South Philadelphia: a photographic essay

A city with good form performs for its residents. To find out how, our team went inside homes and lives, walked streets, and shopped markets. We found a care community generations old. We found the qualities behind the performance.

Process notes on painting: part I

Theory materializes from practice. Practice evolves through the application of theory. Working out the sober aspects of craft provides beneficial constraints to an ambiguous activity such as painting and helps one get right to work on the right kind of work.

The exuberant/ironic chipmunk on a sky-high sign draws any driver’s attention from hundreds of feet away. Orderly rows of gas pumps promise a spot to fill ’er up. Mesmerizing repetition pulls weary Texas interstate travelers into a world of overwhelming convenience and a longer-than-usual pit stop.

There is an alley between the building that I work in and another one that is, in itself, a thoughtless act. Thousands of people traipse by it at all hours, a handful use it for what it’s intended, and a few venture down it as a shortcut or break from the normal commute. I’m one of those.

We interviewed one person to be a nanny for our children. When she arrived at our doorstep for the first time, most of her nuclear family joined. The message and the value prop was, “You don’t just get me, you get us. And we get you.” Full access into another culture and the chance to play some part in their heritage, their “life-history” is an intimate privilege. 

For a brief time I owned an M3. It was (is) a professional brick of a camera from a bygone era. Completely manual and lacking even the convenient affordances of later model film bodies, you must add cautious detail to your workflow in order to get a decent shot. However, once you do, the act of framing and shooting can be as memorable as the images you take.

A single picture, considerately shot, can reveal meaningful insight about a situation. Designers and project teams may use an image to influence an idea or make a case for design intent by publishing the story to larger communities of interest. 

Scenes from a long weekend back home in late December. Pastoral, cold, gray, grey, distant. A bus stop from my youth. Long roads to and from the house. The woods that I played in. The pond that I fished. Where I read poetry before I knew what that was. An old neighbor’s homestead, perfectly preserved. The Miller Farm. Middle School doors. 

In The Camera Fiend, Bill Jay traces a quick history of the technical, social, and cultural histories of amateur photography, revealing the contentious relationships that have always be present between photographer and human subjects. I felt this discomfort during certain moments of my Aunt’s funeral services as a participant-observer-photographer.

Shooting an active crowd at high noon that was intent on sending a message to state government produced a continuous stream of “moments”. Public demonstrations afford permissions that just aren’t present on a normal day. People are more willing to participate in the act of image taking and making.

A brief mid-morning sprint during a 2013 teaching gig in Mexico City provided views from above and near-below street level. Brushing elbows with vendors and urban services revealed a sliver of a typical workday.

While in Shanghai studying the social and cultural factors of nutritional supplements, our team checked into a traditional Chinese care facility to receive centuries-old, non-invasive, systemic therapies for our aches and pains.