Posts Tagged ‘photography

28
Jan
09

The Last Supper with More Than a Grain of Salt 2

This print of the last supper had always hung near the breakfast table in my parents’ home. It was no different here at my mother’s last apartment, although it had fallen off the wall and sat around for a few months. I set it back here the other day, and it seemed a fine place for photo. A detail shot would reveal drops of this and that, and a spattering of tomato sauce.

It is a bit of an odd assortment off things on the cupboard, most sitting for weeks without notice from mom. Tomato sauce, orzo, salt, vanilla flavoring, the Greek coffee pot (the briki), and assorted trivets. A couple times in recent months my mom had cooked food with some odd flavorings, like baked chicken with a heavy dose of cinnamon or ground cloves. Eventually she gave up on seasonings and then finally on cooking much of anything besides boiled eggs, green beans, or broccoli.

Today, we went to Kaiser for an eye check-up and to start the process of getting a new pair of glasses. She had misplaced her only pair. It turns out that her right eye needs just about the strongest lens available. The doctor could not determine a prescription for the left eye at all because she is nearly blind from a cataract. So, we’ll be going back for cataract removal, and then eventually for a prescription for the left eye. Shit, no wonder the apartment was a mess. And no wonder the chicken was seasoned with salt and clove instead of salt and pepper.

07
Jan
09

The first time I told this story

The Last Time Ever, originally uploaded by neocles.

this is what I said:

“We were getting into our bunks when this strange light seemed to come down from the sky, and there was this rumbling noise and the camper swayed a little. It got really loud, then suddenly–very quiet. And we felt this pressure, and then I blacked out. When I woke up, I was alone.”

05
Jan
09

Leaving Home For Good – Family Snapshot

The Grocery Cart #2

The Grocery Cart #2, originally uploaded by neocles.

My mother, Efrosini Serafimidis, will be 90 years old this month. For the last five years she has been living down the street from us in a little one bedroom apartment. We moved her up here to Albany from Fresno and the home in which she had lived for over 30 years. I was resistant to moving her at the time, but my cousins insisted it was necessary. It is not easy for a person in their 80’s to switch gears like that. She still complains bitterly everyday about this place, and I think she still is a little resentful towards me on that count. But she did okay for two or three years.

The last couple years have been increasingly challenging. She has had a hip replacement and big surgery on a broken elbow. Also, she has been pretty lonely during the days when we are at work, and the lack of interaction and stimulation has taken a toll on her.

The next move is now necessary. This month, Effie will be going to a board and care facility somewhere nearby. It is going to be hard to do, and the transition is going to be a struggle, I’m sure. But her hips are not holding her up very well, and she is suffering from some dementia. She has wandered off a couple times, but her incredible luck with coming across non-Greek-speaking people who are charmed by her old-country, head-scarved, four-foot-ten-inch figure has held up. Each time we got her back none the worse for the wear.

Of course, Sarah and I both work full time, and have a five-year-old to attend to. And living in the Bay Area has its own challenges. So, I would not say I have been an overly conscientious caregiver, but nonetheless, I see her and give her her meds almost every day, try to keep her reasonably safe and fed, bring her back and forth to my home, clean her apartment, pay her bills, take care of her legal and financial matters, manage the renting of the family home in Fresno, and so on.

Chief among the challenges of moving her to a care facility is going to be the dissolving of her apartment home and figuring out what to do with all the things in it. We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved her to Albany. But a lot of stuff is still packed away in her apartment. I am very nostalgic about these things and have a tough time just trashing them even though they are otherwise pretty worthless.

In response to all this I am planning a photo series. Right now the idea is simple snapshot-like photos of, basically, every object in her apartment. Where possible, descriptions will accompany the photos. Eventually, the series will include photos of each and every object I still have from my parents. I may be an old man myself by the time I finish.

04
Jan
09

Purple Nova at the French School

    

Purple Nova at the French School, originally uploaded by neocles.

I noticed the purple Nova while biking to work one morning. The intense color caught my eye. I took a couple shots, and I noticed right away on the camera that the color was not as bright and not as purple in the image. This was true on the computer as well, and I sort of forgot about it for a while. I didn’t think it would amount to much.

