Sunday, December 21, 2008

Garage Flag

Strongsville, Ohio.

Off Season

Before Eisenhower approved the national system of concrete arteries for moving the military around the country, travel by car took place on a network of regular roads with intersections, lights and traffic. Much slower than booming down the endless freeway. Motels proliferated so that Mom, Dad, Buddy and Sis could pull in for the night and continue on the next morning. Before Interstate 71 became the primary north-south highway through Ohio, Route 43 was the main stem for travel between Columbus and Cleveland. This lovely artifact is near the border between Strongsville and Middleburg Hts., formerly outlying regions but now part of the exurban sprawl spreading from Cleveland.

Clearly much has changed since it first opened. I found three recent reviews online, one of which was favorable. The other two were not, which made me sad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fly Away

The commercialization of the toy camera movement has resulted in some rather mind-boggling boondoggles, the latest of which is pictured above. The Blackbird Fly twin lens reflex camera is aimed directly at the checkbooks of the Lomographists who are happy to shell out big bucks for marked-up Holgas, ersatz Diana clones and the very limited, one-note Lomo fisheye camera. The Blackbird Fly, or BBF as it's currently being marketed by Japan's Superheadz, however, is in a class by itself, retailing for $120US. Instead of 120 roll film, this overpriced Harajuku bauble shoots 35mm film and provides for three image sizes: square, rectangular, and a full-strip exposure that extends the image over the sprocket holes. There's a sluggish plastic lens, pictogram range focus and two aperture settings: cloudy and sunny.

Online comments about the Blackbird Fly run to the ecstatic, though it's not clear if all members of the amen corner are actual users. Almost everyone compares it to the Rolleiflex, which is categorically correct (yes, it is a twin lens reflex camera) but qualitatively silly. A better comparison might be to the execrable Seagull, a $100 Chinese TLR best known for breaking after the second roll of film. I imagine the BBF is sturdier than that, though the Seagull most likely has a better lens.

I can't imagine what demand this item fulfills. There's no advantage to the TLR format when shooting 35mm, and the negative seems a little small for a low-resolution plastic lens. It's a high price for a bit of vignetting and a sketchy image. I'll continue to bring out my modified Holga (relatively cheap at $40, including modifications) when I want the low-tech look.

There's also the far more affordable option of creating low-tech images with old thrift store cameras. I picked up the plastic camera pictured below for $3 at a thrift store in Dunedin, Florida. The images are pretty good (it was not a cheap camera for its time, retailing for $44 in 1957), and it's an exercise in toy-style shooting, with its approximate range focus and "exposure values" instead of F-stops.

And of course you can't beat the rudimentary images you get from these throwaway, focus-free shooters, found on the crap shelves of thrifts everywhere. Note the price on the one on the left. Below, an image from the Bell and Howell. Just as delightful as the images from the expensive poseur prop.

Frankly, I'd rather spend the $120 on processing and printing film.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Light Zanging Freely

Light zanging freely among the elements of the uncoated 85mm Agnar lens on the Agfa Isolette I, a German post-war folder from 1950, which was also marketed in the United States under the Ansco brand.

Old Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Superior Avenue.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Three Rivers

A visit to Pittsburgh, July 2008. Segway rental customers.

Canon XSi.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

East 55th St. Church

Canon XSi.


Driving down Brookpark Rd. in search of easy weirdness to capture with the lens. A landscape of small industrial facilities, honky-tonk bars, sad empty motels, "gentlemen's clubs," adult bookstores and farm-sized car dealerships. Easy pickings by any standard, and I found myself disinclined to capture very much of it. Had to stop and circle back, however, when I spotted this. Parked between tractor trailer rigs at a trucking weigh and wash.

The truck wash was open and running, but it was a Sunday afternoon, and there was neither a truck nor an attendant to be seen. I parked two doors down and strolled over. I blush to admit I was too timid to climb into the cockpit and snap a few images there. Felt certain someone would come out and arrest me. A fear hangover from adolescent trespass fun. Next time?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Under the Kilt

August, 1968, Scotland, by Loch Lomond. I was 13 and part of a choir tour of the Isles. Taken with a spring-driven Kodak Instamatic bought especially for the trip. A stop on a bus tour of the Highlands. At the time, I was slightly perturbed by the two women, and similar thoughts were expressed by certain members of my family. "It would have been a very nice picture if the old ladies weren't in it." Now I think that their presence is what makes the photo work. I love their conspiratorial intimacy, and the unwavering concentration of the bagpiper. And most especially the beautiful faded color.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Penitentiary Glen

An unexpectedly warm Saturday in November and a late-afternoon run out to the former Halle family estate, now a sprawling park near Kirtland, Ohio. Dubbed "Penitentiary Glen" by early settlers for its deep and rugged gorge -- like prison, easy to get into but difficult to get out of.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Hallow's Eve

An annual display at a big old house on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Hts. Fog, booming narration, colored lights, strobes, a heart-stopping emergency horn sounding at random and zombified attendants. Skeletons everywhere, climbing the house, leaning on the fence, playing cards. Headstones with hands clawing up through the earth. The devil in a blaze of red fan-driven tissue-paper flame. A hanged man wrapped head to foot in a sheet, a strobe light imparting a twitching life to him. They spend over a week putting it up. In the daylight, it looks rather wan and incoherent. It's the nighttime effects that knit the presentation together. While we were visiting, a boy about eight or nine years old walked in bravely with his father, but it wasn't long before we heard the cry, "Dad, let's go!"

