Friday Night Gallery Opening

A few weeks ago I talked about going around to the Open Studios on Cherokee Street and one of the places we stopped was a gallery space called Ft. Gondo. At the time the gallery featured an amazing assortment of found objects, antiques-art etc. We picked up a postcard for a gallery show happening Friday night, and as part of our goal of getting out and involved in the art community we went. And had a blast.

This community of artists is all about putting work up and throwing a party around it. We were told by several people that everyone into getting their work out there. Which says something about the community as a whole. It takes a lot of nerve to put your work up on a wall and invite people to criticize it. However, the vibrancy of this group of artists makes me want to see more and more art, and it also makes me want to work harder so that I can show them my work too.

There were a lot of people at the opening and (after a couple glasses of jug wine) Xina and I got up the nerve to start talking to people. And the really excellent thing is that everyone is remarkably friendly and seemed pleased that we were there on our own, not just because we knew one of the artists. We ran into new friends that we’d met at the Open Studios and became better friends with them, and in turn they introduced us to even more new friends. Xina and I are very excited. Social contact! With real live people!

After several hours of chatting in the gallery, the party rolled outside to the street, where everyone hung out drinking cheap beer on the sidewalk. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but seriously, I love the fact that this city is casual enough that the cops allow a peaceful gathering of people drinking on the street without getting all fussy about open container laws. I guess the other theory is that the cops have greater things to worry about based on some crime stories we heard that night. Interesting side note: people rarely talk about crime in New York in anything other than an abstract way. Here the crime is a bit more real for some reason.

Eventually we moved the party up the street to a Mexican bar which oddly was converted from a German bar without much decor change and was amazing. I loved the discordance of a mural of the Alps along one wall with a broken neon Corona sign on the other wall. Also carpet in a bar. Crazy concept. Anyways, we spent the next couple of hours getting to know our new new friends, and then to top the evening off we all went down the street a bit for a midnight rummage sale that someone was throwing. Love it!

It was one of the best nights out Xina and I have had since we arrived in St. Louis and we would like to thank all of the wonderful people that welcomed us into their circles. We hope to see all of you soon!

End note on the photographs above: I’m STILL trying to make my bulky G9 useful, and have found that I like making B&W images from it, and I like using the craptastic viewfinder rather than the LCD mainly because I like shooting with the camera on my eye, not at arm’s length. I’m enjoying the crazy unpredictability of the images that I’m getting using this shooting method. An interesting fun fact I discovered about the camera: when you shoot in B&W mode, the camera still captures the image in color, retaining all three channels of info. Basically this means that you can preview the images in B&W on the camera, then treat them how you want when you process them. I find it helpful even though it’s just a preview/review function. I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of this camera, although I’ve spent two years trying and only have a smattering of good images to show for all my effort with it. Also, I suck at snapshots and documenting my own life (I don’t want to miss reality while hidden behind my camera lens, I’m not that type of photog) but I want to work harder at shooting when I’m out and about, especially with friends. It doesn’t make much difference now, but it will when I’m older and looking back at the images…

Printed Images from the Past

A few years ago before I was making a living making photographs, I was packing up my apartment in anticipation of our move from my tiny studio to a much larger tiny space on the Upper East Side in New York. Xina was away for a conference and I was left alone for a few days to do the packing. I was having some issues with “stuff”. Whether it was the fact that my 250 square foot studio was crammed full of essentially two apartment’s worth of stuff, or whether it was just pre-move jitters, I went on a tear through my apartment and threw out a ton of stuff. Now, had Xina been there packing with me, she would have stepped in with the voice of reason and stopped me from making the more egregious acts of short sightedness. Specifically, she would have stopped me from throwing out all of my film negatives and most of my collection of vintage and toy cameras. To be clear, none of these things had any monetary value – I didn’t toss out a vintage Rolleiflex or anything, but still, I would kill to have my 1970s polarioid back and the 120mm box cameras I had several of.

