Mark Hahn Photography

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Category: Arizona

Ramblings About Photography and A Kodak Retina

Me With a Kodak Retina Ib

So taking a somewhat winding road to get here, and shooting everything between small format film (Minox and 110) and large format (6×9 120 and 4×5”), I am back to shooting 35mm b&w film in a big way. I’ve always contended that 35mm wasn’t the best film format, but that it probably was the best compromise format optimized for practicality, size, and quality. While I was concentrating on my Leica IIIf and Red Scale Elmar, this camera developed a capping issue (even though I recently had new curtains installed in it). After I sent the camera in for further adjustment, a pushed ad from usedphotopro.com (highly recommend!) popped up hawking a Kodak Retina Ia for $37 with free shipping. Since I’ve also been getting back into biking, a quality small inexpensive pocket camera seemed like a good thing to add to my collection, so I ordered it.

When You Keep Passing the Same Place, It Either Means You Are Completely Lost Or You’re Already There. Kodak Retina Ia, f11

It’s not perfect, but after cleaning the lens and viewfinder it’s been a mostly reliable camera. Quality of the photos are easily on par with the Leica–no surprise since both are products of fine German engineering and optics. Unlike my Kodak Retina IIa, the Ia has no rangefinder, but instead is only scale focusing (guess), but stopped down, I haven’t spoiled a photo yet because of bad focusing. Also, I am finding the simple viewfinder without integrated rangefinder lends itself to concentrating more on composition. This made me realize that one of the first things I was taught when I started studying photography–that you needed an SLR for serious work–was definitely wrong. The reason given (aside from no parallax issues) was that you were looking through the taking lens. Unfortunately, as a young student, composing through a wide open lens with shallow depth of field made everything basically look better and almost magical while composing, but in ways that didn’t automatically transfer to the prints you were going to make in the end. The distracting bits that were hidden in the blur were often way more evident in the print, or on the other end, important details were less sharp than you expected. All of this works itself out with experience, but the same can be said for a rangefinder camera.

A Lonesome Déjà Vu. Somewhere in NM. Kodak Retina Ia, f11

There are many different types of shooting, and when I was shooting more portraits back then, I would use long lenses with fairly wide apertures for a classic shallow DoF look, but for maybe the last 10 years, I’ve shifted much more toward deep focus landscape/scenic photography, so a simple Galilean viewfinder gives me a much better view to compose from than that of a shallow DoF SLR with a fast lens. Parallax is only an issue with close focus, so rangefinder/viewfinder cameras really are not an ideal choice if this is what you need to do, but I find this limitation, more often than not, forces me to take better photos because I retain context.

The old adage (attributed to Robert Capa), “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough” can be taken to extremes and when you put a nice macro lens on my camera, I often end up getting closer and closer and ending up with mostly (interesting?) abstracts. Nothing wrong with this, but personally, I’m looking to build my abstractions and art on top of and from contextual reality. Kind of similar to my personal philosophy for getting by in life—don’t deny reality, but find the magic within it and in spite of all the imperfections.

Study in Grays. Kodak Retina Ia, f11

One thing I noticed getting back into film work is how much film prices have increased over the last ten years that I have shot (color!!!) digital exclusively. Tri-X is now nearly $10 a roll for a short roll and this is starting to seem prohibitive to me so I started looking for alternatives. In medium format, I had been primarily shooting Fomapan 100 (mostly because it is the only film I can read the numbers through a ruby window) and I was getting fine results. Fomapan is a fine film, but for the speeds, it is a bit grainy from what I’ve seen. Then I read about Kentmere Pan 100 which is made by Ilford (really!) and decided to give it a go. It took a few tweaks from what is published in The Massive Developer Chart before I was happy with the results, but now I am consistently getting stunning results using it in Tmax Developer 1:9. I’m finding Kentmere Pan 100 for around $75 per 100’ roll, which ends up being less than $4 per roll when I bulk load. With my quality Russian made steel re loadable cartridges, the added effort is minimal. The new plastic ones from Adorama and B&H are garbage.

This Path Doesn’t Lead Anywhere. Kodak Retina Ib, f11

When I was younger, I always shot 400 speed film, “just in case” I needed those two extra stops for handheld shooting, but now, I feel the much finer grain that can be had when shooting 100 speed film is much preferable. It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the aesthetics of Tri-X in D-76, it just means that what I’m shooting now benefits from the finer grain and smoother tonal gradients from a finer grain film. I also shoot much less candid “people shots” and prefer stopping down and using a tripod for my low light work instead of trying to get away with a 1/15th or 1/30th low light handheld shots. For most people, even 1/60th handheld, while “acceptable,” is really not ideal for image quality. I believe Ansel Adams once said something like, “If your lens isn’t sharp enough, buy a tripod.”

Waiting On the Wrecking Ball. Kodak Retina Ib, f11

Another reason I am loving these little Retina cameras, other than size, absolute quality, and low cost, is because they are one of the few pocket 35mms that are fitted with a 50mm lens. By the end of the 60’s, pretty much every quality fixed lens small camera had a 35mm lens (Contax, Minox, Olympus, etc.)! This is fine, and I know many people prefer them, maybe more than those of us who like a 50mm field of view, but for me, I find a 50mm lens ideal for a one focal length solution. 35mm lenses always feel awkward and sloppy to me.

Aside from the rangefinder versions of the Retinas (II, IIa, IIIc, and IIIC) which have an f2.0 taking lens and an integrated rangefinder, all the “lessor” models have some form of a Tessar lens (Kodak Ektar 50/2.8 or 50/2.8 or 50/3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Zenar lens are the most common). Tessar lenses are known to give very good results when stopped down a bit and by f/8, I cannot see any corner lack of sharpness or vignetting at all on images from any of my Retinas.

Grain Elevators – Conway, TX. Kodak Retina Ia, f8

Tessar lenses just have a wonderful classic look to them. They aren’t magic, but instead just look right to most people. Perhaps it’s the fact that many many famous photos have been taken with Tessar lenses. Many early press corps used Rolleiflexs or Speed Graphics fitted with a Tessar lens and while most people don’t look for lens signatures, they do seem to subconsciously notice them. We see something enough and it becomes something we expect to see. For 60-70 year old lenses, these are quite fine performers.

Aside from the Kodak Retinas, other pocket 35’s with a 50mm lens include the Barnack Leicas when fitted with a collapsible Elmar lens, and other folding cameras like the Balda Baldinette, Welta Welti, and Voigtlander VITO series of cameras. There are others as well, but somehow, the German made Kodaks excite me the most, and except for some of the rarer ones, all are basically the cheapest. The Retina Ia that I have represents about the cheapest Retina you can get, rarely going for much more than $50 for a fully working and near mint copy.

Every Sunrise is Followed by a Sunset as Every Happiness is Followed by Its Own Hangover. Kodak Retina Ia, f11

Regarding pocketability, life changes when you have a real camera with you at all times. I don’t like walking around with a heavy full sized camera slung around my neck at all times. It gets in the way and it actually starts hurting my back after a couple hours, but shoved in a pocket, my Retina never gets in the way and is always ready to capture something that strikes me as remarkable. Someone in one of the forums I often post my photos to commented that they liked how I “document the things everyone passes by everyday, but doesn’t notice.” I don’t really think I’m a documentarian, but more an artist creating something from what I see, but since photography is rooted in (trapped by?) reality, I think it is more seeing something that offers potential to convey an emotional message and capturing it in the best possible way. You don’t have to travel around the world to do this, you can even find things to shoot in your own back yard. The biggest challenge is translating the emotional content onto the film while managing all the imperfections and awkwardness of reality.

