Focus

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.

 

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The End

March 7, 2016

BW photograph of a sidewalk that ends in a strip of grass.

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

Think of all the metaphors for the above photograph.

In 1967, The Doors released their eponymous first album, which contained a song entitled “The End”.  While it is quite haunting and dramatic, if you are unfamiliar with the work, please just know that some may find the lyrics offensive, if not disturbing.  Perhaps that is why Francis Ford Coppola used it as the soundtrack for the introductory scenes of Apocalypse Now.  It is interesting that a song entitled “The End” opens a movie.  Given the narrative that follows, one could argue that it is quite fitting.

BW photograph of a pair of rusty channel lock pliers laying in the grass.

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

And so here we are:  the end of winter (it was 63 degrees today, but that happened earlier this year, so one is advised to not get too excited about that…yet); the coming of the end of Daylight Savings Time (if you are in a part of the world with that practice); and most certainly…

BW photograph of silhouetted trees at twilight.

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

the end of the day.

Take care.

Purity

October 30, 2014

BW photo of restaurant umbrellas.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Purists argue that B&W photography forces a greater adherence to the fundamental constructs of photography:  overall composition and the finer details of shape, form, texture, and lighting.  There is also nothing quite like seeing an image appear as the paper soaks in the developing tray-“magical” is a cliché, but it surely fits.  Those were two of the main reasons for my enjoyment of traditional (meaning film and chemical) B&W photography and processing.

Digital changed that.  In fact, I started shooting digital for only two reasons:  the first was that so many photography students were making the change and (I felt) it was important to keep current with the technology when teaching the craft.  The second reason was for aesthetics-I could continue to work in B&W without needing access to a darkroom and working with the chemicals.  I do have a deep appreciation for the manner in which B&W photography imposes a discipline in subject selection and the resultant rendering of a scene.  The use of over-saturated colour cannot be a crutch when working in black, shades of grey, and white. Photographic purity indeed.

BW photograph of Baltimore City from Fells Point.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It is for these reasons that there has been an increase in the number of B&W photographs illustrating the posts recently.  There will still be colour as it is now fall and the leaves have been turning but B&W is immensely satisfying.

Take care.

Spiral staircase in the Detroit Institure of Art.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While in Detroit, we had the opportunity to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, which “…is proud to claim one of the largest, most significant art collections in the nation.” (DIA)  Please do click the link to read and get a glimpse of the varied collections housed there.  The DIA is in a central role due to the many legal, social, economic, and political issues concerning Detroit’s bankruptcy, as reported here and here.   For those interested in Sociology, these articles provide discussions of culture as well as applications of Symbolic Interactionism, Functionalism, and Conflict Theory.

Speaking of Symbolic Interactionism and Functionalism, this particular staircase can serve as a metaphor for the city:  Detroit has been in a downward spiral for quite some time now and, depending on the outcome, this individual staircase may serve as a few steps up and out of the abyss. The issue of selling art to mitigate the economic situation of Detroit and the implications of how the city resolves this particular problem are quite serious as it speaks directly to the role that culture, especially art, plays in modern society, as the New York Times article points out.  Therefore for some, the sale of these collections may very well represent a further descent into the abyss.

Setting aside the seriousness of that dilemma, is this anecdote.  We were surrounded by these beautiful, exemplary works and I saw this staircase. As I ran (well, hurried.  Maybe ran.) to photograph it, over my shoulder I heard my colleague exclaim “All this art and it is the staircase that excited you!”

Thank you Toni, for I am indebted to you as this is another place I would not have seen without you.

Go to the DIA to see the art and support the city.  The staircase is not bad either.

Take care.

“Love Thy Neighbor”

April 27, 2014

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last weekend was the Easter weekend, and no, this is not a post about religion as such.  The sentiment expressed in the above mural is, however, a virtue expressed in many religions in one form or another.  In this particular context, that statement is quite poignant indeed.

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In 1934, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was created and later came to be utilized to assist GIs returning from World War II with the purchase of a house-this program was the model for housing loans that is still in use today.  Written into the FHA code was a set of standards for determining which neighborhoods would be eligible and which would not.  Please be sure to read this link as it provides a concise history of the development and implementation of this program.  It is important to understand the degree of systemic racism that was built into the process, which came to be known as “red-lining”.  Walls were literally built to provide a point of demarcation to separate the red-lined neighborhoods from those determined to be more acceptable and thus supported by the program.

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The photographs here are of 8 Mile Wall, and it is located in Detroit, Michigan.  It is also known locally as “The Wailing Wall”, and it now stands as a form of monument for remembrance of that era.

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The wall is 6 feet high and 2 feet thick.

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One side of the wall contained the neighborhoods designated for whites (the “acceptable” neighborhoods) and the other side of wall was for people of colour (the “red-lined” neighborhoods).  Black GIs, who had also been relegated to serving in segregated units during WWII, were often denied loans when they returned home.  It is now illegal to openly, specifically, discriminate when it comes to housing.

8 Mile Wall in Detroit, MI.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

After all, how does one demonstrate care and concern and develop a sense of togetherness and community, if not love, for one’s neighbor when a literal wall has been constructed specifically as a means of separation?

Figuratively, such barriers remain and are reinforced in many ways in popular culture.  Just for a moment Star Wars fans, think about the clothes Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader wear.  Who is the “good” guy?

Take care.

Blue

December 10, 2011

200,000 miles on the car's odometer

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

My car, a 2004 Subaru Forester, turned over 200,000 miles last week. Other than the few miles the mechanic has driven when diagnosing problems and testing repairs, I have driven every one of those miles. No one else in the family drives a stick.

And now, Blue seems to have come to an end. I recently replaced the clutch and now the rear differential is grinding; she needs a new timing belt; and her tires are more than halfway finished. These repairs will cost more than the book value of the car, which makes doing this work a poor financial choice.  Given that I drive approximately 100 miles per day, it is likely that Blue will continue to need more work.  It is a sad time. Read the rest of this entry »

Life Imitates Art

July 16, 2011

The Opera House in Shepherdstown, WVa

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Was in Shepherdstown, West Virginia a week or so ago and happened upon the movie Midnight in Paris, whose main conceit involves a writer (Owen Wilson) who longs for 1920’s Paris.  While not a fan of Woody Allen (for a number of reasons), the story seemed interesting and I was curious as to how Hemingway and Fitzgerald would be portrayed.

The movie was playing in the Shepherdstown Opera House, a restored building that houses a quaint one-screen movie theatre.  The seats were old, hard leather, and the screen was set back from a small stage.  This was quite a difference from the ten-screen multiplexes where the sound from the adjacent theatres bleeds into the movie being viewed and you sink almost to the floor in the cushioned chairs.

Inside the Opera House theatre

Copyright 2011 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Watching this movie in such a setting was like the patrons  had joined Owen Wilson on a trip back in time.   And a quick trip it was as there were no printed tickets and thus no ticket-taker and, after having climbed a few steps, folks walked directly down a single aisle to their seats.  This was far and away different from the maze of modern movie establishments that  require directions in order to find the correct screen.  Quite a pleasant experience, actually, and one worth duplicating.

Take care.