Abandoned Artist's Studio

I guess I’m not sure where to start. I guess I’ll start with our fixer, “J.”

I reached out to “J” over instagram for a cool little find he had posted. From the images and videos he shared it looked to be an abandoned artists studio perched above a river. From the artifacts I saw in the video I knew two things. One it was pretty much untouched, and two it would not stay that way for long. If Jordan and I wanted to preserve anything we had to do it before kids tore that place apart.

Jordan and I got up super early Saturday morning and drove the 90 minutes to pick up J. Of course Jordan and I were chatting so I missed the exit. We picked up J a bit late but headed right to the location. We scrambled through a scary looking basement and climbed up a set of metal ladders with a bit of an acrobatic move.

What we found was an abandoned hydro-electric station on the river turned art studio by a truly remarkable man. He was a pilot, architect, art Professor, color theorist, and hammer collector. His paintings are on display at MoMa. He designed and built a synagogue and a home. He also flew over Nagasaki days after the bomb dropped and survived in the ocean with his crew for 6 days on a raft.

I could go on and on about the good things, but this man also had tragedy in his life. He lost his daughter at age 29 from a freak accident after the car she was driving hit a horse that escaped its pen. He outlived his wife and most of the others he knew. He lived till the ripe old age of 96.

I am still in awe.

I found lots of books about Bresson and Brassai in his studio so I processed these images dark and mostly in black and white as I think the late professor would have liked.It seemed fitting. Click on the images below to see them larger.

When should you post-process your images?

Some photographers come home after a shoot and dive right into their images to edit and post them as quickly as possible. Their images hit instagram almost immediately. In this instantaneous world this seems like almost a no brainer, or is it?

Professional photographer Ben Long advocate to sit on your images and wait to edit them. He likes to wait to edit which helps him disconnect from his images and look at them in a more objective light. When you edit right away he argues, you are too emotionally attached and therefore make mistakes when judging the merit of your images.

I tend to take a balanced approach and try to look at the images and flag my best images but then revisit them at a later date. My editing timeline tends to follow this trajectory:

Directly after the shoot/that evening: Import and backup my images. I also rate the images and pick my keepers. I tend to also edit a few of the best images and post them.

A few days later: I dive in a bit deeper to the keepers and the top 5-10 images. I usually post a few more to social media and work on the images that need a bit more photoshop or heavy processing as time allows.

Winter time: During our long winters here in Syracuse I tend to revisit large projects and try to take more of a creative approach. I will try more adventurous edits and try pushing the processing to a heavier look. Sometime I will get inspired by a certain look or video and try to push my processing in that direction and see what happens. This is my opportunity to get creative and wild in my processing and I tend to create virtual copies in Lightroom and try editing a few different ways.

What do you do for editing? I would love to hear about your process in the comments below!

Below are a few of the images I have been reworking from our Italy trip in 2013 using a heavy handed black and white style to emphasize line and shape. Our days in Venice were very dreary and the clouds and rain made shooting difficult, therefore the editing was very difficult in color and had a moodiness throughout. This style of editing lends a hand to that moodiness.

Abandoned Car Dealership

Our first urbex stop was a bust so we stopped at this abandoned car dealership today.

Click the images to enlarge them.

And like that, She's gone.

LeMoyne Manor was one of those explores that is right under your nose as you're searching the internet for abandoned buildings. I had driven by it every single day, dropping my daughter off at daycare. So glad Jordan and I got to tour the building a few times before it came down. 

The property was steeped in history. Built as a mansion by the famous architect Ward Wellington Ward in 1916 it was a beautiful property overlooking the lake. Later it became a banquet hall and motel where many people in CNY had their wedding. In the 1990's the property also served as a halfway house for recovering drug and alcohol addicts. Plans for the space include retail and luxury apartments starting in 2019.

Scroll down for more images.

 

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 From: www.syracusethenandnow.com

From: www.syracusethenandnow.com

The universe conspired in your favor.

I tend to go on a lot of tangents, and lately, maybe it's my age but I have been listening to and reading a lot of philosophy. Whether it be Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, or Bucky Fuller I am fully engrossed into it now in my life. Why at this point in my life am I falling down this rabbit hole is a whole other story.

The kicker is, and maybe this is just my own glasses I am viewing the work through, but they all seem to have the same message. I keep getting the same lesson.

The big idea said many ways is:

1. The universe is rigged in your favor. 

2. The universe is conspiring to fulfill your wishes.

3. Stop trying so hard and just let it happen. 

So this brings me to this set of photographs. I went down to the city to continue my Syracuse street project and I decided that instead of hunting for street photos I would fish for them. This involves finding a cool scene or location and waiting for interesting people to walk through it. This is definitely different than the way I typically do street photography, where I typically hunt for images by walking many blocks looking for interesting things to photograph.

I found a cool scene with a set of stairs and sun peeking down the alley just to the south of the courthouse. I set up on a small bench and just waited with my camera. The problem was everybody who was coming through the scene was taking a ramp down instead of the stairs I wanted them too.

As I sat longer, I started to give up. I checked my watch. But in my mind this idea that the universe was rigged in my favor kept coming back to me. So I gave it more time. 

About the time I said, "OK I will give it five more minutes and I will move on," a national grid truck pulled up onto the sidewalk blocking the other ramp, even going to so far as to put cones up. It was magic! Now people were forced down my set of stairs and I sat there shooting pictures every few moments in glorious succession.

So here are the photos from that outing and a few more to explain the space. I threw a few others in from the day at the end of this series.

 

 

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A love story and an education.

I crossed out the 2018 as soon as I did the math for the new dishwasher. The small crayon drawing of our future camper had been hanging on our fridge for 3-4 years and we looked weekly at Craigslist but at this point, it was over.

Our pocketbooks were exhausted because we were deep into a bathroom remodel, it was the end of summer, and our dishwasher finally threw in the towel. 

All we were looking for was a used Rockwood Roo, 19' or less, with a dinette and couch, in incredible condition.  

No big deal, nothing specific! 

The problem was after searching season after season, people either held on to the Roo's or they were destroyed. We had looked at a few with holes in the floor, soft spots or complete water damage. I just didn't want another headache.

On Tuesday night at 11 pm I spotted Mike's Roo, and it could not be in better condition. It was almost too perfect. I emailed and set up a time to see it the next day. Unbeknowst to Jen, I also booked a one night stay camping trip, because I just knew we were going to buy it. 

That Saturday afternoon we pulled into Fillmore Glen State Park, for our first camper experience. It was more of a, "OK we need to figure this being a camper person thing out, kinda trip."  I kept referencing the huge pile of user guides and manuals for each system. We packed simple- hotdogs and smores and those tiny little boxed camping cereals- and headed off. Everything went amazingly well and we had figured out each system, and on Sunday we headed home, but unfortunately our education was not over. 

Just after I said, "Wow, look at how bad the roads are as soon as you get to Syracuse," I heard a loud boom, and the trailer swerved. We hit a huge pothole and it blew the tire and rim apart. I limped to an offramp but could not get off the highway so I had to change it while the cars on 81 blew by us. Everybody was ok, but that tire and rim have seen better days.

I guess we got a thorough education. Here are the images from that trip.

 

Freestyle Sunday Drive

Another free style shooting day that ended checking almost every box.

I was able to do some landscape photography, and also find an abandoned building and get some outside shots of it. I filled up with gas station coffee and I focused my efforts on the area around Montezuma Wildlife Area, Mentz, and Port Byron. 

 

Irishman

I walked past him and instantly noticed the pipe. I paused knowing I had to ask for a portrait, and cataloged for a connection.

3, 2, 1, Go.

"I don't see too many people smoking pipes around here anymore."

He laughed.

My old roommate was Irish and smoked a pipe every Sunday and the smell was the same so I lead with that. He agreed to a photo and said he too was an Irishman and loved his pipe.

Nice guy. Took it this morning on our Sunday walk.

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Story behind the photos: True Texas

We were driving around Crawford Texas with the GPS off just enjoying the gravel roads and the beautiful scenery. Our Jeeps AC unit was struggling to try to compete with the 102 degree heat outside. The earth was dry and parched except for small masses of low trees like mesquite and live oak. Each homestead was landmarked by fencing and some type of large metal gate. 

Every once and awhile a truck would pass us and the white stone gravel would create a cloud that carried off long in the distance. More vehicles than not were large pickups with lifted tires and cattle catchers on the front. I looked deeply into each cab hoping to see a cowboy, but they were just regular looking people, going about their day.

I had my small fuji x100t with me, and Jen was driving letting me jump out to get pictures whenever I spotted something. Just about the moment she said something I was wishing for- a truly Texas picture. I was thinking of what would really sum up our time driving and the ideas of gravel roads, long fence lines, or big iron gates moved through my mind. A second later I was thinking about symbols of Texas and, of course, my first thought was of a longhorn. Sadly all we had been seeing were horses or traditional dairy cows and they were mostly way out in the fields or hiding under the low trees.

A second later she said, "Um, there is a cow back there with big horns."

"Really?" I said. "Let's go back and see it, I was just thinking how cool it would be to see one."

She turned around and we saw this big guy and I shot maybe 10 photos of him as he posed. What I loved was how perfectly framed he was, with dark foliage in the back and a small delicate tree above him that was perfectly lit by the sun. The tree was almost glowing and he stood perfectly still as I shot a few images. I need to keep processing these images but I got a few I am happy with.

Join us! - Art walk for Art in the Windows - August 3 6pm

As many of you know, Jordan and I have been going down to the city to do street photography for almost a year or so to stretch our photographic skills. It hasn't been without its challenges and I can remember sitting in coffee shops drying off or hiding from snow/wind. Photographically, it has become one of my favorite genres, because I get to spend time with Jordan, and create photos, while feeling more connected to something bigger. This type of work is hard to do as introverts, but I feel both of us growing. 

Last month, Jordan found out about a program called Art in the Windows and asked if I would be interested in applying for a grant. I said I was, but I was so busy with landscaping and drawing that he would basically have to do all of the leg work. He did and we were awarded a 750 dollar grant and now have our artwork on display on Salina Street in downtown Syracuse until September. 

To celebrate, we would like to have a small get together at the Evergreen on Water Street around 6 pm on August 3rd. Our thoughts are to gather there, then take a gallery walk to view the images, which should not take long as there are only 6. Then, go back to the Evergreen to share a few drinks. We would love for you to join us! 

Is it street photography or architecture?

Street photography is such a hard genre to pin down.

Is good work photos of people in spaces, and what is a good ratio of humanity to space? What if you capture a lonely street scene with only one person, vs a street filled with onlookers? What percentage is the right percentage?

Anyway here are few images from our last outing where, incidentally, very few people passed by early on a Sunday. So this is "street-ish."

 

William Wallace

In the time it took for us to take a few steps toward William, I thought about how truly lucky I am for all of the things I have been given and how generous life has been with me.

He looked up from his seat and asked, "Can you spare some change?", as I dug clumsily for my wallet.

I handed him some money as I asked what his name was. 

"William Wallace," he said in a deep, muffled tone.

I asked if I could take his picture and I tried to get him to smile a few times as I knelt down and took three frames, but each time he kept his hand at his pocket, and gave me the same stare. 

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Practice, Practice, Practice

As I am leading up to the evening where Jordan and I are having a small gathering to show off our street work used for the Art in the Windows grant I wanted to reflect on something that has become so apparent lately.

"This is a world of action."

Getting the ideas for anything is the easy part, and you can say anything that someone will let you, but the real work of this world is still a physical one. Hitting the streets every single week, camera in hand in good time and in bad is what the essence of photography or dare I say life is. 

I almost want to tell people who have such positive comments about my photography that it simply isn't the eye or the training or the gear, it is just going out to do the work. I want to be honest, I come away with far more terrible pictures than usable ones and I am no different than anyone reading this story.

"I made a commitment, that's it, that's the dam secret."

To be as honest and transparent as possible I will post some images from the more recent outing on Sunday. These are not instagram bangers, but are so important to the constant march of practice.

-Chris