Sometimes It’s Hard to See Past the Moment. Kodak Retina Ia, f11

Depending on how you look at it, all Retina cameras are fully manual, even if it is one of the newer models with a builtin selenium meter, which is good, because it is always a crapshoot whether an old selenium meter will still be functional. It also avoids the problems associated with specialty or impossible to find batteries. I could say I was a purist and won’t shoot auto exposure (only) cameras, but I’m not. If someone like Minox had made a camera like a GL with a 50mm lens, I would love to shoot it. Even though you dream up situations where the focal length limitation would impact what you’re able to shoot, one of my fundamental thoughts regarding photography is, “There are infinite photos to take, so don’t worry about the ones you can’t take.” Focus on what you can create with the gear at hand.

That Boat You Stashed in the Bushes, Many Years Ago, Thinking It Would Be Your Way Out of Here, Isn’t Taking You Anywhere Today. Kodak Retina Ib

For those that have noticed that I haven’t been keeping up on my blog here very well, part of that is because I have gotten much more active on Instagram. If you are over there much, check me out and follow at http://www.instagram.com/markhahn_art_music/. I am very actively posting there (almost everyday).

Bench. Kodak Retina Ib, f11

The Omicron Set – Or How I Ended Up Falling In Love With a Kodak Tele-Ektra One 110 Camera

It began on a Saturday, even though I was unaware of what was happening to me, but I went to a favorite thrift store and started feeling peculiarly detached. I ended up digging out this very plain and common Kodak 110 camera. Even though I have shot the higher end 110’s in the past like the adorable Pentax A110 SLR and the stellar Rollei A110, I never bothered with the bargain bin 110 cameras like this one. So why was I fixated on this homely and low-spec camera? I really couldn’t tell you, but here I was snapping the shutter and playing with the film sensor to see if I thought I could get it to work with some reloaded film.

For those unfamiliar with the way 110 film works, frames are pre-burned into the film and small notches are cut out for the film advance sensor to feel when the film is aligned in the filmgate. While it presents the reloader with some difficulties, as a simple system meant for easy to use and cheap film cameras, it really is fairly ingenious. Because of this feature, many 110 cameras cannot easily be used with reloaded cartridges because the film lack lacks these notches. But playing with the film sensor, I was reasonably sure I could get the camera to work without the notches.

I suppose part of the allure this camera had was that there was absolutely nothing special about it in anyway and it didn’t even have the pretension of being a crappy “toy camera,” (letting me pretend that I was relying on the “so bad it’s good,” shtick). While no photo enthusiast would consider this camera a serious tool, probably many millions of consumers bought the camera for capturing important personal events with. A quick internet search tells me that the camera sold for $32.50 when it was released in 1980—that means it cost around $117 in today’s dollars! And here I was wondering if the camera was worth the princely sum of $3 which is what it was marked as. I was thinking it should have been priced at $1!

In my fixation with this camera, I estimated that the aperture was around f11 and the camera was fixed at somewhere around 12’ to nail the hyperfocal distance. I also guessed that the shutter speed would have been optimized for ISO 100 film and good light. Thinking of the shots I am mostly concentrating on, this seemed like it would cover maybe 90% of what I am shooting, so I took the camera home with me. While technical details are somewhat sketchy for this camera, one site lists the aperture as f9.5 with a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. This is close enough for ISO 100 film and Sunny-16 conditions and gives a little leeway for shadows. I’m guessing the focus is closer to 10’ as subjects at infinity are pretty blurry, even if only intended for a 4×5” print size.

So by the next day, I was feeling much more sick than the day before and it was definitely something I couldn’t ignore so I took a rapid COVID test, but it came back negative. Since Delta had already ripped through my house and I didn’t get it, I figured between my vaccines and exposure that I was probably somehow immune. I stayed home in bed sick and the only thing I managed to do was to crack open the old 110 cartridge that came with the camera and reload it with some slit down Ilford FP4+ b&w film. The bigger trick was foiling the camera’s film sensor. I was able to accomplish this by simply jamming the sensor in and to the side and forcing it into place using a flat toothpick (then snapping it off as pictured below). The only real subtlety was that with a single advance, the camera cocks the shutter and locks the advance, but has only actually advanced the film a little more than half a frame. My workaround is to advance once, cover the lens, fire the shutter, and then advance again for the actual picture taking shot. You lose some frames doing this because of the spacing, but it works.

