July 28, 2016

BW photograph of trash and garbage piled up on a sidewalk.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Bill Cunningham died several weeks ago.  I first read about this here, and as a result of that post, here.  A comment from that first link led me to Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about this well-regarded photographer, which I recently watched.  I would highly recommend that documentary to anyone interested in the respectful commitment to a subject.  Mr. Cunningham’s focus happened to be fashion, but, as the obituary in The New York Times indicated, he went far beyond photographing clothes, he “…turned fashion photography into his own branch of cultural anthropology…”  Fitting words indeed.

I care very little about fashion, aside from the cultural aspect of it.  However, what I mostly appreciated about the documentary was the depiction of Mr. Cunningham’s process-the manner by which he went about doing his work (although he did not refer to this as “work”).  Fashion, clothes, was the subject, but really, the focus of his energy could have been something different.

Mr. Cunningham clearly loved working in New York and Paris because of the rich variety of people he encountered.  I am the opposite-I much prefer awakening early and being on the road to somewhere while it is still dark and relatively quiet.  I can lower the windows and feel and smell the air.  When going to the city, it is the relative absence of people in the very early morn that I find attractive.  Of course, it is also necessary to arrive early in order to photograph the trash before it is collected. People, though, often do provide fitting commentary to this subject.

For example, the above collection of seemingly organized empty bottles, cans, boxes, and variety of organic waste was photographed Tuesday morning, and it was located around the corner and up the block from the trashcan at the head of the previous post. There is a large construction site across the street and as several workers readied themselves for the day, they stopped and gazed at this debris.  Perhaps it was the smell that seized their attention.  One of the workers with whom I briefly spoke allowed that he was not from the area and had “never seen so much trash” as here in the city.  (As an important aside, that statement is most likely the impression the creators of the “Clean Up Baltimore” program want to change.) He was also up the street and so had not as yet seen this display.  Given the relationship of trash of the content of Sociology 101, I often use my photographs to illustrate those points.  Students often have similar reactions as those of the construction workers.

With that in mind, I do appreciate those who follow this blog, as it must be somewhat disconcerting to come here and see the detritus documented from post to post.  At the same time, to me, documenting this and the related subject matter is what is important.  It is the way my process works to call attention to what I consider to be a fundamental problem with our disposable culture.

The reason, quite simply, is because it really is not disposable at all.

Take care.


“Clean Up Baltimore”

July 25, 2016


BW photograph of a sign attached to a trash can advocating to "Clean Up Baltimore".

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While on an early morning walk in Fells Point yesterday, the sign pictured above, which was attached to a trashcan,  caught my attention.

This was just to the left and a little behind the can:

BW photograph of discarded bag of chips spilling onto the sidewalk.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was laying behind and to the right of the can:

BW photograph of an overturned slice of pizza laying on the sidewalk.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was a fair bit off to the east in the water:

BW photograph of three plastic bottles, a styrofoam clamshell box, and other dietrius floating in the water.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

So, how are we doing with the task that headlines the posted sign?

I wonder how many fines were issued Saturday night.  Can you imagine the revenue if the threat expressed on the sign were to be enforced?

Thinking about this from a different angle, what happens when a threat is not enforced?

What would happen if, instead of a threat, there was some kind of tangible benefit or reward for reducing, reusing, and recycling?

It would be so much better to do what is stated in the latter half of the small print at the bottom of the sign.  Before the age of plastics, it was possible to return empty glass bottles for a small fee.  As a child, my friends and I used to ride around the neighborhood and collect glass bottles to be exchanged for a few pennies apiece at what would now most likely be a Royal Farm store or Wawa.  That, of course, meant someone tossed the bottles when finished.  However, the difference is those bottles we picked up were then sent back to whichever company produced them to be reused.  There are some stores that still do this with some bottles, but the migration to disposable, so-called “more convenient” packaging decidedly removed that practice from the mainstream.  It is very easy to see the result of this transition.

Reduce.  Reuse. Recycle.  Being responsible and a good steward does count.

Take care.

Boundaries Redux

July 16, 2016

BW photograph of a room in a hotel being deconstructed as seen through a chain link fence.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is an addendum to the earlier post entitled “Boundaries”.

Xenophobia and the resultant stereotyping seems to be driving a great deal of current rhetoric and behaviour, which includes the creation of the various boundaries as discussed in that earlier post.  Next week is the Republican National Convention, and, given the statements made by the presumptive nominee, one could expect more of the same.  The August 2016 issue of Outside magazine contains a compelling article written by Mr. Jason Motlagh entitled “Skull on a Stake”, which documents a trip through the Darien Gap at the Colombia/Panama border.  The author traveled with a group of migrants/refugees as they attempt the journey to the U.S., and there are many arduous physical and psychological boundaries to be crossed along the way.  It is a recommended read.

