This past May, I had the opportunity to visit Sweden to make a presentation about my photographic research at the international Geomedia 2017 conference. The conference was held at Karlstad University in the town of Karlstad. Lovely city located about halfway between Stockholm and Oslo, Norway. We had the opportunity to ride both high-speed trains and slower, vintage Cold War era trains between Karlstad and Stockholm. While in Stockholm, we did get to visit Gamla Stan or the old Stockholm. This portion of the city dates back to the 13th century, around 1252 CE. Just as a side note, my ancestral family name originates in this part of Scandinavia. Maybe there’s some deep genetic root that made me feel so comfortable and “at home” in Sweden!
After a number of years without having a “real” vacation, I splurged and took my sweetheart of nearly 30 years to New York City. We definitely did the tourist gig and went to many of the must-see city icons: 9-11 Memorial, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, and Times Square. Of course we also visited China Town and had lunch in neighboring Little Italy. The MTA Subway provided our transportation, but a looming union strike made it a bit worrisome. By the end of the trip, all was well. Our digs for the week was the Grand Hyatt, which sits between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. It was great being in the heart of the city!
Since this trip did not include several photo students as in the past, I chose not to carry my large professional camera gear. Instead, I opted for a small, light-weight digital rangefinder-style camera from Fujifilm….it was a silver and black X20. Very 1960s retro look! It took great shots (all those in this blog post) and looked so stylish for my tourist modus operandi.
For those of you who know my food photography, I apologize for not capturing the incredible seafood and lobster paella I had at my favorite Spanish tapas bar in Greenwich Village. I was too excited to dive in to the food to worry about photographs! Sorry!
Earlier this summer I went on a photo shooting trip to Independence, Missouri with Dr. Tom Mitchell’s editorial photo class. Every time I visit the town square, I feel as though I’m in time warp back to the 1950s. And, it always feels like Black and White! Here’s a few B&Ws from that outing that visually express the nostalgia I feel for that locale.
Recently I had the opportunity to present a paper on my photographic research at an international academic conference in Istanbul, Turkey. With limited amounts of free time during my short stay in this exotic and historic city, I made sure to avail myself of photographic opportunities at this ancient seaport. Formerly known as Constantinople, modern Istanbul still remains a mix of contemporary and ancient cultures. Once a major intersection of the world’s three major religious faiths (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), Istanbul today is home to about 14 million inhabitants that mostly practice Islam. Istanbul is a cacophony of honking car horns, strange tongues, and roasting chestnuts at every street corner.
While on our recent trip to New York over spring break, I had an opportunity to spend a morning in Brooklyn. Specifically, I was in the DUMBO area (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). During the late 19th century, this area was a manufacturing district and housed numerous warehouses and factories. The whole area reminded of the work by documentary photographer and sociologist, Lewis W. Hine. I could easily imagine him photographing children laboring within these massive structures a hundred years ago. I think it was that feeling of his documentary work that helped me pre-visual my images as black and white. After wondering some of the narrow cobble-stone streets between towering warehouses, I ventured down to the waterfront along the East River, to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. This park lies between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. Here I happened upon Jane’s Carousel, which I had previously learned about on CBS Sunday Morning. Housed in an all-glass pavilion is a 90-year old carousel that has been painstakingly restored to its original look, after being rescued from Youngstown, Ohio. While photographing the carousel, a lady standing next to me told me her story of riding that carousel as a child and she was visiting it with her sister so their children could ride it as well. Neat story. Enjoy my B&Ws!
Last Friday morning we spent time walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Afterwards, we made our way around the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I shot this panorama. The Brooklyn Bridge is to the left, while to the right is the Manhattan Bridge. Once we finished photographing along the waterfront, we went over a couple of blocks and had an incredible New York style pizza at Grimaldi’s, which is famous for their pizzas.
For a number of years, a colleague from the Art Department has encouraged me to join him with some of our photography students on his annual trip to New York City during our spring break. This year I finally had time to take him up on his offer. We started recruiting students during the fall semester and when our trip began, we had 14 students (9 were photography majors). It was a five day/four night trip and we were based in mid-town Manhattan, just a couple of blocks south of Central Park.
