose images taken by Arbus, Cameron, Steiglitz, Cartier-Bresson, Levitt, Frank, Friedlander, his last lover Virginia (Ginni) Hubbard, as well as others. Each double spread carried one image with a text opposite, a format developed by John Szarkowski in his influential book Looking at Photographs (1973). Although there was great variety in Evans’s curation, he ultimately conformed to his own photographic aesthetic which he established forty years earlier:

“(1) absolute fidelity to the medium itself; that is, full and frank and pure utilization of the camera as the great, the incredible instrument of symbolic actuality that it is; (2) complete realization of natural, uncontrived lighting; (3) rightness of in-camera view-finding, or framing (the operator’s correct, and crucial definition of his picture borders); (4) general but unobtrusive technical mastery.”

Walker's excerpts on Frank & Freidlander are the most striking to me as well as his inclusion of Ginni Hubbard. Ginni was a dear friend of Walker's and eventually his "last love." Despite extensive search, the photograph included here is the only one I've found taken by her.

All the best,

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Some Flags I Like

The last couple of days I've found myself spending a good bit of time crawling through the Vexillology subredddit. Naturally, of course, I found myself building a little mental catalog of flags I really liked.

The first is the Moultrie flag originating from my home city of Charleston. The flag dates back to the Revolutionary War and was commisioned in 1775 by Colonel William Moultrie. The flag was flown during the famous Battle of Sullivan's Island and was actually shot down during battle. Sergeant William Jasper ran out in the open and hoisted it again, rallying the troops until a new stand could be provided.

There are two main variants of the flag I really like. The first is an empty crescent with "LIBERTY" written across the bottom. The second is "LIBERTY" inside of the crescent/breast plate.

The second is the flag of the Oglala Lakota tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The circle of nine tipi on the flag represent the nine districts of the reservation. The red field represents the blood shed by the tribe in defense of their lands and an allegorical reference to the term "red man," by which they were referred to by European colonialists. The blue represents the sky, as seen in all four cardinal directions during the worship of the Great Spirit, and the elements. It also represents the Lakota spiritual concept of heaven or "the Spirit World" to which departed tribal members go. (Copied from Wikipedia)

The last flag is the Liberty Flag of Schenectady. This flag was first displayed in January of 1771 in the city center of Schenectady, NY. It was originally flown to show the original Dutch settlers did not approve of the more recent settlers from England. The flag continued to be used into the American revolution by the First New York line regiment, mostly made up of citizens in Schenectady.

All the best,