Monday, February 4, 2019

Rockport is not Port Aransas

While working on my book Common Tide; Port Aransas, Texas, I had a list of things from the Mercer Logs that I wanted to photograph and I was having trouble finding some of those things on today's Mustang Island. Things like gardens, chickens, cattle, horses, and pigs. So I thought that I could spread out my search to the mainland just across the bay from Port Aransas. Contact with county Farm Bureaus gave me the names of some farmers and that is how I found Four String Farm, an organic farm in Rockport, Texas, owned by Justin and Kayla Butts.

I made some photographs that I really liked on the farm of chickens and pigs and the garden and I thought I could slip them into the book but when I started putting the book together I could not include them. The book is about Port Aransas and Mustang Island and Rockport is not on the island. How could I explain a connection to a reader if they asked who has pigs like this or where did you find these chickens?

As much as the questions that I might be asked, the image above told me I could not use the images from Four String Farm. The landscape is different. I have not seen any area of the island that has vegetation like this image. It would not be true to the Mercer Logs from 1866 to 1877. But, I do like this image; the way the light filters through the canopy and you can see back into the tangle of the trees.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Playing with Textures

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I make to-do lists. Since it is almost the end of January, I pulled out my list to see how I'm doing. Oh my, I'm afraid my list for 2019 is rather ambitious. But the good thing was that I have started on one of the items, learn how to use textures in Photoshop. By that, I meant more than just learn how to add a texture layer to an image. That is the easy part. What I want to do is learn how to manipulate an added texture or textures to enhance an image. And I want to find out if the use of textures "feels" like it belongs in my tool kit. The feeling part is something I'm really not sure about.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ROMA - More Like a Poem than a Movie

When the Academy Award Nominations were announced today, my favorite film for 2018, Roma, garnered 10 nominations. Actually, Roma may be one of those films that will stick with me for a long time and becomes a yardstick for other films.

Natalia Green in her article in Mexico News Daily writes, "More like a poem than a movie -- in the Hollywood sense at least -- Roma is not for those who crave plot, elaborate dialogue or choreographed action sequences. Shot almost in docudrama style, its subject matter is daily life in all its mundaneness."

Not everyone I know who has seen Roma likes the movie but they have not put it aside. They are still talking about it and trying to understand why the director did this or included that. I loved the film and I've already watched it twice and plan to watch it again. I think it is a beautiful film shot in 1970s black and white format with the wide-angle camera moving through the house and the streets taking in life as it is occurring around the main characters. The way it captured the chaos of the street was as if one were actually walking in a Mexico City street. It was masterful the way the scenes were choreographed to also include symbolism of the current events in the 1970s.

Having been in Colonia Roma in Mexico City a number of times, I feel like I know the street where the house is located. The street sounds of bands, car motors, the whistle of the knife sharpener as well as the sound of mops being rung out and dishes clinking in the kitchen are substitutes for a musical soundtrack. The cars getting in and out of the portico was a mundane event for the family but are hysterical for the viewer. There isn't a lot of dialogue but the acting is superb.

Have you seen Roma?  What did you think? What was your favorite scene?

Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Memory from Cuba

Five years ago, I went to Cuba with a group of photographers. My friend Jim Quinn was part of that group and this week he sent me this picture he had taken of me and it brought back some wonderful memories.

We were staying in a Casa Particular in Old Havana. The breakfasts in the casa were wonderful so one day we asked them if they could also make dinner. The very accommodating hosts said they could. We had a great dinner. So good, in fact, that we asked them to do it again.

By this time my sweet tooth was wanting a bite of a dessert. I had seen bananas with the street vendors, there was an ice cream store on our street, Cuba has rum so I asked if our host had brown sugar and butter. She did although I'm not too sure about the origin of the "butter".  And she agreed to let me make a dessert for dinner.

As soon as I turned on the gas stove I realized why meals took so long to prepare. You could not get a high flame. Maybe it was more than a simmer but not by a whole lot. Nevertheless, I cooked the butter, bananas and brown sugar, then added the rum. There was no flambe to this mixture but I cooked it down a bit and put it over the ice cream that was melting quickly in the heat. It wasn't officially Bananas Foster but it was quite tasty.

Everyone enjoyed it and the host wrote down the recipe. I have a feeling that since then she has served it to her guests from time to time.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

What I Learned in 2018

Well, here it is, the book that you have heard about many times over the last eight years.

