Urban Inspiration

Walk around any city & you’ll find public art. Some statues or murals may be commissioned or you may see the work of an illicit painter’s creativity. Even some marketing signs have an artistic flair. Whatever the intent, these visual distractions can make a mundane environment more interesting.

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The symmetrical sharp shapes of these windows with multiple panels are softened with the colorful arched design that surrounds them. The static pattern of bricks has almost disappeared into the background with the outlined form of columns. The artistic accents incorporated onto the basic form of the structure add to the character of the old building while giving a hint to what is inside.

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The sides of buildings where a parking lot has been squeezed into the empty space provide an opportunity for many types of murals. Usually work done in these spaces provide vivid color to an otherwise drab wall.

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Statues of Ancient Greece represented gods while some rulers hoping to immortalize themselves had their likeness carved in stone. In this country many of our civic monuments pay tribute to important individuals. No form of art is ever static. In the recent past objects, forms & surrealistic sculptures began to appear in public spaces often representing ideas. Empty Suit by Erwin Wurm in St. Louis fascinated me. Humanity has been removed from a typical form on a pedestal & the color demands your attention.

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Not to far from Empty Suit I found a sculpture commonly know as Hollow Head or just plain Head. I later learned its official name is Eros Bendato sculpted by Igor Mitoraj. Initially I enjoyed the absurdity of the work but discovered that Eros is the Greek God of love & desire. By making me smile when I first saw it & later thinking of what the artist may have been saying, this public art did it’s job.

05 copyWhile this wall in Mostar, riddled with the bullet holes, is definitely not the work of an artist. It does speaks to me in a more powerful way than any urban environment I’ve ever been in. During the war in Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990’s, this city, which had been a beacon of coexistence between a cultural, religious & ethnic population, was laid siege. Centuries of cooperation & tolerance eroded into an atmosphere of distrust & anger. It is a constant reminder of the the lasting scars from the savagery of war.

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Translation…I am Fidel. My trip to Cuba was 2 months after Fidel died. One of Castro’s last wishes was for no monuments to be erected in his honor to avoid a cult of personality. The few murals I saw were of faded revolutionary icons. During my 2 weeks on the island I saw very little graffiti. I found it odd that with Cuba’s rich artistic culture I did not see more art in public places. 07

The attempt to brighten up an alley in downtown Denver with a dramatic work of art seemed like a good idea. However, the alley will always be a place for garbage dumpsters. The stark reality of the graffiti tagged container defines the superiority of function over form in this environment.

08This mural alongside a parking lot in the Strip District of Pittsburgh is also an advertisement for the business inside the building. Getting your attention is a shared goal of art & marketing. Both the design & the message are simple. In my mind’s eye that harmony helps to make it effective without being offensive. It also has balanced proportion with the cars in in front of it.

09Anyone with a bit of technical knowledge about video will immediately associate the color bars in the mural with TV. The iconic Apple logo requires no further explanation. Yet again it is on a wall beside a parking lot. In this case, the enormity of it with the stark design I find irritating. I’m not a graphic designer but somehow I think Apple could have used the space with a more creative brush. Just because it looks good on a monitor doesn’t always translate to the environment people will see it.

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On Beal St. in Memphis businesses uses unique signs to get tourists attention to lure them in & spend money. A clever name or a creative sign are the norm. One sign that grabbed my eye was the Pepsi Sign. The artist credited is Mark Davey. I can’t say for certain but this seems to be his unique expression of creative promotion not a Pepsi campaign.

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It’s no surprise that in the digital era urban art now includes video sculptures. At Millennial Park in Chicago, Crown Fountain displays dynamic images along with LED lighting presentations. The 50 foot tall screen can be overpowering when it shows the faces of about 1,000 faces of people from Chicago. The images of the faces are not static. Periodically a stream of water will shoot out of the subject’s mouth. From the appropriate distance it speaks to the diversity of humanity.   Hopefully it will never be used for advertising. In my opinion mediocre art is superior to most marketing eyesores.

Frozen Music

Music is a fluid & linear art for the ear. Live performances add emotion, theatrical visuals & a communal experience. Capturing a musical performance is better suited for moving pictures with sound. Stills only capture a glimpse of a musician or document memories. Maybe my ears override my eyes & this is why it is a genre I’m not very good at. I would appreciate tips from anybody that is both a photographer & a musician.

b Crew Butchers

While I enjoy a spectrum of music I never have been big on going to concerts. This performance of the “b Crew Butchers”, co-workers, enjoy making music as a diversion from traveling making live-TV. Poolside of SB 50 was indeed a good venue. It also shows what I consider most performance videos miss…the two-shot. Most films I see  use to many CU’s of hands & individual musicians. I enjoy a deeper visual story with interaction of the performers & occasionally with the audience.

DEN music 069

Street musicians are a wonderful part of the urban environment. At the 16th St Mall in DEN I could always count on interesting “relativity” shots. The constant flow of pedestrians is an interesting thing to watch. Here I was able to combine music, street photography & people on their phones. A three-fer! At first the coffee woman was not part of how the crop. After exploring options, I decided the face-less individual was indicative of the rhythm of the street. And, you gotta love pinky cup.

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This is another DEN “relativity” shot. I wonder if after making a withdrawal people feed the violin case? An element of street photography I look for are signs and their juxtaposition with the environment.

Ladies Night

One of my most recent explorations was to hear a group called Ladies Night featuring an all female horn section. The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has a name to long, and a performance venue in the basement to small. However the sound system was GREAT. The sightlines/lighting/clutter for photography were terrible but the musicians and the mix for the room were spot-on.  If the women couldn’t play the “All Female Horn Section” might just be a gimmick. They can play! The entire band is tight & balance songs with emotion that fills the room.  I would love to listen/see to them in a bigger venue where they could let loose.  I sensed that this horn section could really wail.  I would also love to get a 3 shot of all the ladies.  I did a little post on this shot.  Trying to balance that line of altering vs improving.

Geno Delafose

It was later in my life when I discovered Zydeco. As soon as I heard it I needed to experience it live. With roots in the bayou, it was easy to discover a home in MSY called Rock n Bowl. Unfortunately it took me 20 years after I found out about it to go there. The city of New Orleans is rich with music & Rock ‘n’ Bowl should be a part of any music lovers trip.   If there is any doubt about the happiness of Zydeco just look at the smile on Geno Delafose. There is much room for improvement in my photography but the smile is all I need to trigger the memory of this 2nd gen accordionist. You can find out more about Gino at http://www.genodelafosemusic.com/

NO shadow

NOLA SBXLVII The Musco lights creating this shadow of the violin player were on Jackson Square for one of the many “satellite remotes” CBS had for the game. I have always liked the qualities back-light has on a subject & it appears the musician is savvy enough to find the spotlight. Over the years I’ve learned when there is strong hard light look to include shadow as part of the image.

Elvis 069

Since this post is titled Frozen Music a snap of a statue somehow seemed appropriate.

 

 

 

Vertical eyes

For most of my career I worked in 3×4 then 16×9 horizontal video.  So my vertical stills are an evolving perspective to translate from eyes to mind & then to camera.  I have realized that sometimes the subject screams vertical.  This stop on the NFL tour had whispers of Stanley K.

Hotel Verticaal

I used a 30th of a second at  low aperture with the ISO cranked up.  I would have loved f22 at 250 with 1000 ISO & full frame but that wasn’t going to happen.  Both vertical & horizontal cropping are simple tools I use to emphasize what drew my eyes to the subject.  The cropping was a step I had planned when I snapped & the end result was as I expected.  However, the noise/grain of high ISO gave an accent that adds a texture quality I surprisingly like.  

My travels doing sports broadcasting took me to many hotels.  None had any courtyard or atrium as nice as the Brown Palace in Denver.  However, it has the slowest most inadequate elevator I experienced in over 30 years of traveling.