Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graciela Iturbide

The Art21 series on PBS last night featured three artists talking about art as investigation.  The second segment was about the Mexican photographer, Graciela Iturbide, initially an assistant and apprentice to Manuel Alvarez Bravo.  She is known mostly as an interpreter of indigenous Mexican culture, though she has traveled and photographed widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Here is a self-portrait made near the beginning of Iturbide's career as a photographer:

Forty years later Iturbide's enduring charm and intelligence has made her a favorite subject of videographers looking to explore the subject of photographic practice and inspiration.  In her Art21 appearance she was able to share many insights into her personal approach to photography without ever sinking into the artspeak which seems to plague artists in other media.

Another good video covering some of the same ground was made by Alejandro Gómez de Tuddo.  I liked the fact that Iturbide was allowed to speak for herself while the English interpretation was left to the sub-titles.

In both of the videos Iturbide is seen shooting black and white film in a big medium-format rangefinder.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting in the Mood

With the Day of the Dead fast approaching I decided to revisit some of the local historic cemeteries.  I've been to many of them and have often made pictures of them with my old film cameras.

All of the old graveyards were originally associated with churches, but time has cut that connection in many cases.  Many of the old churches are gone, and many of the cemeteries have been buried under housing and commercial development.  San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque's Old Town Plaza is a good example.  There are some known burials on the grounds, and likely some under the church's floors as well which may date back to Albuquerque's founding in 1706.

San Felipe de Neri -- Certo Dolly Super-Sport -- TMAX 400
A survey report of local cemeteries made in 1999 shows that there was a San Felipe Parish Cemetery located just a few blocks from the church and in use from 1854 to 1869.  The report notes that "... the Jesuits sold this cemetery to John Mann for his market garden in 1892.  He planned to level the ground to accommodate his irrigation ditches, but agreed to move any bones he turned up to a common grave in the new cemetery.  He ultimately plowed up two tons of bones, which were moved to the Santa Barbara Cemetery..."

No visible traces of the old Parish Cemetary remain; the site is now occupied by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and the Explora Science Center and Children's Museum on Mountain Road.  (Coincidentally, our house is just south of Mountain and directly across the street from the historic Mann House.)

There a quite a few Day of the Dead events that take place over the course of about a week in Albuquerque.  The biggest is the Marigold Parade in the South Valley, scheduled this year for Sunday, November 2nd.  I've made pictures of the parade participants for the last several years and will likely do so again this year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nikon EM

I picked up this Nikon EM at a yard sale for $10.  Though not a commercial success for the company, the EM is nicely made, light weight and compact.  The camera's aperture-priority auto exposure was taken as something of an insult by Nikon purists, but it is not a bad trade-off for always-accurate metering, and one can see the system-selected shutter speed in the view finder.

My yard sale find came mounted with a Tokina 35-70 macro zoom lens.  The focal length variability and the close-up capability make for a versatile shooter.  Unfortunately, when the zoom is extended, the camera's dim focus screen gets even worse as the center split-image spot blacks out if the user's eye is not centered just right over the finder.  In fact, I found it nearly impossible to properly focus the camera even under good conditions, and capturing action was entirely out of the question.  I  have heard of people installing different screens from other Nikon models.  I also wonder if a good E-Series prime lens might improve the view.  I probably won't find out, though, unless I happen to find one under a rock.  I'm not inclined to go out to buy expensive lenses to satisfy my curiosity about a ten-dollar camera.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Our first house in Albuquerque had a big back yard and several resident feral cats.  Two of the females produced litters within about six months after we moved in.  We got the three adults fixed with the help of the local free spay program, and we found homes for eight of the nine kittens.

This calico was the last kitten to be caught and was a little shy, with the result that no one wanted to adopt her.  So, she went with us when we moved a couple blocks closer to Old Town.

These pictures were made with my Olympus mju.  Like all of the Maitani-designed cameras, it is very compact and has the great Olympus optics.  It is also one of the most versatile shooters of the line, with the capacity to focus automatically down to 14 inches.

This is the eighth role of color film I have processed with the one-liter Unicolor kit I got from Freestyle.  The chemicals seem to be holding up well to re-use, and it looks like I will make it to the promised dozen rolls.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Flamenco en La Plaza Vieja

I enjoy the spectacle of Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta, but the best part of the event for me is the appearance of the Flamenco performers in Old Town.  

This guitarist, the singer and the dancers were all exceptionally talented.  The last dancer came down into the audience and captivated them with her seductive charm.  That is a quality of performance called "duende" that flamenco always strives to attain, and this group certainly succeeded.

The color shots were on Fuji 200 with my Pentax Spotmatic and the 135mm Mamiya lens.  Photographing performers in the gazebo is always a challenge, but I thought the Spotmatic handled the contrasts well.  I gave the scene an extra stop of exposure over what the meter indicated.  The black and white is on Tmax 100 from my Zorki-2c with the collapsible Industar 22.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


This year's Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque got sandwiched in with the remnants of a couple hurricanes from the Gulf of California, but it has gone pretty smoothly.  I don't have much tolerance for the crowds at the launch site, but an early morning breeze often brings a good number of balloons over the neighborhood and one often lands nearby.

Even in calm air it is a tricky business to bring a balloon down on city streets.

This star spangled craft touched down in a dead-end a couple blocks from our house.

The chase vehicles delivered fresh propane bottles and a new load of passengers.

The balloon took off again and joined the pack heading south.

I decided one morning to try following one of the balloons with my motorcycle.  I thought I would intercept the landing near Old Town, but I ended up on a tortuous chase which took me deep into Albuquerque's South Valley.  I watched the balloon come to ground finally in a mobile home park near Coors Blvd.

I used 135 and 50mm Takumar lenses on my Pentax K1000 for these pictures.  I thought the combination did a pretty good job, though a zoom might have made the shoot a little easier.