A couple weeks later, I started fooling around with the post-processing work on it, and got something I rather liked. I eventually uploaded something to flickr, and it suddenly turned out to be one of the more interesting and popular things I’d produced in awhile. (Bear in mind that I measure these metrics in small fractions of what most flickr pop stars do, so my data set is pretty limited. Nonetheless it seems meaningful to me!) I guess the moral of the story is that you can never tell what is going to resonate with people. At least I can’t.

14
Nov
08

Night Rambler 5

Night Rambler 5, originally uploaded by neocles.

It showed up one day earlier this week. It sat quietly over to the side minding its own business, not making a peep. I went by once and noticed it immediately, but I, too, didn’t say anything. Life is like that a lot these days. One makes mental notes and tries to find them later amid the clutter of scraps of paper, children’s toys, empty wine bottles, and job postings.

I went by again and the tug was more insistent; the mental note came floating down from the rafters, landed in plain view. For two days I shuffled it to the top of the stack of other mental notes.

Sarah had noticed it sitting there and said something to me about it. Tuesday night it was still there when I left the house to run the errand in another note. I threw my tripod in the car on my way to get milk.

On the way back home, i went by again. This time I stopped. I didn’t care that it was night. The moon was almost full. The golden convertible gleamed in the cocktail glow of moonlight and sodium vapor.

It was accidental at the time, brought about by the time constraints of modern suburban living. But these two great tastes taste great together: suburban neighborhood car photography, and night photography.

21
Oct
08

a poem for our times

The Coil and the Supplicant

The Coil and the Supplicant, originally uploaded by neocles.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats

04
Jun
08

The Junked Edsel and the Biodiesel Carnival Bread Truck

Last Friday, May 30, while biking to work, I stopped to take some quick shots of this junked Edsel parked off Murray St. just west of 9th in Berkeley. I rode through the empty lot, which is essentially an old railroad right-of-way, and set my bike down against the curb. This was far enough back to not have it appear in the shots I was taking. Near the bike was a large white pickup truck parked at the curb.

I had taken just a few shots and had my back to my bike taking the shot above. That is when I heard a loud snapping and crunching sound. I turned around to see the big white pickup running over my bike!

The truck, from Berkeley Unified, pulled over, and the driver got out. He looked pretty surprised himself, saying, “Jesus, that scared the hell out of me.” He apologized and was generally nice about the whole thing, as was I. I was too stunned to be angry or to even take a picture of it, if you can believe that.

The driver said, “That’s the problem with these big diesels, you can’t see right down in front of you.” My bike was a ways out in front of him, so I am not quite sure how he missed seeing it. Maybe he did but misjudged the location as pulled away from the curb.

We exchanged numbers and he drove off, leaving me to assess the damage. Fortunately, he only got part of it, mostly the handle bars. Most of what’s up there was crushed to bits: bell, light, gear shift, brake handle The bars, gooseneck (do they still call them that) and the seat are pretty bent up too. Surprisingly, the rest of it was in good enough shape that I could slowly ride it to work and home again. A professional inspection will tell what shape the frame is in.

Hopefully, I will be able to get the issue settled and bike repaired so I can get back to saving fuel, money, and greenhouse gases. And shooting more commute shots from the safety of the sidewalk.

16
May
08

Dented blue Chevy Impala parked on the street in Oakland

The path my photographic work has taken and this whole thing of my shooting old cars is difficult for me to understand. The thing is, i don’t really like cars that much. Well, that’s not completely true. I like the idea of cars, just not the reality. While i have threatened to buy an old ’63 Ranchero and drive around listening to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys really loud, I guess I’m too practical and environmentally conscious to actually do it.

And I am not really a “car guy” just like I am not really a “sports guy”. I’m not quite butch enough for that. I’ll be perfectly happy when cars no longer have internal combustion engines, don’t accelerate as quickly, and generally seem more like wussy cars than muscle cars. I’m fine with that.

But the idea of owning my first car again, a black ’69 Firebird with blah, blah, engine, and turbo-blah-blah transmission, and so on, just has an enduring allure. Old cool cars just are still cool to me.

When i reflect on this for more than three or four seconds, I start to worry that it’s really just the result of getting old. The maturation process. The way of nature. I am reminded of being in my 20’s and being into contemporary design and avant garde everything with a zeal akin to that expressed in the manifestos of the Italian Futurists. I saw older people, parents of friends, with “antique” furniture, and thought, “yuck. how could anyone stand to fill their house with this absolutely hideous stuff”. This might seem curious considering that even then I was getting into deco, which I thought of as closely related to modernism.

