08 November 2011

Photojournalism Part 2: The People of Occupy St. Louis

In the week since I was there, Occupy St. Louis had significantly increased in size.  The bulk of the grassy area at the top of the plaza was blooming tents.  More people were milling about and up on Market St. holding signs.

Also during this week I’d realized that there was a sort of disconnect in society concerning the Occupy movement.  From the little I’ve found on my usual news outlets the general consensus from comments is that  many think that the occupiers are hippies and uneducated youth.

I wanted to know if this was true or not.  Now, I’d heard about the Occupy St. Louis group from a guy I work with.  Kaare is not a hippy.  He has a wife and a bachelor’s degree.  So, I went down to see if he was the anomaly or the norm.

In the middle of plaza, on the floor of the step-down, a make-shift stage was erected.  General assemblies were held in that area, as well as the free concerts put on over the weekends.  The stage consists of a repurposed shoe brand banner, a very minimal sound system, and some lighting.  Adjacent to this stage is the communications tent.  This tent houses a computer, printer, a router (or possibly a wi-fi extender), and some other electronics necessary to keep the group online.  It all has the feel of movie-style military headquarters tent.

Matt (left) and Kaare (right)
This is where I ran into Kaare.  He was chasing down trash and debris that was getting whipped about by the wind.  The group has been very vigilant about tidiness.  They’ve even set up a way to recycle.

Kaare and I work for an archaeological firm.  He moved to St. Louis from Minnesota.  Having been unemployed for about four months, he took the first call back he could get.  Luckily, his wife was able to transfer her position of employment down here too.  This all leads into his reason for being in the plaza, though.  He’s there because at the end of the month he and his wife have a hard time making ends meet.  They live simply, with minimal luxuries, and he feels that in this day and age two adults should be able to do better than that.  I asked him how his wife felt about him being downtown so much, as he’s at the plaza whenever he’s not at work.  She’s been very supportive, he told me, and holding down the house while he’s out.

The other gentleman in the above picture is Matt.  He works for the Falafelwich Wagon.  He’s been coming down to the plaza off and on since day two.  Note the bags Matt is holding in the picture.  Those are full of food.  He brings down leftover sandwiches from catering jobs for the food wagon because he feels that too much food gets wasted and so much good could be done with it.  He isn’t biased.  I had never been down there and when he approached us he asked if I wanted beef or vegan.  I declined, as I knew there were others that required sustenance more.  But, it was the thought that counted.  Matt attended Webster University and got a degree in Advertising/Marketing.  He’s been helping the group book bands and get people to run audio for the concerts that have been put on in the plaza. 

Conen was eating with Kaare.  He lost his job in May while hospitalized.  His employers considered it a “no call no show.”    He found out about the Occupy movement while perusing YouTube after he was released from the hospital.  He said he felt helpless not doing anything important like these people were and began to search for more information.  While searching Facebook he ran across the beginnings of the St. Louis group.  Unable to drive himself he chanced asking for a ride on the page and was promptly replied to.  That was the first of October.  He’d been living in the plaza since.  Today was the 16th.  He says that the experience has turned him around and made him want to be a better person.

Up on Market Street, I found the sign holders.  As traffic passed, the occupiers yelled replies of thanks when a car would honk.  Here I met Harold. 

Harold was a pipeliner.  He grew up on a dairy farm North of Hannibal, MO where he learned a strong work ethic.  He’s been homeless and unemployed for some time, now (he did not mention time and already seemed reluctant to talk to me, so I did not press him).  He joined the occupiers five days before and was adamantly thanking honks from traffic.

Matt (left) and Victoria (right)
 Down the street, I met Matt Ankney.  Matt is a fervent, knowledgeable demonstrator.  His cry of “Higher wages for all Americans!” resounded after the honks of passing cars.  He was happy to oblige my questions and then we carried on a discussion concerning the economic state of affairs in the United States along with his views and thoughts on how it came about as well as what could be done about it.  The notes I took from this discussion are extensive and I still have numerous things to look up. 

Matt is a freelance photographer living in the Central West End and has been coming to the plaza every day since day 1 (1Oct2011).  He’s out all day on the weekends and about three hours during the week, until he has to pick his wife up from work at a local hospital.  When she’s not working or she also joins him at the plaza and is constantly supportive of his efforts.  Despite his rousing, passionate discourse (as sometimes I find that such people can be stand-offish with others, especially with people who don’t know about their particular topics) he was a very friendly guy who was just happy to have a civil discussion.