Modifying the Kodak Tele-Ektra One Camera For Shooting Reloaded Cartridges

Aside from having the normal 22mm lens, the biggest feature for this camera is that it has a builtin 2X tel-converter (hence the “Tele” in the name). I haven’t tried it since I’m not using the camera for portraits, but I’ve seen some examples online that look fairly charming using it.

Waking up Day 3, I was as bad as the day before so I decided to go to Sprouts, our reasonably priced natural foods market, for some herbal remedies. I always joke I spend too much money on their curatives just for the placebo effect that I get from them (whatever works, right?). But being in an altered state and still being fixated on nothing but this camera, I decided to take it out and try to shoot a test roll. I knew of a block or two that I pass all the time that looked like it would offer some photogenic opportunities, so I parked and slowly stumbled around in my near delirium shooting photos here and there wherever the light seemed interesting. The camera performed flawlessly! Below is a selection of the first roll taken with this camera. I love the edge effects and the overall feeling the photos have.

By the nighttime, it turned out that one of the two people I gave this disease to tested positive for COVID. Then I took a second test myself and I also was positive. Crap! I followed CDC guidelines from then on, but I felt pretty bad for giving it to at least two people, and maybe more. The good news is that we are all doing fine now and have all mostly recovered. The only real thing I’m holding onto after getting this disease is this set of photos and this oddball little camera. Not too bad a price to pay for something that has pretty much impacted every aspect of all our lives for the last two years.

Having no control over any settings seems like a limitation, but if you are like me and are shooting in good light (and when isn’t it good light in AZ?), a fixed focus camera setup for 12’ and Sunny-16 conditions can let you do almost anything. The simplicity can be very liberating. Also, the simple design makes this camera very reliable. I bet you could drop it off a cliff and when you pulled it out of the dirt at the bottom that it would still work. Also, no batteries to worry about! Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Kodak and other manufacturers used some now impossible to find batteries (have a source for 4v K batteries anyone?) or require the dreaded mercury cells to work properly.

The one secret way to get a little adjustment out of the camera is to trick it into thinking it has a Flip-Flash attached to it. There is a little pin in the flash attachment socket that drops the shutter speed to 1/60th when pushed, so if you cut down a piece of wood or something to push this pin down, you could get an extra stop for shooting in lower light or shadows. I haven’t tried this yet because I haven’t needed to so far since the camera already over exposes by around 1.5 stops from Sunny-16, but for full shadow though, the lower shutter speed would probably be helpful.

I was showing my film student son some of these photos and asked what he thought (worth pursuing or just a waste of time) and he mentioned Gabriel Figueroa’s contention that deep focus was inherently a “more democratic” representational strategy than one reliant on montage or selective focus because it gave the viewer a choice. While I had rejected selective focus (bokeh driven) images some years ago, I had never thought of it this way (and am embarrassingly unaware of Figueroa’s work!). Seems like an interesting way to view this. Regarding being worthwhile, my son thought the images definitely worthy of pursuing as a side project, so now I’m in the middle of a whole series of photos based on this camera.

Alley Shots – Leica IIIf, Elmar RS, on Tri-X

These images were all shot with my Leica IIIf and a Red Scale Elmar lens. Both are approx. 70 years old. While the Elmar has a real following, I don’t find it to be magical or even that special, but it is quite capable (giving an antiquated rendering) and most importantly, makes the IIIf so compact that when the lens is collapsed, that it is truly a pocketable camera. The film is Tri-X developed in Tmax and scanned with a Plustek scanner.

And just to illustrate how compact the IIIf with Elmar package is, here is a snap shot of it in my back pocket:

Some New Model 150 Polaroid Land Camera Shots From Around Town

I’ve been taking the Model 150 Polaroid Land Camera out with me when I’ve been shopping and doing errands. You never know when you will find an interesting environmental emotional study that needs to be captured. Once thing I like about shooting sheet film cameras with paper is that you can shoot a single image and then quickly develop just that one image without much effort. Here are a few recent shots taken with my modified Polaroid Camera on Fomaspeed Variant 311 RC paper and developed in Tmax 1:9. Many people claim this paper is super fast (for paper) and can be exposed as ISO 25 or 50. I’m finding that the best I can do is ISO 6 at midday and ISO 3 in the late afternoon (including a yellow filter).

A Small Office Park – Seen Through a Kodak Bausch and Lamb Rapid Rectolinear Lens

So I’ve taken out my Burke and James 4×5″ Orbit camera into the more urban setting. This time fitted with my Kodak Bausch and Lamb Rapid Rectolinear lens. It is much brighter than the Kodak meniscus lens and a bit sharper in the corners and edges, but still not exactly up to modern standards. Again, I was shooting Ilford MC RC paper rated at ISO 6 (developed in Kodak Tmax film developer). Of the four shots I took in this small office park, these three were exposed pretty perfectly. A fourth was under exposed and couldn’t really be rescued. It is quickly becoming apparent that paper negatives are very sensitive to any under exposure. I’ve been using my Sekonic Twinmate meter for all my shots to try and get more reliable exposures.

I’ve shot all these photos with the lens set to f32. Stopped down this far and shooting after 5:30 pm, gives very long exposures–these mostly around 4 secs. On a windy day, like this one, you can see a lot of motion blur in the trees and foliage. I think I like this effect.

Between the motion blur, the paper negative giving a more old fashioned orthochromatic film look (being mostly sensitive to blue light) and the hundred year old Rapid Rectolinear lens giving a less than sharp image from corner to corner, these photos have what I think is a somewhat unique (and might I add, “romantic”) look.

Burke and James 4×5″ Orbit View Camera, First Impressions and a Few New Photos

Taking the Burke and James Orbit out for a little alley shots. I have it fitted with Kodak meniscus lens. Shots are all done at f32 on paper negatives (rated at ISO 6). I’m starting to get used to shooting this giant old beast! Though it is hard not to make occasional mistakes (such as: forgetting to close the shutter before pulling the dark slide, forgetting to stop the lens down before shooting, or pulling the rear facing dark slide instead of the forward facing one!) I’m sure I’ll make other mistakes as time goes on, so good thing paper negatives are cheap and nothing I shoot is ever really a “once in a lifetime” shot! I’m happy when I get a good image.

The low end hundred year old Kodak lens is pretty adequate for these large negatives so long as they aren’t enlarged too much and you aren’t too critical of the corner sharpness. The lens has a pleasant look to it, but for my next shots, I’ll be trying out a Kodak Bausch and Lamb Rapid Rectolinear lens, which is supposed to be much better (especially based on modern expectations) even though it too is another hundred year old lens.

Franka Rolfix Photos

mh_franka

After cleaning and adjusting my 1940’s Franka Rolfix folding camera, I took it out for a spin in the alley behind my local Ace Hardware (where I had to stop and buy some household stuff). The camera is about as small and pocketable as you can make a 6x9cm folding camera and a real joy to hold and shoot. The popup optical viewfinder is pretty bright and pleasant to use for framing shots. A camera like this is best suited for scenic shots and not for close ups because of the viewfinder has no parallax correction and lacks any kind of focusing aid—IE. you have to guess your focus distance. The Prontor-S shutter in mine is very crisp and accurate, even though somewhat limited. The Schneider Kreuznach 1:4.5/105mm lens is a fine coated lens—nothing special, but not a bad performer anyway, especially when you take into account the huge negative you get out of the camera.

You only get 8 exposures from a roll of 120 film with this camera, which doesn’t seem like much, but on the other hand, it forces you into giving your shots a lot more thought before pushing the shutter release! Unlike shooting with an iPhone or digital camera in general, other than the cost per shot, there’s also just the labor required for processing the film (especially if like me, you are doing the developing yourself).

franka1

While it has really been years since I’ve done traditional darkroom work, I still remember how much I hated getting behind with my negatives. For instance, when shooting 35mm film, just two long 36 exposure rolls sitting in your camera bag could represent many hours of work. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I prefer going into the darkroom and only working up a few good prints. My plan for 120 is to shoot maybe a roll every week or two and then make prints from the best shots only.

