Friday, April 8, 2011

Wrapping up 1st Year

So, I went out on my last car ride of the semester on Saturday April 2nd with another professor at the University of Windsor, Julie Sando. I had a studio visit with Julie approximately a month and a half ago when I was just getting started with this project and she had offered to take me over to Detroit once the weather got better - Saturday turned out to be that day. We left the Lebel building around 2:00pm, and as we drove to the Detroit Windsor tunnel, one of the two access points, we discussed what we would tell the border patrol about our reason for going over. They tend to interrogate, so a simple reason is usually best, like going to a bookstore, and then out for dinner, which is the answer we gave.

But instead of going to a bookstore, we immediately got on the I-75 and continued driving until we reached 11 Mile Road. Julie said that this was an important part of the interstate in her opinion because it is where Detroit city limits end and Royal Oak begins. After passing this point the houses tend to be in better shape and most of the interstate passes are steel and painted, instead of chain link fence. Since we couldn’t just pull over on the side of the interstate, we took the next exit and parked as close as we could. From here, getting to the best possible shooting location involved hoping a couple fences, and crossing the interstate at two locations. But it was totally worth the effort. It was actually quite peaceful hanging out on that little hill, listening to cars, and shooting photos.

After going back over the fences and interstate, we got back in the car and headed towards Mexican town to the Hotel Yorba, on Lafayette Boulevard. The hotel was made famous by the White Strips song, Hotel Yorba, and Julie said she hadn’t been here for a long time and wanted to show it to me. Jack White grew up in Detroit, and apparently in this part of town, explaining why he used this location in one of his songs.

From here we headed into the heart of residential Mexican town. We stopped at some beautifully painted houses, and got out for a walk. On our walk, we came across a wedding that was going on, and more importantly, a mechanic shop, which I took a pano of.

We were both pretty hungry by this point, so we went to a small restaurant where they were cooking chickens on an outdoor grill. It was so cheap, and really really good! After eating, we went for another walk around the neighborhood and stopped in at an amazing Laundromat. It smelled so good, there was great music, and plants everywhere. I felt like I was in a tropical paradise!

From here we were getting ready to leave, but first we decided to stop by Detroit’s abandoned train station, also known as Michigan Central Station and then the Imagination Station.

While in the area, we also walked to Michigan Avenue, a street I have been eyeing up every time I come to Detroit to shoot. Finally as given the opportunity to shoot a pano of it…

We were both pretty exhausted by this point, so decided to head back to Windsor but instead of taking the tunnel back, we crossed over on the Ambassador Bridge. At immigration, we stated we had been over for 5 hours, and declared our leftovers. It’s always easier getting back into Canada, then leaving.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Reminiscent Sunday

This past weekend I only had one shooting excursion scheduled. Kacie Auffret, an undergrad from the class I am assisting in, set me up with her mother, Celeste Pare. This is the first “blind date” that I have been set up on, so I felt a tad anxious. Celeste was so sweet though, my anxiety was gone within minutes of meeting her.

One of the first places she took me to was just down the street from where I live on Sandwich Street. On our way there, I was initially feeling a bit disappointed because I have ridden my bike up and down this street so many times. But then we pulled up to a building that she said used to be a Hi Ho Drive-In fast food restaurant.

“These restaurants were original fast food drive-in restaurants in Ontario. The Fortin family asked for and received permission from Walt Disney Company via a simple letter, to use the trade marked Seven Dwarfs and the Hi Ho name for their restaurants. No lawyers were involved. The Fortin’s received permission within a few weeks in early 1934.”1

Celeste was born and raised in Windsor, and worked at this particular Hi Ho as a teenager; so it was really great to listen to her reminisce about Windsor when it was in its prime. It was a beautiful day outside, but unfortunately the building was engulfed in shadow. Now that I know what this building represents, I have full intensions to bike here on my own one day to photograph it in better light.

From here, we drove to another place that I have ridden my bike past, but which I have had no reason to connect it to the auto industry. This is an area just past Sandwich Town called Brighton Beach, and it is where Celeste grew up.

“Over the last decade the area has been slowly decimated by the City of Windsor, who have been busy buying/expropriating all the homes in the area. Initially the plan was to turn the land into an industrial park, but smart money is on this area being the home of the next Windsor-Detroit Bridge.”2

We first had to ask the security guards if we could drive into the old area, which is now mostly made up of empty lots where houses once stood. He told us that it was now crown land, and they didn’t want people dumping, but Celeste explained our situation and we were cleared to shoot some photographs. I took a panoramic of the lot where her parents house once stood, and in one corner of the photograph, the Ford Nemak Essek Aluminum Plant can be made out. From here we continued on to LaSalle, where I reshoot the Canadiana & Auto Museum of Essek County, one of the locations that Mike Marcon had taken me to a few weeks earlier. I am confident that this will make a much better panoramic then on the previous date.