Veronica Cook was standing with Matt.  She is a 54 year old commuting occupier and has been coming out to the plaza since the second day.  She said that she didn’t really start getting interested in politics until the W. Bush administration.  She started getting active by volunteering for the Obama campaign.  What brought her to Occupy was the fear that governmental aid would begin to dry up as finances were used up elsewhere.  Veronica is bi-polar and relies heavily on social security and medicare for her medication.  When discussing the movement itself she tells me that she grew up in the 70s and is reminded of the movements of that time.  She says that she’s given up on youth doing anything and has decided to do it herself.  She has two kids, both living near Occupied cities and they are very supportive of her actions.  She’s still trying to get them to go down to their own occupations.

I ran into Mike Diel on my way out of the plaza.  He isn’t from St. Louis.  He was traveling with friends from the Columbia, MO occupation and they decided to stop in St. Louis to show their support.  He’s hoping that people will become more active and start a dialogue with their government officials concerning what they may feel are faults or short-comings.

"Young Republicans"
As I was leaving a group of anti-protestors from a private school in Illinois showed up.  They were “young Republicans,” as a local news station called them.  What really impressed me was that when one of the occupiers disagreed with what these guys had to say and tried to get people to not listen to them by yelling and shouting for support, another of the occupiers railed against him and said that they should listen to them because they were discussing their differences and everyone should get to do that.

Here's some more shots from that day:

14 October 2011


In light of the Occupy Wall St. Movement and its nationwide expansion, I realized that I don’t recall a movement such as this in my lifetime. Sure, there have been anti-war protesters, but when aren’t there protesters during war-time? This feels different. There are so many people coming together from so many varied backgrounds and they all have different ideas and somehow it’s all funneling down into one unified voice speaking out.
As I am interested in photojournalism and street photography (and seeing as how I’ve never taken photos of a protest) I decided to grab my trusty 500 DTL and check out my local Occupy group.
I’d heard of Occupy St. Louis at work from a co-worker who is an involved activist with the group. It sounded amazing and every day I was unable to go down to Kiener Plaza I felt I was missing something.
I work a 9 to 5 and decided to go on a Saturday on the way to get groceries.
Perhaps I got ahead of myself. Some may not know what this Occupy movement is all about. Long and short: The group is against corrupt corporation and banking practices. This summation isn’t precise, I’ll admit, but here are a few links for further education:
It was early Saturday and the group looked to still be in the shadows of trees holding their morning general assembly. Since I shoot film, I decided to go down to the riverfront under the arch and do some of my usual photography. After about an hour of snapping street shots I headed back up and there were some people holding signs along Market Street.

Members of the group come from all walks of life. In my brief period there I got to meet Janelle.

Janelle is from the area and she and her children have visited the plaza for the last two weekends. They were camping out again this weekend. She discussed with me the importance of the movement between cheers at honking passers by (honking in solidarity to one of the signs another person was holding) and felt that a change needed to be made to the current system.
Standing there on the median, alone with her daughter, holding a sign that says unity; she appeared, to me at least, as a welcoming figure like a grand statue welcoming you to the plaza. Her sign, a warm beacon of equality assuring you that you belonged.

29 September 2011

More Caffenol! and Some News

Well... this one doesn't have nearly as many pictures as the previous one had.  In fact, this one doesn't have any at all as I'm tired and lazy. 

I did a roll last night that turned out, but with this weird spot where the dev and fixer did not go.  Because I decided to call an audible while loading the tank (and because I didn't have my ceremonial beer with me in the dev room).  I loaded the roll of film backward of what I had been rolling it.  Normally I roll it to the curve of the film as it comes out of the cassette.  So, it conforms to the natural bend of the film and will thus load easier... not sure why i turned it about, but I did.  Lost two pictures, not a big loss as they weren't the strongest of the roll anywho. 

Tonight I did a roll from my La Sardina (well Sardina 2, but Sardina none the less).  Did it the same ol' same ol' way and it turned out fantastically.  Was pretty much just a test roll, but there are some shots I would have missed had it not worked out.  I did have the beer and I did load it normally.

In other news!

So, I talked to my project director and he's letting me shoot on the site.  I let him know I'd be focusing on the people digging rather than the archaeology as we've got plenty of those types of pictures and I understand the sensitivity of the subject of personal photos.  Stipulations:  I was going to take off a few hours one day and shoot, he told me to fit it into my day, but my shots have to be available to the organization for their report and other publication uses.  I was fine with that as I'd planned on throwing that in anyways.  So, there's that.

