I try to swing through the area on Riverside Drive where artists use the walls of the old warehouses as their canvas at least once a month. There is usually a few new wall paintings every time I visit. In many cases, these are not the works of mere vandals with a can of spray paint, but real artists. The sad thing is, works like the one above will eventually be painted over with a newer work. I try to preserve the ones I think are really good with my camera before they disappear forever.
Courthouse During Folkmoot, Waynesville, NC - 2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Our county courthouse used to have huge, beautiful oaks and maples in front of it. A few years back they all had to be cut down because of a disease or insect infestation. I forget which. New trees were planted, but it will be decades before they provide the summer shade and fall color of the old ones. I miss the old trees.
I've been attending Folkmoot Festival Day since 2005, and I usually come home with some decent shots of the dancers in their costumes. Until yesterday. In previous years, the dancers from the various groups would walk around, mingle with the crowd, and pose for pictures. Yesterday, however, only a few dancers were out mingling, making it harder to find a good subject to photograph. I can't say that I blame them. I wouldn't want to spend any more time out in that heat with those heavy, elaborate costumes than necessary.
The combination of fewer dancers and more people than ever with cameras (mostly smart phones) made the competition for pictures fierce. With the meager opportunities, and the oppressive July heat, I tapped out early and went home with a hardly used memory card in my camera. I miss the days when I used to go to Folkmoot wondering if I had brought enough extra memory cards.
I'm discovering that some of my most enjoyable work has come from photographing musicians. I generally prefer impromptu, casual portraits, and musicians often provide the ideal subject. Because they are usually so tuned in to their instrument and their music, it's easier to get relaxed and natural expressions. They don't become self conscious or uncomfortable because their mind is focused on their playing, and not on my camera. Also, since I'm seldom the only one pointing a camera at them, they're less aware of me individually. I'm just one of the crowd. Look at the concentration on the face of this man I found playing at a recent street festival - you can't pose or script that.
Having been born and raised in the New Orleans area, I know a thing or two about mold and mildew. It's just a fact of life in warm, humid climates. These dual enemies attack almost everything, and while the advent of air conditioning has lessened the danger somewhat, every denizen of the gulf south has experienced their damage.
Even though I now live in the mountains of western North Carolina, mold and mildew continues to be a problem. We can get fairly warm and damp here too. A friend recently asked me if I could restore a treasured photo of her as a little girl that had been ravaged by mold. She emailed me a copy to show me what the damage looked like, and yeah, it was pretty bad. Red mold on a black and white photo was a new one for me. Believe it or not, I enjoy the challenge of restoring photos like this, but this one looked really tough. Damage to skin areas and to a dress with fine polka dots would be especially challenging. At least there was no damage to the little girl's smiling face - that might have made the task too much even for Photoshop.
Original scanned photo
Besides the obvious red splotches, there were dozens of other mildew splotches and dust spots. Most could only be seen on the original print when held at a certain angle to the light, but my scanner saw them all. Like an actual wall in a home, there comes a time when cleaning is no longer good enough - it's time to re-paint. So I matched the color of the brightest area of the wall and re-painted the entire thing, removing the splotches, darkened edges, and also the flash shadows. The dark area to the left had to get the same treatment. I matched the tones of the unlit area and darkened doorway in the background, and re-created the entire space. That was the easy part.
Next came repairing the skin and dress areas, and restoring the stuffed toy skunk (Disney's Flower) on the table. Using the clone tool and the paint brush, I was able to re-create an upper arm, parts of two legs, and portions of the dress. Although not all of Flower's white back stripe is visible in the original photo, I added a little of it back to give some separation from the unlit background area. Unfaithful to the original? Maybe, but I think it makes it a better photo.
I finished it up by improving the contrast that had faded away over the years. I also got rid of the yellowish color cast, returning it to a true black and white. I was pleased with the way it came out, and so was my friend. We decided on a 5x7 horizontal crop so it could be framed for display.
Final cropped version
I considered that while yesterday afternoon's rain gave me time to do this instead of yard work, it was also creating conditions for more mold and mildew. Oh well, I guess that's life in the south! (Click on photos to enlarge.)
Long time visitors to this site know that I am a big fan of the photography of Walker Evans (1903-1975). In his documentary work for the Farm Security Administration in the early 1930s, he seemed to demonstrate a knack for knowing what subjects would be interesting to future generations of viewers. I'm sure that many of his photos seemed mundane, and maybe even boring to his contemporary viewers, but they are so fascinating to look at all these years later. Evans preserved little slices of contemporary life that give us a glimpse of an era of history that is so different from ours, and yet we still see many similarities because people are just people in any era. I hope that decades from now some of my photos will hold the same interest to some future viewers.