In truth, I think I had a moment of insanity with the negatives. I even managed to block the fact that I’d tossed them into trash bags from my mind, and it wasn’t until I’d looked in every possible spot for them a few years later that I remembered my mistake. From a historic and nostalgic standpoint, it was a huge loss and I still feel like an idiot. While just about everything is gone, I came across an envelope of prints from that time period and luckily there are a few gems in there. The one picture that I’m most happy to have a record of is a picture I took of my then-girlfriend’s cat Gunther jumping for a toy on a string.

I also came across a few tortured angsty pre-facial hair self portraits and still life photos. OMG, I was, like, SO depressed and emo back then. I’ll spare you most of them, but here are a couple to give you the idea. (Although I’d be willing to bet that “OMG” was not part of my lexicon back then).

Somehow I managed not to throw out all of my art supplies and equipment from around the same time period, something I am grateful for now that I am stretching my creative legs, shaking out the stiffness and getting back to the business of making art. I am absolutely loving discovering myself creatively again and all the stuff that I didn’t throw out.

Running Shoes, Bail Bonds and Firecracker Press

1. My Running Shoes Loves My Feets

I just got some new running shoes! Finally. I am at least six months overdue and my feet thank me. We also had a break in the humidity the last few days, so Xina and I had a fantastic run (for me anyway). We did just under 5 miles in 45 minutes, which for me is super great. I’m generally a three to four mile runner, so anything over four miles to me is great, and I was even able to finish the run at a nice, not-quite-sprint speed which felt really good. I give the credit to the shoes and the weather, but hopefully I’ll be able to at least complete the same long run once or twice a week. I feel much stronger than when I arrived (and I think running in the insane heat and humidity has made my body stronger too). The other running news is that Xina is going to sign us both up for a Race (capital R) next month. It’s a 5k, so a perfect distance for me, but I’ve never competed, so I’m betting I run really hard the first mile then collapse. I’m going to make sure that Xina trains me a little between now and then.

2. On Making New Friends

We are in a new city, we don’t know many people yet, and frankly we are starving for friendship. Xina and I have spent a lot of time together, but we are looking for new people to hang out with. Last weekend we met some great people at the Open Studios and we are determined to keep the ball rolling. While we both do pretty well in social situations with strangers, we are not accustomed to simply walking up to people and making friends. We have made a pact to be open to everyone we talk to (and this being the midwest, that has proved to be much easier than it would be in New York).

We headed over to Benton Park on Saturday night to the Venice Cafe which is another art-installation-as-entertainment venue and is super cool. The entire structure is a 20-30 year long sculpture project made up of found objects, recovered architectural accents and columns and amazine tilework. We spent some time talking to the owner and I tried my first Stag Beer (for $1.50, can’t go wrong) Then the somewhat rowdy group people at the table next to us invited us over to their table to hang out. Turns out they are from St. Charles, and they had lots of advice about St. Louis for us, such as which airshows to go see, etc. One guy talked my ear off with all sorts of outlandish stories he’d heard about driving big rigs through New York. They were super friendly, and the woman who invited us over to the table in the first place gave us her card when we left and told us we should all hang out and have a barbecue. Turns out she is bail bonds woman who’s business card asks “Got Your Booty Locked Up?” Would we go to a barbecue hosted by this woman? You betcha.

3. Lumberyard Release Party: Firecracker Press

After our evening at the Venice, we headed over to the release party for the Lumberyard, a poetry and design magazine printed by Firecracker Press. Firecracker does some amazing design work and printing – it’s a great shop with a lot of great work. We spent a few minutes talking with Eric the owner who is a really cool dude. I’m thinking my next set of business cards should be letter press.

We picked up a copy of the magazine which is rockin as well as this kickass print. Very very cool.

Open Studios in Saint Louis

This weekend, the lady and I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon exploring the studios of local artists in Saint Louis. The Contemporary art museum here in Saint Louis sponsored the 5th Annual Open Studios, which showcased lots of artists in the area. Since we are new here, it was really great to get out and talk to the local arts community, and I am always excited to see other people’s work spaces.

In addition to meeting great people and seeing some crazy wonderful art, we also had the opportunity to explore other parts of the city. Obviously Cherokee Street was the big draw for us on Saturday, having not ventured over there previously. It was very exciting. We are definitely going to spend a lot more time getting to know the local art scene although being new to Saint Louis I felt like much of the afternoon I should have had a sign around my neck that said “Will You Be My New Friend?”

Back To My New Home

I just got back to Saint Louis from a last minute whirlwind trip to New Jersey and New York for a photo shoot. It was the first time I have been back to the east coast since we arrived in Saint Louis, and it certainly was an interesting experience for me. It was great to be back in the NYC, area especially on a gig – it is always great to be working. The shoot was in New Brunswick, so I flew into LGA and drove a rental to Jersey on Tuesday night, woke up very early on Wednesday morning for the shoot, and then managed to swing into Manhattan for a very short visit Wednesday afternoon. I got to see a few of my friends and have a few drinks at my old local. I even ran into one of my other friends who I hadn’t expected to see while in Union Square while I was eating a Salty Pimp ice cream cone from the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. A city of 8 million people and I run into someone I know an hour after I get there. Go figure.

For all the friends I didn’t get to see: I’m sorry I missed you and I will try to have a little more advanced warning the next time I come into the city so I can plan meet-ups with all of you. I miss you dearly and can’t wait to see you again.

Studio Windows at Sunset

It was kind of a surreal experience, going back to the city as visitor for the first time, and not as a resident. In a lot of ways New York will always be “the city” in my life, no matter where I live, but being tossed back into if after a prolonged absence gives me a little bit better of a perspective on how the bewildered tourists feel. After the relative relaxed lifestyle I’ve enjoyed in Saint Louis, the first couple hours in Manhattan were stressful and shocking. The people, the noise, the speed. Even though the heat and humidity are similar to Saint Louis this week, it seemed hotter on the teeming avenues as I inched along in my rental car trying to get to the rental agency to return it.

Returning the car was the first step to getting myself normalized as a New Yorker again. It wasn’t long before I’d re-acclimated and was squeezing onto the 6 train at rush hour and dodging traffic in the East Village like I’d never been away. After some Thai food, the ice cream in the park and a few cocktails I nearly forgot that I didn’t live there any more. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to walk home to my apartment; I was going to take a plane back to my new home.

And so now I’ve returned to my lovely and spacious studio, tired and dehydrated from my whirlwind tour, but I’m happy to be back. Saint Louis is really growing on me. Even though an anonymous commenter on STL Rising said recently “when someone from new york says good things about st. louis it’s time to burn it down” everyone I have met in Saint Louis has been wonderful and friendly. The lady and I are settling in nicely. I feel like we’ve moved to the downtown area at a time when all sorts of exciting things are happening. We are happy that we can do our part for our new neighborhood by supporting new businesses in walking distance rather than driving to big box stores and by staying in tune with neighborhood events. I feel that my New York City philosophy of urban living fits nicely with the philosophy of downtown Saint Louis.

I will always miss New York, and I treasure the few hours in the city when I can get them, but the sadness I feel when I leave again is tempered by the thought that I’m heading back to my new home, and as homes go, this is a pretty good one.

View from the Arch

We have our first visitor in Saint Louis this weekend. Our friend Elsa came into town yesterday to help Xina as she sets up her lab at Wash U, and at the same time she’s going to help us explore the bars, restaurants and other places we’ve been meaning to go in town. Our goal for the weekend is to only go to places that Xina and I haven’t been yet, so that as we act as tour guides for Elsa we’re also learning more about our new adopted city.

First thing on the agenda was, of course, the arch. We had been down to see the arch several times (and we run down there nearly every day) but we had been waiting to take the trip up into it for when guests were here. Wednesday evening at sunset was a pretty good time to go – the wait was short. All in all it’s a bit of an anti-climax, the top is, well, a curved space covered in carpeting with some sketchy looking stairs at either end and some windows. To be sure, the view is great, and it’s a bit of an odd feeling knowing that you’re standing over an open space taller than the Seattle Space Needle.

It was fun and I’m glad that we took the time to do it, although it’s unlikely that I’d do it again. I find the arch to be so completely fascinating from the outside that the slightly dumpy interior didn’t work for me. I’m working on a post about the arch with some images that I’ve taken since I’ve been here, more on that later. I do know that I’ve taken a lot of photos of the arch already, and I’m sure to be making a whole lot more.

Junk Shop Konica

I moved to New York in the fall of 2000. For the first couple of months I couch-surfed at my friend’s place and when his girlfriend got too fed up with me I moved to a rented room in an apartment with two aging hippies. It was very clear from them that I was just renting the room; we weren’t roommates. While I am sure that I was paying the majority of their rent controlled monthly rate, and while I had my own bathroom, it wasn’t exactly the most social of situations. I was occasionally invited to “their end of the apartment” for dinner, which was entertaining to be sure, but I couldn’t exactly call them friends.

I was new to the city, and because the few friends I had lived in Manhattan, I felt very alone in Brooklyn. I spent a lot of time exploring the city the same way I am currently exploring Saint Louis – on foot, just walking around, seeing where the streets took me. The difference between now and then is that back then I didn’t have a camera. I spent that fall walking around just lookin’ at stuff. Then one day, I was walking down a random street and found an antique store, junk shop, something or other. I don’t remember what compelled me to go in, but in I went, and found several cameras in a glass case. I hadn’t held a camera for at least a couple years since college, and it just seemed right. I chose a Konica Autoreflex T3 with a 57mm lens. I don’t remember why I chose the camera – it wasn’t even that clean. I think it was the one I could (barely) afford. I think I paid $140 for it, which was a ton of money for me at the time and I’m sure that was more than it was worth. But I was all excited and rushed out to buy some film.

It was incredibly cold at the time, and about three quarters of the way through my first roll of film, the shutter started locking up. I think the cold was just too much for it, and I didn’t have any money left to fix it. I was really discouraged. I was sick about spending the money and the fact that I would have to shell out even more money to have the film developed, and I was still alone! I finished out the roll, convinced it would be a failure, put the camera down and didn’t pick it up again. Later that year I saved and scrimped and bought my first digital camera, a Canon G1. I haven’t shot film since.

I never developed the roll of film I shot with the Konica and never tried to use it again. But I hung on to it for all these years. I’m considering film again now, as an exercise. I want to see what it is like to have a finite number of frames to shoot, to have a little more guesswork in my exposures, and just to try something new (old). So I rolled out the Konica and cleaned it up. I have five rolls of 35mm film laying around which I found in my dad’s camera bags last summer (who knows how old those are), so I’m committing myself to shooting all of these rolls of film, having them processed and seeing what I’m able to make of it. I’m going to use the Konica even though the meter is broken and not having developed any film from it I have no idea if the thing even works. It could have light leak, the jammed shutter may be a problem (although it is certainly not cold in Saint Louis at the moment.

We shall see what happens, won’t we? Wish me good film karma!

Buried in Packing Paper

It’s kind of like Christmas in July here in the apartment as the lady and I work our way through the task of unpacking our stuff. Since most of our things were packed by the movers, each box is like a present; we never know what we’re going to pull out of the packing paper. It seems like several doze rain forests perished in order to get our stuff safely from New York. We had a number of casualties in the form of broken dishes and such due to the craptastic packing job but so far only a few things of note have been damaged. My down bubble jacket was torn up because the movers put tape directly onto it while wedging it into a box, and my filing cabinet was bashed and bent into an unusable state.

The worst thing, so far, is my Drobo which contains my backup of all of my digital photography for the last four years or so. When I turned it on yesterday instead of seeing the lovely green lights indicating that everything is hunky dory, all I saw was four solid red lights, indicating blank hard drives. Yikes! After some messing around I was able to get it to recognize three out of the four drives, and it is in the process of sorting itself out (I hope). It’s a several day process for it to copy data onto a blank drive, so I’m hoping my Monday I’ll know if my work is safe. One thing I’ll definitely need to look into is a better backup plan, probably an offsite option.