Making prints first turns everything I’ve been doing for the last 20 years on its head. With digital or scanned film before that, the internet ports were mainly my “product” and then getting prints to match my virtual images was a secondary challenge. Early on, I explored exotic and experimental archival b&w printing, and after that, while embracing the world of color photography, I gave up home printing altogether for the repeatability (and mediocrity) of using a pro lab. I can’t say I ever hung work in a gallery that I wasn’t proud of, but the prints were still secondary.

franka2

The three example shots here are the result of my third attempt to reacquaint myself with working in a darkroom. It’s amazing how much you lose after twenty years of disuse. These are scans of carefully printed contact prints. I am very happy with the feeling and quality. A traditionally printed contact print has a much different—and dare I say, “special” —quality than a digital print.

After making these prints, I showed them to my son and his girlfriend. His girlfriend’s immediate reaction was, “Wow! Look at all the detail!” Kids these days see almost everything on the internet, their phones or maybe digital prints. The tonality and detail in a medium format chemical print is at whole different level (not really captured here!). I was happy to hear her reaction because otherwise I was doubting whether it was real or if it was just me romanticizing the history of film photography.

franka3

The reason I’m only posting 3 prints from my first roll of film in this camera here is because the latch on the camera is a little touchy to ensure that it is locked and while out shooting and midway through the roll, the back swung wide open in full sunlight! I won’t let that happen again! I think I was lucky only have lost three exposures.

There was one additional image that I probably could have included, but I somehow didn’t really connect with it, so I left it out. There was only one “bad” shot and that was because it was slightly crooked! Commiting to full-frame contact prints means the shots have to be composed perfectly in the camera!

These were shot on Ilford FP4+ film, but I plan on transitioning to Fomapan because I cannot see the new light grey numbers on the Ilford film through the ruby window.

I’m shooting more film in this camera currently, and have another 120 6×9 roll waiting to be developed that I shot in my Moskva-5.

The Blurry Line Between Then and Now – My Work in Solar Culture Gallery

After helping my mom sell her house in Michigan, I drove her old station wagon from Detroit to Tucson. Since Detroit was my hometown and this time was probably the last time I would ever be there, it was wrought with emotions and the 2000 mile road trip by myself was time for reflection. Due to timing, I was unable to get anyone to make the trip with me so it was almost downright sad. Just me and my little Recording King parlor guitar. I had broken my phone somewhere a long the way and I ended up liking the blurry photos that came from the camera and its broken lens so most the photos I took along the way were shot with the phone.

blurry line-2

These are from the set of photos I’m using for the cover of my next music CD (Forever and Nowhere) which I wrote and recorded entirely on this trip — sitting at the edge of some bed in a nondescript motel in the middle of nowhere. After completing the final mixing mastering of the 10 song album, I’ve decided that even in its spareness and rawness that it is perhaps my favorite. It’s just me, a small guitar, trucks roaring by and single takes of songs written in my head while driving. I think the whole thing became very beautiful and hypnotic, the words, the music and the photos.

I am showing these three new photographs in the gallery:

Come see the show if you are in town!

Opening Saturday 18 February 2018

6-9 PM

Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 East Toole Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701

All images and content copyrighted 2018 by Mark Hahn with all rights reserved.

Black Cat Crossed My Path

I’ve been down this alley in Miami, AZ many times before. There’s something about the vitality of the structures here that are simultaneously at the edge of collapse while being completely beautiful and full of life that I find comforting. It is the kind of place where I can imagine finding some alternative dream life in and where I might make one of these buildings into my home?

black_cat-16

Then a feral black cat crossed my path. I am superstitious about nearly all random occurrences, but I’ve never thought of black cats as bringing bad luck. More than anything, I somehow always relate to them, thinking that if I had the opportunity to return in a different form, that my choice would be to come back as a cat. The black cat I saw, was a little female and very timid. She looked at me before scurrying off between some metal garbage cans and a brick building.