Port Aransas, Texas
Photographs Inspired by the Mercer Logs 1866 to 1877
Billie Mercer

It is a large book, 12 by 12, 166 pages. Perfect bound with a linen cover and printed dust jacket. 

How did it come to be? It started as an idea of things to do while Ned was going through treatment for cancer. I wanted to keep him busy with fun things. Ned's family were the first settlers on the northern end of Mustang Island in about 1855 and that settlement eventually became known as Port Aransas. We had vacationed there many times when our boys were young, so we loved the island. I told Ned that I wanted to work on a photography book about the island and use the logs or daily diaries that his family had written as a guide in making those photographs. Ned was always willing to go anywhere with me when I pulled out my camera so, April 2011, was the first trip. The trips continued even after Ned passed away. In fact, making this book became more important to me.

Starting in early 2015, I uploaded to Blurb different versions of the book, even had some of them printed as a proof. I wasn't satisfied with any of them. At the same time, I was looking for other publishers, graphic designers, getting estimates, and learning more and more about self-publishing. I was looking for the perfect book and I was looking for approval. Needless to say, I became discouraged and dropped the project for months.

Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others. In a general, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.
                                         Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

In January 2018, I wrote out what I really wanted, a book for my family. I put aside all my concerns about the cost or marketing the book; or what a designer or publisher might want. 

Everything I had done earlier was dumped and I started over. I learned more about Adobe InDesign and fonts. Almost every day, I spent time on the book and in late October I uploaded the book to get a proof print. My sons received copies of the book for Christmas. I have to tell you that I'm pleased that I pushed this big project though but now I am excited about the responses I've gotten from photographers and book people. Who knows what might happen in 2019. Maybe it will get published for a wider audience. 

What I learned in 2018, and should have already known, is follow my heart and my vision. Just do it!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Helllooo.....Anybody Still Out There?

I can't believe it has been 28 months since I wrote a blog entry. I just seemed to run out of steam for the blog while I worked on other projects. But, for some reason, I'm feeling the urge to write again.

One of the big things that has happened is that I completed a book I have worked on since 2010. In order to do that I spent a lot of 2017 learning Adobe InDesign. I still am a beginner but I learned some on my own and then I hired Mary Meade to help me pull my ideas together with the master page feature of InDesign. Then 2018 was the year of the book. There is a lot to tell about that experience but I'll save that for other blog entries.

I've done some travel over the last 28 months, two times to Italy and once to London and the Cotswolds, Port Aransas a bunch of times, Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, Austin, Memphis to see a grandson graduate from Rhodes College and maybe another place or two that I'm not remembering.

I had my 80th birthday and I've survived another couple of years. Just can't believe how fast time is passing.

Using the blog, I'm going to try to fill you in on what has happened as well as writing about current events. So, who among my blog readers is still out there?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Photographs in the Yucatan, 1946 and the 1990's

This week I stopped at Banamex on Canal and looked at the current photography exhibition, Armando Salas Portugal, Chronicle of a Trip to the Yucatan, 1946. The photographs stopped me in my tracks because I spent so much time in the Yucatan during the 1990's while I was photographing the 16th century churches spread across the peninsula. Some of Armando's images showed the thatched roof houses and churches that I, too, photographed. Not a lot happened between 1946 and 1993 except that doors were put back on the churches, fences were repaired and painted and the road was paved. I say paved in a most general sense. At least they were no longer sand and dirt but they still had pot holes and lots of topes. Our car moved at a slow place.
The church above is in Hoctun where we met people who had tiendas around the square. We returned many times and I took photographs back to the people we met the first time.
The image below is of a family in another little village. Actually I doubt that it could even be called a village. They lived in the small settlement of a ruined hacienda. The last time Ned and I went to the Yucatan in 2008, we tried and tried to find their house but a new road had been cut through the area and I'm afraid that it wiped out the little settlement.

I walked out of Banamex wanting to go back to the Yucatan and follow the maps in the guidebook that I used while I was working on the 16th Century photography project. What has happened to the old two-lane road that connected many of these churches now that everyone travels the toll road between Cancun and Merida? What do the churches look like today? Could I find some of the people that we met back in the 1990's? Could I find a driver? How long would it take?
Mmmm.....can you tell that a seed has been planted?
Back to Armando Salas Portugal and his trip in the Yucatan in 1946. This exhibition covers much more of the Yucatan than just the churches. It covers the beaches, Mayan sites just being uncovered, villages and people. Although I don't think that these are vintage prints, they are beautiful prints and definitely worth a stop in Banamex.