And it still holds. A Model T is not particularly interesting to me. Not to photograph, not to own, not to daydream about. A Chevy Impala like the one above, on the other hand, is incredibly sexy. Those fins are amazing, the curves, sublime.

Thus one question is, is my appreciation for mid-century design, vintage (or what gets called “retro” even if the object discussed is an original piece) cars, houses, diners, lamps, matchbooks, etc., perfectly analogous to my friend’s parents’ penchant for 19th century Colonial Revival? Yikes! Has the next generation moved on to the next tidal wave of futurism rising up to inundate the 20th century and its nostalgic devotees? Somehow, I can’t help thinking that design from generation to generation, it’s value, and the social patterns that allow for succession to take place, are not simply subjective. That some things are just better than what came before or after. That it’s not just my pathetic nostalgia for the icons of my childhood that leads me to value these objects more than those.

This little mid-life crisis has deflected me from the original question at hand: why cars? It doesn’t appear I’m much closer to answering this. There are number of candidate answers: since I like the idea of cars more than the reality of cars, taking pictures of them wholly satisfies my desires regarding them; or having accepted, even embraced, the demise of the car as we know it, photographing them serves as a way to honor and document the final days before their disappearance; or perhaps they are just easy to shoot–especially when one routinely crops off one end or the other–making for easy points on flickr; or perhaps all of the above. It’s hard to say…. I suppose before too long i will have found every cool car in and around Albany and I’ll have to figure out something else to get fixated on.

05
May
08

Of carbs and men

Miranda and Theophanis at the water\'s edge at Agate Beach.

This last weekend we travelled to the Marin coast to see my friend’s, Seth Dickerman, show at Bolinas Art Museum. I had a number of revelations.

I love his work even more than I thought I did. There is something genuinely mysterious and magical about the process that results in these deep, soft, obscure landscapes. I wonder if it can be achieved digitally. Seth both shoots film and is also a master printer, and so there is a physical process that occurs that produces special results. What I find particularly interesting is the simultaneous presence of both the blur and softness of hand-held long exposures, and some very sharp details that echo back into the depths of the image. There is also a way in which these images convey a tremendous sense of motion–not the motion of the photographers hands, but of a vast, wind-swept earth, sea and sky. I have experimented with my own handheld long exposures with the digital, but had only limited success. I am now more committed than ever to at it and someday learn to speak this wonderful language of unseen motion.

A more mundane but very important revelation I had was the this beautiful stretch of coast is so close to my home that there is no excuse for not visiting every other week. We stayed in Point Reyes Station, a mere 60 minutes from Berkeley. Somehow we forget how close it all is and how lucky we are to live in this part of the world. So, we are renewing our efforts to get out to Marin, Sonoma, and beyond at least a couple times a month.

Finally, a conversation I had over the weekend got me thinking again about how I regain the crispness of mind and energy that I used to have. That led me to two courses of action. The first is to get back to commuting by bike. I notice that really do have a better disposition and more energy when I do. The second more radical course of action is change my eating habits–in a way that will test my willpower like nothing has since I quite smoking many, many years ago. Basically it amounts to drastically slashing my consumption of high-carb food.

The problem is I LOVE bread. I mean I love it. I mean I could easily eat a loaf a day. In my Mediterranean culture, every meal is eaten with a fork in one hand and a piece of bread in the other. I eat several pieces of toast for breakfast every morning, with cheeses, yogurt, fruit, jams, eggs, whatever. How I am going to turn this around, I don’t know, but I have got to try.

I started today. Cheese, fake sausage patties, and fruit for breakfast. It was good and I somehow made until lunch time. For lunch I had, don’t laugh, a salad from Subway. It is one of the few places, and the only inexpensive one, to eat near my work in Emeryville. So, I have been going there on certain days for the six-inch special sandwich ($2.99) loaded up with veggies. So, today I had a turkey and cheese, hold the bread, extra veggies. It was actually pretty good and I made until dinner. At dinner I ate my first bread product of the day. I survived my first day with almost no bread!




NeoFlickr