Also, I'll be showing some pictures at a local gallery a few blocks from my house.  I met the curator during a street festival and we started talking art and then we met after and it just happened.  I brought some stuff of mine and he really enjoyed it.  I'll be showing in November (with an opening party in early Nov.) with two other artists.  Curator was really surprised to hear that I shot on film.  Was further surprised to hear that I developed my own stuff.  Granted some of the shots I'm picking aren't all self dev, some if not most will be.  I'm super excited and will have more info as it is made available to me.

Guess it's time for bed.  Lemon out.

22 September 2011

Fun with Caffenol!

Well, the gamble paid off.  I got the recipe right and have been successfully developing film for a few weeks now.  I'm a few rolls in, I guess.  Here's a sample from that first field test:

After this run I was so impressed with the results I decided to go again:

Took some more at a local street festival this past weekend that didn't turn out badly.  Haven't gotten a chance to process (resize and crop out scanning mask) those yet.  To now, these have all been shot on the Mamiya/Sekor 500dtl @ 80iso and meter. 

I just got a new camera from Lomography.  The Sprocket Rocket.  In comparison to the 500 it's very limited.  Single shutter speed, no film speed setting, 2 f stops for "sunny" and "cloudy."  So, I figured, it wasn't too sunny the other day I'd shoot a test roll and develop it at home.  So, I set it to the "cloudy" setting for more light and hopefully a bit over like the 80iso set.  I was pleasantly surprised with the results:

The first thing I did when I got the Sprocket Rocket was pull out the sprocket hiding mask.  I mean... why would they even send that with the camera?  Anyways, I was very happy with the outcome.  Granted, it's a little more foggy than I'd like; I can live with it, I think.

Now, I just have to mix my HC110 and get some more Tri-X.  Looking at bulk rolling The Tri-X rebrand and saving myself a couple bucks.  Just need to get that equipment.

Anywho, that's all for now.  Oh!  Meeting with a gallery owner about a possible show in November.  We'll see how this transpires.

01 September 2011


So, recently I've been completely obsessed with home developing.  More specifically:  chemical free home developing.  I found a solid caffenol site and worked on a recipe.  The first few tries were recorded in a notebook I've dubbed my Photography Notes notebook (where I will be noting everything I need to note photographically) like a mad scientist perfecting an experiment.  Well, that's what I was doing, really.

The Experiment

The first test roll was literally a full 36 exposure roll of Kodak Tri-X shot in the Recesky TLR.  That was a huge mistake.  Whole roll ended up completely overdeveloped.  But, the Recesky is also pretty fixed by way of apeture and shutter speed.  So, it could have been a bit under exposed too... we'll never know.  What we do know was that it was a failure.  But, I learn from my mistakes.

Next test was done with another roll of Tri-X shot in the Mamiya 500dtl.  Shot one pictre, same lighting and camera settings, 36 times.  Pulled one revolution in the tank spool from the roll and dev'd that.  This time I didn't make enough developer.  So, only half the negative was developed.  However, that section didn't look overdeveloped.  It was really thin, stainwise.  So, I adjusted for a third try.

The third Tri-X try was a success.  But, the image was... flat, I guess.  There wasn't much by way of midtones or shadow detail.  Afterward I did a little more research on specifically Tri-X in caffenol.  I found that there was a certain chemical missing that was required for the Tri-X emulsion blend.  Over the counter I would be ordering a dog sedative from Europe.  I said, "no thanks," and went back to the drawing board.

At this point I did more reading and found that Fomapan 100 was supposed to be an ideal film to use with this concoction.  So, I ordered a bulk loader and two 100' bulk rolls of Foma100 (the rolls were stupid cheap, 2 seemed right).  And that's when the magic happened.

Rolled out a 10 shot roll and loaded the 500.  First attempt wasn't bad, just needed some tweaking.  Adjusted the recipe and added a little time and this is what I got:

It's still a little foggy, but it has a definite texture/feel to it.  I'm really happy with these results, I think.

So happy, in fact I decided to gamble and run a roll through my Zorki 1 and develop it using the same recipe as the successful attempt.  Thus far it looks pretty promising.  It's hanging to dry in the bathroom as I type this.  Will scan in the morning and see if it will be feasible to run a roll tomorrow. 

Anywho, mostly I'm just running the materials for this little endeavor out as I've ordered some proper HC-110.  It's really cheap, at least as cheap as if not cheaper than the caffenol.  And, it's supposed to be more environmentally friendly than other developers.  So, that makes me feel a little better.   All in all, rolling my own rolls and developing my own film is going to cut my photography costs significantly.  Too bad I can't develop slide film as easily.  I've just gotten hooked on those gorgeous color shifts.

29 August 2011

Always Learning.