I often think of fences from the perspective of being on the outside and looking in toward something desired-a dip in a swimming pool would seem to be an appropriate example given the heat and humidity of today.  Being outside and looking in is the point-of-view of those seeking refuge in the U.S. and other countries-they are moving toward what is seen as a better place.  It is worth considering what you would do under similar circumstances.  When on the inside and looking out, xenophobia would dictate seeing those as a threat.  The above photograph was included as a suggestion to reverse that perspective.  Imagine being on the inside of a fence, looking out, and being able to clearly see, smell, hear, and feel the chaos and destruction from which many are fleeing-life in Syria provides one, just one, of many current examples.  Yes, what would you do under similar circumstances?  Xenophobia is based on fear.  Empathy helps to bring about understanding and compassion.

Take care.




Urban Camo

July 16, 2016

BW photograph of a crushed water bottle that, except for the white label, is virtually invisible against a sidewalk.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It would have been very easy for this discarded water bottle to have escaped attention were it not for the relatively bright white label.

Of course, the ubiquity of trash contributes greatly to the overlooking of such things.

Take care.


July 13, 2016

BW photograph of a motel being deconstructed as seen through a chain-link fence.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Fences do serve their purpose as a point of very clear, physical demarcation between one and another.  As such, they define where one can and can’t go…

BW photograph of a Gettyburg Battlefield picket fence.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

as well as creating obstacles which, in turn, make it harder to get from here to there.

Several countries in the European Union have adopted the practice of erecting physical barriers as a means of controlling the influx of migrants and refugees.  The “wall” between the U.S. and Mexico would be another example.  Other countries use legal/psychological barriers-the recent Brexit vote, which was driven, in part, by concerns over immigration, present another means by which to achieve the same end.

Conflict Theory states that there is a struggle for the control of valuable resources, which often have to do with wealth, power, and prestige.  Boundaries are then built/enacted so as to clarify who has access and under which circumstances that access is granted.  In the era of climate change, the ownership and control of natural resources, as defined by some type of boundary, are quite contentious-the reports linked here and here are examples.  In those afore linked reports, land and water rights as established by existing state lines are the issue, fundamentally, because of disputes over the exact location of those state borders.

Critical thinking is a key.  Interestingly, it appears that many Brits sought information regarding their participation in the EU after the Brexit vote.  In 2011, Alabama passed one of the “harshest immigration” laws in the country-this article summarizes the subsequent impact of that legislation.

There certainly are reasons to establish boundaries as they are a means of establishing and maintaining order in any society.  They can provide safety and protection, and that, of course, is often a matter of perspective.  However, it is important to take the time for due diligence so as to carefully analyze motives and to make critically informed decisions based on accurate information.

Take care.

American Culture

July 10, 2016

BW photograph of the unknown soldiers grave markers in Gettyburg Battlefield Cemetary.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Terry Tempest Williams has recently published The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks, which is a series of essays regarding her experiences with several of the United States National Parks.  Her writing about Gettysburg National Military Park is quite poignant (as are they all), and well worth a read.  Part of the essay includes reflections on, and differing viewpoints about, the Civil War, for which Gettysburg proved to be a pivotal battle.  At one point, Ms. Williams includes this passage from Camus’ “Neither Victims Nor Executioners”:

“…throughout the coming years, an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion,…henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble:  that words are more powerful than munitions.”

Ms. Williams states that this was published in 1946, one year after the end of WWII.

BW photograph of an American flag wrapped around its pole.

Copyright 2016 Kevin p. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given the shootings this past week in Baton Rouge, LA, St. Paul, MN,  and Dallas, TX, those words are just as applicable now.  We appear to be wrapped in a tightly bound conflict for which President Obama had some very profound words-please read at least the second paragraph here.   This truly is “…an American issue we should all care about.”  Interestingly, President Obama said those words while in Warsaw, Poland for the most recent NATO conference.  He has subsequently cut short his European trip to return to the U.S. in the aftermath of these killings.  It would be interesting to know the reactions and thoughts of the other NATO leaders with whom the President was speaking, as the central point of NATO is the U.S. standing with and protecting our European allies against aggression.

Right now, we are not doing such a good job of looking out for each other here.

Take care.


July 4th, 2016

July 3, 2016

BW photograph of the Duwamish, and old tug at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, WA.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is a photograph of the Duwamish, which is docked at The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, WA.

If you celebrate the 4th, please have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Take care.


July 3, 2016

BW photograph of a top-lit bunch of flowers.

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Photography is all about the interaction of light and shadow.  That which is illuminated comes to the forefront, while that which isn’t, recedes into the shadows.  Shadows can, of course, become an inky black that swallows all.

Spotlight also happens to be the title of a very well-regarded movie depicting the team from The Boston Globe that uncovered the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.  Investigative journalism such as this plays an important, vital role in society.  Without journalists, whose dogged persistence brings to the public’s attention such issues, those problems would be swallowed by the shadows of time.  There are many ways to muzzle journalists:  intimidation can play a part in what gets covered, and journalists can also be denied credentials granting access to locations, events, and/or personnel.  This was a major story from just last month.

Journalists have also been beaten, imprisoned, and killed for doing their work.  The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented the deaths of 27 journalists who have been killed thus far in 2016.

Tomorrow is July 4th, and, while there are many ways by which to spend the day, it would be useful to think about the importance and value of a free press, and the efforts made by some, locally and globally, to prevent that work.

Take care.