On the agenda today? Car shopping. We are also going to try to take part in some of the exciting local celebrations this weekend, but car shopping is a priority so we don’t have to keep renting. We have a number of makes and models we want to try, but having not owned a car in ten years, I’m sure this will be an adventure. Xina has her note-taking pen ready so I’m sure by tonight we’ll have a lot of options to choose from.

Getting Settled In

So, it’s finally official. Dr. Fiance and I arrived in Saint Louis Wednesday afternoon and now we are in the process of getting settled into our new pad. I’m sitting in our soon to be office next to a while lot of windows, which is a wonderful change after 10 years of cubicle life. I just walked from my office through the maze of moving boxes to my kitchen and couldn’t help but smile thinking about how the walk to the break room in my old office was about the same distance. We have great sunset views from our apartment – I just love the way the light floods in our windows – shadows are awesome:

Our stuff arrived yesterday morning and much to our delight the movers were really really excellent. BJ and Mike from Dodge Moving were super. They were efficient and friendly and actually listened when I talked to them rather than blowing me off like their New York counterparts. They moved our stuff like movers are supposed to move them. We felt so much more comfortable with them than with the New Yorkers. The jerks in New York completely lied about everything they moved, including the number of floors they had to carry stuff (claimed it was a 6 floor walkup when it was only 3rd floor) and doubled the number of boxes on the manifest. Best part is they claimed that we had an elevator but it was broken on the day of the move, so they charged an extra $1000. Our old building didn’t have an elevator. What a bunch of crooks.

In any case, we are in the process of settling in and unpacking and finding spots for all of our stuff. And this weekend…we have to buy a car. Boy howdy, things are different here. In anycase, it may be a bit quite around the blog for a few days while we get sorted out. Happy holiday weekend (we are having a parade here in St. Louis and fireworks over the flooded Mississippi!)

Cafe Office

Cafe office

I am a little over a week before my move from New York, and the reality of the situation is starting to sink in. At the beginning of June (due to circumstances that were so completely New York and beyond my control) we left our apartment in the East Village to move into a sublet for our last month in the city. It is much smaller than we are used to, and doesn’t have things like desks and chairs, so we have spent a good bit of time trying to figure out how to spend time elsewhere. To that end, I left this afternoon and am spending the day at an Cafe Office in the East Village. Me and a bunch of other home (homeless?) workers share the scarce power plugs, drink coffee, and generally ignore each other.

I wrapped up my stint as a corporate staff photographer on Friday with relatively little fanfare, and after some celebrating over the weekend I woke up Monday as a self employed artist with a long todo list and without a regular paycheck. It’s all very exciting in theory but now that it is actually upon me, it’s a little intimidating. I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.

The biggest issue is that I can’t do a whole lot until I get my office set up in our new place, which isn’t going to happen until July 1. Not having a permanent desk is a bitch. So until then I am trying to be as productive as possible and try to get as much administrative work done as possible. Lesson one: don’t have wine with lunch just because you can. It will make you want to sleep in the part for a few hours. Lesson two: choose a cafe office that doesn’t have pretty girls walking by every five minutes to distract you. Lesson Three: Lesson Two can’t be done in NYC.

As I type this the guy across from me has a sticker on his laptop that says “Never Not Working”. This is something that I need to start thinking about. I’m so used to getting up, going to work, hating it, and then coming home and spending all my free time trying to forget about it. Now, when I wake up I want to work work work, but on days like today there isn’t a whole lot I need to do. But I desperately want to make sure that I’m doing something, not just sitting around. I’ve been plowing through my todo list, including errands for Dr. Fiance, and I’m trying to go for a run every day.

Interestingly though, I’m not feeling the drive to shoot. I think this is because my mind has already gone to the new city and I’m fully consumed with the move, the new apartment, buying an apartment, and all the other changes that are going on at the moment.

But I am getting things going, starting with marketing plans, website updates, and I’m chasing down old clients and new clients. I am open for business and ready to roll. 7 days until the move.