I thought that if I lived on this alley, that I’d feed this little cat. Maybe she’d get tame enough to let me pet her before she’d dash away into the night. Just a pleasant chance meeting. It’s funny how sometimes it’s just the smallest fleeting moments that make you smile and happy.

While the pressures and responsibilities of my real life weigh on me daily – parenting my three children and shouldering the financial responsibilities that goes with that – sometimes it’s just my ability of imagining some carefree alternative life that gets me through the week. Maybe, if I was just an odd-ball artist living in one of these old buildings, I would find peace. I was never cut out for the pressures and responsibilities I have taken on, but all I can do is the best I can while I keep moving forward.

At this point, I also wonder how I’d manage if the pressure were suddenly removed. Would it feel like freedom or would it leave me lost? You get so used to a constant load that you can’t imagine it being taken off you. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We all put ourselves where we’re at by our actions, either consciously or unconsciously.

I have a lot of friends talking about early-retirement, what they plan to do when they are free from their jobs and how they feel like they’ve already worked too much and need to quit it all. When they ask me what I’m planning, I have to just honestly say I have no idea what I’m going to do or when. I’m just getting by week by week. The only reason I had to get my “day-job” was because I had kids and afterwards, things went pretty wrong in my life — not that I’m complaining, but they did. My kids are everything to me and when I finally depart from this life, I want them remembering that I was always there for them, emotionally and financially. That’s what keeps me working.

Maybe that’s why it’s so important to let myself dream of alternatives. Give myself small mental holidays from the stress and pressure. Dream about living on the edge of society, in a dirty industrial brick space with a steal door on an alley like this one in Miami, AZ. Dream about being the weird/friendly artist/musician crazy-cat-man.

But maybe it’s not the actual escape that’s important, but the mental one. The times to live a daydream. Think about the unreality of some alternative life. Maybe that’s ultimately where art, music and writing comes in. It provides the structure for emotional and mental escape from the day to day. Maybe it’s the spirit’s way to create balance in ourselves. No matter what, I find ways to create. I’ve just sent out the final draft of my third photo/essay book, From the Inside – The Forest Haven Asylum, which should be released shortly. I’m also working on the final production of my sixth full length music CD, Drive All Night, and I have numerous other creative projects in the works. Maybe it’s not about how good your life is, but how good the escape is. Maybe art is better when it’s the escape and not your life. I really don’t know any of this…

But as I watched this little black feral cat disappear between the trash cans, part of my inner spirit went with her. Part of me dreamed of being that little cat. Experiencing that total freedom. Another part of me appreciated that I could just experience seeing her and think about how it would be to be free.

And just because everything always connects… here’s a recent song I recorded about a lost cat:

The Possibilities are Endless – Benson, AZ

possibilities_benson-11

The sun was going down on Benson when we stumbled on this little row of very old houses just beyond the railroad tracks that cut through town. It was impossible to tell if they were being torn down or being prepared for restoration. There were burned out foundations on the block and a pile of adobe bricks which looked like it had previously been a house. I shot off these photos in around ten minutes while the light held out.

Even though a few of the houses were wide open and we could easily have walked in, there was a cop circling around watching us and it was too dark inside to take photos anyway. I looked in some of the broken windows at the dark rooms inside and kind of liked being on the outside looking in, in a sense, it lent an abstract aspect of infinite possibilities for me. Of the shadowed interiors, I let my mind wander on what they could be.

As a structure, an old house can stir a feeling of new beginning or a place where you can write a fantasy destination onto the end of your life. New rooms and new situations can be found in the corners or shadows in these old houses. Perhaps, there is place where all the struggles and memories we’ve stored up in our minds can find a place to rest with us in one of these houses.

Houses all have their own personality. It comes from the basic architecture of the structure, the lives they’ve lead and the spirits who still linger — call them ghosts or whatever term you chose. My feeling for these houses were all very positive and I could imagine myself living happily in any of the smaller ones pictured. They’re only one block away from the locally owned ice cream parlor! The possibilities of finding a new life here would be endless. Those are good thoughts!