On our way to LaSalle, Celeste began describing here two first loves to me. First, was her horse, and second, her Mustang. After describing my own love of horses, and how I had taken lessons for a few years, she continually pointed out areas where she used to ride when she was a kid. She even invited me to go and check out a holding pen with her, a spot where she is considering keeping a horse that she is hoping to purchase in the near future. I agreed, so after taking a portrait of her car at Ojibwa Park, we went to have a look at the stable. The smell always brings me back to when I was a kid…

From here we headed back to Lebel so she could drop me off, but before she did, she gave me a few photographs of herself with a replica of the Mustang that she had once owned that she had taken at a car show in Detroit. All in all it was a fantastic two hours. This trip really made me realize that I must solicit more people who were born and raised in the Windsor/Detroit area to take me out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another week goes by...

This past weekend was another successful outing. But before I get into details, last Friday, March 18th I had a studio visit with Scott McLeod, the director of Prefix Photo Magazine. I have to give a big thank-you to Amanda White for giving me her slot because she thought it would be more suitable for me as a photographer. Overall, the visit went really well, and he had a really positive attitude towards my current direction that my work is moving. In fact, he even asked me to send him an image to keep on file. But with every visit comes some criticism, and his main one was to stay true to realism, or in other words, avoid as much distortion as possible due to the panoramic process. Yes, yes Bryan you were right… I have to admit it.

Later that afternoon I was scheduled to go for a motorcycle ride with Zeke Moores - one of the sculpture professors at the University, but we were both busy so decided to reschedule for Sunday morning as the weather was still suppose to be nice. So when I showed up at 10:00am, I was a little bit groggier then usual as it was a Sunday. Zeke seemed a bit apprehensive that I would be able to hold my own, and I’m pretty sure he told me about 3-4 times not to lean with the bike, and to hold on so I didn’t fall off. But fair enough, as I’ve never been on a motorcycle before.

After driving down Huron Church Rd. to get gas, I’m pretty sure to take me on a trial run to make sure I wouldn’t kill either of us, we headed towards the core of Windsor, Ford City. Our first stop was Drouillard Rd, at the International Tavern. Professor Rod Strickland recommended Zeke take me here because it is the bar that would become filled with autoworkers in overalls leaving the Ford Plant at shift change. I like the fact that you can see the Ford Power House in the background, one of the locations that Tokio had taken me the weekend before, and the mattresses in the upper windows of the building.

After taking a pano of the International Tavern, we drove to Richmond Street, once the industrial centre of Windsor, including motor vehicle and parts services. Here I shot a pano of some of the old buildings that once serviced the auto industry, but now lay in rubble after being torn down. Zeke, and his partner Lucy Howe, once had a studio near this spot on Walker Rd and Richmond Street, but it was destroyed in a fire, an occurrence that seems to happen regularly in the area.

It wasn’t a long drive from here to Central Avenue, another area of town that services the auto industry. The one building that stood out the most here was the yellow building of Central Stamping - a metal stamping manufacturer. I shot a pano of it, and the yellow building against the blue sky created great contrast. Having been out for 2 ½ hours at this point, we stopped at Taloola Café to get a coffee and warm up. It was right near here that I took a portrait of Zeke’s motorcycle next to an old abandoned building, with half of the windows broken in it, that apparently had once been an art studio. We then headed back, and although the coffee warmed me up a bit, I was still pretty chilled, and this was apparent as people in the Lebel building kept commenting on my blue lips.

I had about a ½ break before Cyndra MacDowall, one of the photography professors at the University picked me up to go out. I have to say, the heat of the sun in the car was really what I needed to warm up, although it did take about 2 hours to get all the feeling back into my hands. We immediately headed out of town on Walker Rd. Cyndra is doing a series on salt domes of Windsor, so we were initially searching for a new one she hadn’t seen before. It was located just outside of the township of McGregor by the Sutton Creek Gold & country club. Cyndra took some images of the inside of the dome, but we decided to stop here on the way back to shoot the exterior in the hopes that the light would be better. I did take a portrait of her car at this location though.

Maybe a kilometer from here, we came across ABC’s Auto Recycler Lot. This was the lot that Jim had mentioned, the guy that Natalie Sinn and myself came across at his shop ABC Auto Parts near the airport. Although he had said that if I wanted to shoot anything of his I needed his permission, I ignored this comment, and trespassed to get a pano that I am quite happy with.

From here we continued driving south, and stopped in the town of Harrow for a bite to eat and have some tea. It was getting late, so we headed back towards Windsor, but did stop at the salt dome to take some photographs. That evening, Cyndra made me dinner, in return for me helping her with some computer software. Again, good conversation were had throughout the day with both Zeke and Cyndra that otherwise would not have occurred within the confines of the Lebel building.

On a side note, a few other things that occurred later this week were a visit with some students from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Although this was a group of metal smiths, they brought some interesting ideas about my work to my attention. One being that my work does not address the auto industry, but car culture. I’m still not sold on this idea, but something to consider. I also had a studio with professor Jennifer Willet, and her main concern was my idea of mapping. I agree with her on the fact that right now it is not resolved enough to be considered part of my body of work, and maybe it never will be. It may just be my process of gathering images when all is said and done.

Finally, there was been an article recently published about my show at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon in Verb magazine, and written by Meagen Thomas. Although the article is written very well, they cropped my image, and I am struggling with this. Was it wrong of them to crop my image without my knowledge? Should I address this issue with the editors? Or just ignore it and let it be… hmmm

Article, and Uncropped Image:

Article, and Cropped Image: