Tag Archives: Florida

Rooster

Rooster, near Oviedo, FL, 2013

Rooster, near Oviedo, FL, 2013

A few years back I bought a van, and when I went to sign the contract I had to wait for the salesman for a few moments. After a short time he comes up and says that he was sorry to keep me waiting, but he had to put out the balloons. I  asked him if he thought that the balloons ever really helped him sell a car. He leaned over and said softly so no one else could here, “It does not matter what I think, Mr. Dance (the owner of the dealership) thinks so.” Driving by this rooster made me think of how a business will put out anything in front of a business in hopes to attract customers. I do have to say that I enjoyed driving by this rooster more than those King Kong size blow up apes!

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” Mark Twain

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A Movable Feast

Railroad Crossing and Barn, Highway 17, FL 2013

Railroad Crossing and Barn, Highway 17, FL 2013

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” Buddha

My personal approach to making photographs has always been to poke around the back roads of the South to first see what there was to see, and then to photograph. It has been this way since the late 1970s when I moved to North Carolina and fell in love with the landscape. In many ways, photography is an excuse to go out for a day of wandering. Even on those trips where I do not make many, if  any photographs, the fact that I am out in the world seeing things makes any time traveling  fulfilling.

Yesterday was pure joy, as a friend and I went out for a day of seeing what there was to see and to photograph. The air was cool and clean. The sun was bright and the light was good for making images. Rather than coming home tired, I came home refreshed.

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Spring

Tommy Lasorda, 1989, Florida

Tommy Lasorda, 1989, Florida

Spring is always a favorite time of year for me. There is such a sense of renewal at this time of year. The grass is getting green, and the wild flowers on the side of the road are carpeting the landscape in color. Spring is a time where possibilities are abundant. April is the beginning of baseball season, when my favorite team can still go all the way. As a photographer, this is the time of year when the light is best, and along with the prospect of traveling; I look forward to getting out and seeing what there is to see. However, what I like to see most is the beginning of baseball. Each year I look towards my hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and see them making the drive to the World Series. Most years I have been disappointed, but that has never dampened my hopes. Spring fosters hope eternal.

My first memories of the sport of baseball came in 1958, when I was a very small child. The city had not yet built Dodger Stadium, and the team, who had just left the Brooklyn, was playing in the LA Coliseum. They had some great players, though some of them were at the end of their careers. Pee Wee Reese was still playing shortstop, along with Duke Snider, Gill Hodges and they had a great pitching staff, including, a young Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and the vertern, Don Newcombe.  It was Pee Wee Reese however, that caught my four-year old notice. For me at that age, to see someone named Pee Wee cemented my first connection to the sport. Later, after moving to Florida, and after Pee Wee’s playing days I would watch him every Saturday afternoon on the NBC Game of the Week, where he did color commentary along with Hall of Famer, Dizzy Dean. Some years later, I was watching my college team play a game, when I noticed an older gentleman sitting next to me who looked vaguely familiar. I asked him if he was Pee Wee Reese, to which he replied, “Son you’re not old enough to know who I am!” He was not being hard to get along with, but just surprised that some kid in the stands would know who he was and recognized him. I told him that my earliest memories was watching him play that first year that the Dodgers played in LA.

“Guys ask me, don’t I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?”

Tommy LaSorda

Several years later, having just graduated from the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies, I was hired to provide some still photos for public services commercials that Major League Baseball were making here in Orlando in 1989. It was then I had the opportunity to photograph the famed, Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda. The main photos that I took of him were in a locker-room where they filmed the commercials. While he was very friendly and professional in what he was asked to do, it seemed to me that he did not suffer fools gladly. The director set up a scene where Lasorda was to storm out of the dugout to argue with the umpire. The director was giving Lasorda instructions about how he was to do the scene, when Lasorda stopped him and said, “I know how to argue with an umpire!” With the camera rolling he runs out of the dugout and argues with the actor who had the misfortune of playing the umpire. The director yells cut and Lasorda, turns to the actor and calmly tells the him that he did a great job. I am not sure how much of those comments were heard by the actor, who had not yet recovered from the tirade that Lasorda gave him just a moment before. Lasorda then smiled, patted the actor on the back and returned to the shade of the dugout. I think that Lasorda showed the director that there were some of the acting arts even in baseball.

The truly great thing about photography for me is how my interests in photography is supported by my other interests, whether it be baseball or to see what I can find along the side of the road.

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A Stone’s Thoreau.

Dulcimer, Ft. Christmas, FL, 2013

Dulcimer, Ft. Christmas, FL, 2013

“It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau. Who knew that Thoreau was a photographer?

For me photography has been more about how we see things and relate those experiences to larger thoughts. Both technically and aesthetically, I like to think in terms of relationships and how everything is interrelated. Just as a F-Stops relates to Shutter Speeds, what we see today relates to other things that we have seen or felt in the past. What I have read about the Mississippi in Mark Twain’s book, Life on the Mississippi, has added deeply to my understanding of the river today, more than a hundred years after the book was written.

Edward Weston’s photography seemed to be always more about the larger meaning of the subjects of his photographs than it was about the literal depiction of the subject. True, his pepper was still a pepper, but in Weston’s hands it became a metaphor of the human form, which in turn became a metaphor of the universality of shape and form.  The photographs that I am most attracted to are those that I can look at and see more than what the picture is actually of.

A former student of mine once complained that there was no new subject matter to photograph. I told him that was true, but there is still an unlimited number of ways to present any subject and an unlimited number of ways to see even the most common subjects.

