Loading a Leica M series rangefinder with fresh film.
I had the intention of going to Eeyore's to watch all the zaniness of pot smoking, half naked students, old hippies in drum circles, and every possibility in between. Every year for at least the last 50 years Austinites have been celebrating the first of May (and we can be right iffy on exact dates....) with an outdoor party called, Eeyore's Birthday Party; named after the Dour Donkey in the "Winnie the Pooh" stories. Every year the event gets bigger and bigger and every year I go out and drag at least one camera down with me to try making visual sense of it all.
This year I fumbled and continually false-started because I was trying to use a small sensor camera that I'd had in my possession for barely a day. I finally gave up and just became a roving spectator. You can't win every time....
But I'm happy I went because I realized that I no longer want to photograph Eeyore's Birthday Party; what I really want to do is make a video documentary about it now. I'm also happy because, in the midst of the swirl of humanity at Pease Park last Saturday I ran into two of my favorite Austin photographers and both of them have just published, or had published, books of photography!!! What are the odds?
I wrote last week about my friend, Andy's, self-published book, "On the Street: India", and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in street photography or in photographing on the streets of India (I know that was a convoluted sentence but it makes sense to me that one can be interested in something or interesting in the "doing" of something, and that there are differences between the two). Andy's book is outrageously good: in a gritty and visceral way. It's just an amazing first book.
Andy came up to me in the middle of the throng and tapped me on the shoulder. I have no idea how he found me among the thousands and thousands of people there; many much taller than me. He was working with his Olympus Pen F when I saw him but he also has a very small bag with some smaller, older, compactier cameras tossed in. We chatted for a few minutes and then wandered off to see what we could....
My other friend at the park was John Langmore who is the son of Bank Langmore, who was a legendary photographer in Texas when I was growing up. John's new (first) book, "Open Range" is a black and white, printed monument to the cowboy profession. But unlike so many who've tried to make smart and immersive essays about cowboys from the perspective of the outsider John is unique in that he spent 12 Summers, in his youth, as a working cowboy here in Texas. The real deal. And so, after he spent years in his "real" career in the legal industry, he came back and spent six years at some of the biggest ranches in the Southwest, shooting photos for this book.
It's published by Twin Palms so it's not a vanity project. It's printed in a tritone process and there are nearly 90 images spread across the 11x14 inch dimensions of the book. I haven't seen it in person yet but John was very happy with the printing and, having seen John's beautiful black and white prints in gallery shows, I can pretty much guarantee that if he likes it it's amazing.
John is an interesting and talented photographer who, as you might be able to tell from the photo above and the one below, has never been lured by the digital sirens. He still works the way most of us used to work back in the day = black and white film, a Leica rangefinder camera, and getting close-in with a wide angle lens. No hiding in the shadows and sniping with a long zoom lens for John. He makes a practice of getting close enough to smell the sweat (and patchouli and pot) of the moment.
If you love beautifully done black and white work go HERE and see his book's page on the Twin Palms website. Take some time to look around Twin Palms site as well; they are one of the few publishers of photographic books who continue offering the finest quality in printing, design and presentation.
Note the wear-to-brass on John's camera. This guy has shot a lot of frames through that camera. And it's a look that few digital cameras will see since we churn them so often......
And John gets into the moment. He came in full Austin Hippie regalia; right down to the tie-dye shirt and sandals. Yes, that's a wig under his bright red top hat.....
After hearing about John's book and running into Andy the rest of the event seemed less exciting. There were the usual contingents of people stripped down to the barest wardrobe to show off their bodies, folks sitting in a dense circle of people rhythmically pounding away for hours on all kinds of drums, there were acrobats and jugglers, a May Pole, lots of food stands and beverage purveyors; and, of course, the enormous swell of folks sitting under the trees on the hill side smoking all manner of cannabis. I realized that I'd seen it all before, through so many different finders, I'd just lost my inspiration to look for more this year. Good to know when you've lost the thread. Maybe I'll find it again next year with a smaller video team. We'll see.
Here are a few shots I took before retreating to the craft beer bar at Whole Foods, about half a mile away (and awash with air conditioning). All done with the Canon G15.