Even with a monopod and an ISO setting of 1600, it was difficult to capture these without some sort of camera shake, exposures ranging from a half second to over two seconds. "And no photographs taken with the aid of a flashlight either, if only out of respect for the actual light -- even when there isn't any of it." -- HCB

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hospital on the Hill

My friend PZ, who always has her radar on alert for thrift stores and rummage sales, came across this abandoned hospital while looking for a sale at the center for aging that fronts the campus. A little digging revealed that this was a U. S. Marines hospital built to replace an 85-bed facility that had become inadequate in the years since it was established near Cleveland's lakefront in 1837. In 1919, through an act of Congress, nine acres of land overlooking the city from the east were secured for the hospital. The neo-Georgian buildings were designed by architect James Wetmore, and the hospital officially opened in 1930, with a staff of 15 doctors, 42 nurses and 72 attendants.

By 1953, the hospital was serving a diminishing number of patients, and Congress voted to close it. Through 1983, it functioned as a psychiatric hospital. After standing empty for four years, the hospital was redeveloped as a collaborative facility with a focus on aging. The buildings behind the main structure, however, remained empty and deteriorating. There seems to be some renovation of the largest structures, though what the ultimate purpose will be is not clear. Fencing, hard hat signs and construction dumpsters attest to the sort of work being done.

The central of the quad was given over originally to tennis courts. Now it's a grassy expanse with parking for employees at the aging center and a half-court for lunchtime hoops.

The campus stands on the site of the estate of Cleveland beer tycoon Otto Leisy. The brick mansion, with its winding driveway from Fairhill Road, came down in the late 1920s, but the two-story wood frame stables remain, and are kept in admirable condition. It appears that they're still in use, as rental units for the community, though what's actually behind those doors is anyone's guess.

The original main hospital building, with facade-destroying connector to modern addition. Other additions to the rear of the building were criticized for failing to harmonize with Wetmore's plan.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

4 PM Twilight

Sandusky, Ohio, December 2007. Zeiss Contaflex, probably Ilford Delta 400.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

East 55th Street Grocery

A brief shot in the film "American Splendor" shows Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar walking past a grocery store on East 55th St. in Cleveland. The side of the grocery was painted with these images. On a recent drive past the long-closed store, I saw that the wall had been painted over. I took these photos in 2005.

Canon EOS Rebel, Fuji Reala ISO 100.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Demolition Moon

Replaced by yet another Cleveland Clinic parking garage. Didn't notice the moon to the right of the crane until I printed the image.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dark Season

Fugitive days.

UPDATE: This classic sign is now gone. Noticed its absence on 12-30-08.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miscellany Project

More film that had been sitting around unprocessed for ages.


Frozen in bronze and recruited to sit at the gate of a suburban housing development, miles from any water, fresh or salt.

Near Mentor, Ohio. Canon EOS Rebel, December 2006.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands

August 1968, St. Elphin's School, Matlock, Darby. A week-long Royal School of Church Music course.

Your correspondent among the English kids. Those who know me as an adult will have no trouble spotting me as a youngster.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expired Film

Kodak Portra 160, a couple of years past its expiry date, unprocessed for a year and a half after exposure. No red spots or other old film horrors, just a nice faded look, like photos you might find tucked in a book at a thrift store.

Tremont neighborhood, big Mamiya C330S, 55mm lens.

Bill Blasko's Adopt-a-Building Program

Still standing, amazingly. Actually, it appears too solid to come down on its own. A construction guy working on the Euclid Avenue corridor project told me it's probably too expensive for the owner to demolish. When the city decides it wants the land, eminent domain will come into play, and then the wrecking ball will swing.

Expired Kodak Portra 160.

UPDATE 2009:

The wrecking ball got it. Now it's just an open field, with little chance of anything else replacing it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Images oubliees


A visit to a suburban cemetery in the plush bedroom community of Beachwood with the big, weighty Rapid-Omega 200 and the 90mm Omegon lens.

Couldn't ask for a more cooperative autumn day, an exhilarating mix of rain, sunshine, dramatic clouds and the last days of colorful leaves.

I imagine it was all farmland when the cemetery was established; the suburbs flowed out and around it after World War II. At least two Revolutionary War veterans are buried there.