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Under the Boardwalk

Boardwalk, Daytona Beach Florida 2013

Tilt-a-Whirl, The Boardwalk, Daytona Beach Florida, 2012

While I often go back to areas that I have photographed before, the Boardwalk at Daytona Beach is one that I have not been to in a few years. In the mid to late 1980s, when I was studying photography at what is now Daytona State College, I would often come to the Boardwalk to do what I thought of at the time as Garry Winogrand inspired “street photography.” I could count on the Boardwalk to offer a menagerie of people ranging from bikers, to college students, to retires, to homeless people, and to tourist. In the week after Bike Week and the week before Spring Break there would be bikers in the southern, older end of the boardwalk. This was popular with them as the pizza was cheap and the beer flowed freely. As you went north there would be an infusion of college students who, flush with their parents’ money would be staying and playing at the higher end hotels located toward the amphitheatre where there would be an assortment of contests including the ever popular, (at least with the males, but with the willing participation of the females) wet t-shirt contest. Both of these groups took advantage the warmth of spring and the fact that they were far from home.

Over the years the Boardwalk at Daytona Beach had gone through several upgrades. It has long ago, even before I started to go there, lost it’s wood planking, replacing it with colored concrete imprinted with relief sea gulls and pelicans on the walkways that took you from the pier to the south and the amphitheater to the north. Despite these occasional upgrades, there was always a sense of tackiness and history to the place. Over time I photographed unsuccessfully the famous diving woman that was atop the swimsuit shop. There, as it had been for many years the saltwater taffy machine churning, what I can only guess, the same blob of taffy as I saw all those years ago. Many windows would be covered from floor to ceiling with tee shirts printed with sayings that one would not wear in public, except in Daytona Beach. Then there were the arcades with games that were so old they were last popular before the days of video games, offer tests of skill and manliness to those looking for an ice cream, hot dogs and a beer. However, for all its tackiness and questionable cleanliness, there was also a sense of tradition and history to the place. So despite its rather sorted charm, it was a popular location for both grizzly bikers and families with kids.

The boardwalk always seemed somewhat sad to me. Here was a place to be a haven for fun in the sun, but no one seemed that happy. Workers seemed bored, fathers and mothers where short with their children, and teenagers trying to look cool in this somewhat seedy environment by trying to look both hip and aloof. Still it is my guess that they will go home happy with stories of time in the waves and with t-shirts that they cannot nor will not wear when they return home. I too came home feeling happy that I was still able to get some photographs as I did in 1986. In the end, the Daytona Beach Boardwalk was in many ways like my memory of it, some things the same and some of it missing, but still with a sense of what it once had been.

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The Myth of Sisyphos

Tommie Carrol, South FL 2012

Tommie Carrol, South FL 2012

Last night I went to an opening and saw the wife of a friend of mine who had been through what might have been a serious illness and she sat next to me on a bench outside the gallery. Knowing that I fairly recently had my own scare, (I don’t want to sound gloomy, or worse yet, silly, however in my mind the possibility of my premature demise seemed possible at the time) she wanted to know how I was doing.  Glad to say that we are both doing well. Though she said something that I related to when she mentioned that she was worried during her illness because she felt that she was too young to die. Thinking about it now, I am not really sure if that was what she was really saying or that was just what I was hearing, but that thought hit home to me. We are about the same age. When I was in the hospital, I had thought that I too am too young to die. While I am steadfastly tumbling towards 60, I don’t feel that old, even with the aches and pains. Thirty-five years ago, 60 seemed so painfully elderly, but now I feel that I am in the prime of life, even with its occasional pain and uncertainty. But lying in my hospital bed, I was thinking that if it was my fate to die, I could have no complaints about not being given my chance at life. Not that I was ready to die by any means, I just felt that I had no complaints. I have been reading more and more about those of my generation and even younger who have passed on, some of them had done great things and maybe would have done more if they had the time. While now such thoughts seem a little silly and premature, it was not really all that bad to sit back and contemplate. Not to dwell, but OK to contemplate.

When my friend Jon and I went out on that last weekend of 2012, I photographed a headstone in a cemetery in West Palm Beach. The stone was old but the age of the person buried there was young, no more than 20. I think that he or his family had some money as the stone was ornate in its carving and at the time of his death a young banyan tree was planted near his grave. Over the years the tree got bigger and bigger and the trade mark root base of the tree began to envelop the stone to the point that in time the head stone will be in the tree more than beside it. This did not distress me, nor did I feel it to be disrespectful, but thought of it more as nature reclaiming its own. While we might feel that we are above nature, and it is ours to control, the fact is that we are part of nature and the cycle of life and as such we are the ones who serve nature, not the other way around. In time we have to submit, like Sisyphos, to nature’s inevitable control.

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Through the Looking Glass

Window, Ft. Christmas, FL 2012

Window, Ft. Christmas, FL 2012

Over the years I have been photographically fascinated with doors and windows. Looking at my entire body of work one will see many window and door images. While most of these photographs have signs or at least words in them, there are still a number of times where the sign is framed within a window or a door. Sometimes, like the photo above, I find something interesting in just the door or a window. Looking at this image it might be assumed that there is a special interest in texture. It is there to be sure. However, there is something more. Doors and windows allow one to travel from one plane of existence to another. When either looking into or out of a door or window there is a feel that there is something going on, on the other side. What can be seen from either side will often ask more questions than they answer. There can be mystery!

There is also a pleasing way that the shape of a door and or a window will create a frame within the composition. There is formalism to the way that the series of rectangles and squares work within a space. Anyone familiar with the French painter Piet Mondrian will see something of his work in a space that is visually divided with windows and doors. While Mondrian deals with issues of abstraction, when we look at a window the impact of the image is the formal structure, however in the image of a window or a door there is the added dimension of what lays beyond. My door and window images are often very simple. I believe the simpler they are the more they can say. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I believe that in simplicity there is complexity. Sit back, look and enjoy.

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