This past weekend I got to enjoy some quality shooting time with my old friend the Mamiya/Sekor 500dtl.  My wife and I went to the International Festival in St. Louis and there were just an immense amount of people there.

When I had time I found myself attempting to shoot like Winogrand:  I set myself up in a busy area and just stood there with the crowd moving and milling around me.  It was intense!  I felt so immersed in the people.  I tried to smile and make eye contact and hopefully keep a mug that would help people feel at ease and not freak them out.  I didn't get shouted at once, they just kept moving.  I got some weird looks, sure.  But, all in all it was event free. 

When I got home, though, I'd already begun thinking.  It was taking me far too long to find the shot, frame the shot, focus... focus... then shoot.  I'd preset my meter and stayed in an area where the metering would be ideal.  But, the focusing.  That's when I came across an article discussing the markings on a lens.  Now, I'd like to think I'm not some amateur jackass with a camera just pulling the trigger on anything... but, I guess I sort of am.  I don't have a formal education in photography, but I'm trying to increase my knowledge. 

To the point, though.  I learned, just last night, that I can overcome this focusing issue by finagling the aperture and film speed settings on my camera just so to produce a very wide zone for my focal depth.  I did not know.

This information would have been nice this past weekend.  But, I learned and hopefully at the Japanese Festival next weekend I will be able to utilize the information and take better pictures. 

The afore mentioned roll of film has not yet been developed, will post pictures later this week.

05 August 2011


Have you ever wondered how to get a picture like this?

Better yet, have you ever wondered how to shoot a picture like this?

Well, I have your answer.  Those little spots at the top and bottom of the image are called sprocket holes.  You'll find them on any of your 35mm rolls of film.  Typically an image will fall between those holes as they're more for function.  The sprocket holes are for advancing the film and keeping it on track within the camera.  But, some cameras are designed to keep the film on track and advancing but still allow you to shoot an image across the entirety of the film.

The Sprocket Rocket is a panoramic camera that shoots to the sprockets.  The Lubitel 166+ is a medium format camera with accessories that allow it to shoot 35mm film.  But, due to the nature of medium format the 35mm film shoots to the sprockets.  (These great cameras and others can be found at the Lomography site)

Now, for the second question.  For more information on how to shoot pictures like these:

Check out Lomography's new site!

02 July 2011


So, despite my previous thoughts of meeting a deadline and devoting more time here; I did not.  That deadline flowed into another and well... long story short, I'm doing my best.

DIY!  Yes, I've been doing it myself.  Had a few attempts at Caffenol developing of black and white film in the downstairs bathroom.  First with Kodak Tri-X, but with minimal success.  It seems to really achieve the shadows and midtones of the film's emulsion I'd need to order a dog sedative from the UK which well... isn't going to happen.

So, I took DIY even further and decided to start rolling my own rolls of film.  Got a bulk loader and 200ft of expired (2009) Fomapan 100.  Dev'd a test strip this evening and it's drying in the bathroom.  Negative looks a little thin.  Thinking a bit more coffee and the full 15min vs. the 12min. I went with, since I'm stubborn and I know best... sigh.

Looking at getting the DigitLiza for scanning sprocket shots.  Figured out the clicks for the Yashica 44a and may start shooting with it more.  But, w/ this new found information I have images much too close together to fit a bit of tape between them.  Hopefully I'll be able to do the same w/ the Comet.  That one has no click, though, so it may be a bit more difficult.

Have also been looking at new cameras (as this is a horrible horrible addiction and I just can't stop myself).  Thinking the Sharan 135STD pinhole and modifying the image mask to shoot 35mm squares to the sprockets.  And a 127 film folding camera for mas sprocket action.

Getting excited about Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park this month.  Should be lots of people to take pictures of.  Ordered a bunch of street photography books from the library to study up and just immerse myself in the style.

Anywho, back to the heating pad and bed.  My back is creaky tonight.

01 July 2011

Oh, Responsibility.

We've finally met our deadline at work.  Which means I'll hopefully have more time for here.

That's not to say I haven't been taking pictures.  Oh yes.  There are rolls upon rolls of film.  There's so much to say, too!  Reading Old Man and the Sea, discovering new ways to shoot with the 500dtl, reading about Winogrand.  So much.

This was just a short note to say hello and to let you know I'm still here.

24 May 2011

Busy Busy Busy!

Have been busy of late.  Hustle and bustle and all that.  Got a few rolls of film done since we last spoke.  Will only include a few samples here, but will link to my Lomography.com site at the end.

Samples from black and white:

Here's some from another color roll (fuji 200):

And here's a couple from a DIY redscale roll that Victoria made for me:

Now, on the last two rolls there I'll be rescanning the negatives myself.  I learned something at my local lab this week and that is that their machines (no matter how big, expensive, and fancy) aren't that great.  I may have to go back and scan all my negatives (let's face it, i'm a crazy control freak, i'm going to scan my all of them myself) to see what all is missing.  But, on these last two rolls there's shots cut off and shots completely missing.  So, these were the best i could get out of those.

I learned this from a guy named Jim that works the counter at my Walgreens lab.  He actually was kind enough to let me come behind the counter to see what was going to be scanned.  It was a learning experience.  He was also the first person to participate in my new photo project.  Since the Diana Mini will shoot half frame, I decided to load another roll of Kodak TX-400 and shoot in half again.  But, this will be very specific pictures.  I'll be shooting "mugshot" style shots of people.  So, i'll take a head on shot, then take a profile (turn to your left).  Not sure what I'll gain from this endeavor, but my biggest gain from this will hopefully be mustering the courage to ask others if I can take their picture. 

As promised, here's my lomo homepage.  Also, will be getting an article published through them this week.  More piggies toward my sprocket rocket! 

11 May 2011

The Click

The last time I shot film was in 2002.  Since then I progressed through increasing megapixels, culminating in a 12 that I tried to create lo-fi-esque photos with.  I only ever shot with the pinhole "format."  It's a special setting under the "magic filters" of the Olympus SP600-UZ.  I photochopped them to have vignetting and cross-processed like looks.  De-saturate for age and filter for texture. 

Then, I discovered lomography.  These plastic cameras that create something wholly unique.  What you see in the viewfinder is not necessarily what will come out in the print.  What you see with your own eyes may not be what comes out - light leaks and double exposures and splitzters and the dreamy look of a plastic lens capturing life.

I bought my first lomo camera (Diana Mini).  I shot my first roll (Fuji 400 exp2002).  I shot my second roll (See first roll). I ordered a 2nd camera (DIY Recesky TLR).  I built a camera (Pinhole).  I'm eying more.

After that first roll, my wife and I discussed this phenomenon and what it all meant.  Why was this more fascinating?  Why was I so engrossed?  obsessed?  And it hit me.  It came to me as if in a dream.  Call it clarity:

Film is visceral.  Film is tangible.  Digital is instant gratification.  It's pristine, glossy, hospital steralized, perfection.  It beeps when it's done.  Automatic.

The sound of a shot.  Click!  The shutter, violently thrashing within the body.  Capturing the essence.  "Taking" the picture in that it takes something - grabbing it and pulling it inside.  That sound is like magic.  It's satisfying and refreshing.  It assures me that something happened.  I don't have to look at the screen to know that the shot happened.  The click tells me so.

Gears ticking.  When you advance the film you know it's moving, working.  You hear the sprockets rolling, physically spin the wheel yourself.  Sometimes I like to slowly advance the film tick by tick just to hear it.  It's reassuring knowing that there's more on that roll of film.  The tick, a whisper in my ear - encouraging.

The anticipation.  Some people like to shake their presents before Christmas.  I quite enjoy the wait.  Not knowing what will turn out and what won't.  Thinking back, considering if I focused properly or if I left the shutter open too long.  Imagining what the images might look like.  Trying to remember what the hell I shot... 

Thank you camera.  Thank you you wonderful thing.  Thank you for allowing patience in this mad-dash, two sheets to the wind world.

08 May 2011

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Need to send off the B&W roll.  That means going to Fairview and that would require putting on pants, effort... the lot.  It'll have to wait for the weekend.  Shot a roll of new Fuji 200 at the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis on Mothers Day.  Got some really great shots and miraculously every shot turned out.

I know I said all the shots exposed, but these were the keepers.

In other news, I'm on the brink of finishing my first pinhole.  Used a build write up from Chris Keeney, inventor of the "Mintycam" and will hopefully finish it tonight.  This experiment could go one of two ways.  Hoping for the positive.  Ordered my Recesky TLR and it should be here in time for the wedding.  Looking at the Sprocket Rocket or the Supersampler next.  Two completely different cameras with completely different final products.  Also on the wishlist is an Epson Perfection 40.  Not exactly "analogue," but as I primarily upload my images and seldom print them out it works.  As well, Victoria has gobs and gobs of negatives she'd like to digitize for keeps.

Anywho, that's that.  Going to load and prep my tin pinhole and will post the photos as soon as they're developed.  Then, I'll post photos scanned with the scanner we get, as the shots should go to the sprockets, but the 1 hour place can't scan past the sprockets.