Using the subway system allowed us to easily navigate from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn. Times Square was visited a few times in the evening for great photo ops. We also did the typical tourist activities, such as going up the Empire State Building, standing in the center of the Grand Central Terminal, visiting the 911 Memorial, and dining in Chinatown and Little Italy. Since I’m a food photographer (and foodie!), sampling international fare was on my list of quests. I managed to sample Irish, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Turkish cuisine that would be impossible to find locally. The Spanish tapas and seafood paella in Greenwich Village at the Spain Restaurant and Bar were by far my favorite indulgence!
From a photographic standpoint, we saw lots of great images, both historical and contemporary at venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the NYC Public Library, and the International Center for Photography. Names such as Frith, Baldus, and Atget were some of the more historical work viewed, while Weegee and Grey Villet helped transition to more contemporary imagery, which included Cindy Sherman, Greg Girard, and Francesca Woodman.
Below are a few of my favorites from the trip, enjoy!
Last week Wilson (photography program coordinator and colleague at UCM) and I headed down to Joplin, MO to pick up our images that had been displayed in the recent Photo Spiva show. Since the day was young, we decided to head over to Springfield, my old stomping grounds when I was a college student. We made our way downtown and started looking for the galleries on Walnut Street. Imediately we found the Elite PhotoArt Gallery, where one of our student’s work was on display…Robert Weston Breshears. He had a set of his journalistic style images from Afganistan and Pakistan, which were on stretched canvas, prominently on display. Stepping next door, we entered the Art + Design Gallery, which is hosted by the Art + Design Department at Missouri State Unveristy, where I earned by bachelor’s in photography and media. The senior exhibit was hanging, so that was great to see current student work. I wish we had a gallery this nice when I was a student there! While in the gallery, I was talking with the gallery director, who turned out to be a good friend and former photography classmate my those early college days…a day of surprises…I hadn’t seen her since the early 1980s!
Eventually Wilson and I wondered down the street to make images. Downtown Springfield has changed somewhat since I was there years ago, but I recognized the buildings. This image below of the Gailey’s Cafe and former drug store (part of the Seville Hotel) was located just down from Ozark Camera, where I used to hang out as a college student and where I bought my first Nikon.
© 2009 Terry Ownby
Yesterday was cold, cloudy, and foggy. It’s day’s like that which provide great light and it’s usually incredibily soft. This kind of light is great when it comes through windows of old houses like the one I live in. I love the way it bounces off doors and walls and gently cascades down the stairs. So when I turned around in my office chair and say the light playing in the hallway, I had to stop what I was doing and pull out the camera to start shooting. I never tire of the way light bounces through old hallways and I’ve been chasing this type of light since my undergrad days back in the early 1980s.
Once I felt I had explored enough of what was happening in the hallway, I stepped down on the stair landing and started shooting out the window that overlooks my neighbor’s old house. Again the soft light and hoarfrost clinging to the trees were photographic delights. Who says you have to travel to far-off exotic locales to create images? One needs to be able to create work close to home because it’s all in our personal vision. The most exotic places on earth aren’t going to give you beautiful images if you have no personal vision and being able to see the light. Ultimately, it all comes back to the light and how we interact with this magical substance. I’ve been chasing light now for 35 years and never tire of the pursuit.
Four years ago I began a series of images that came to be through happenstance. In other words, I simply stumbled onto some unlikely situations as they presented themselves to me and I leveraged the photographic opportunity to my creative advantage. Since that serendipitous moment, I have actively sought out similar objects to photograph and so far, I’ve been nicely rewarded with different photographic opportunities.
I’m a big fan of taking road trips throughout the United States (something my father inflicted me with at an early age!) and these trips target my found American cultural objects. The thing is, these pop cultural objects are incongruous with their surroundings or sometimes just life in general. Americans seem infatuated with the notion that “bigger is better” and thus construct these larger-than-life edifices to commemorate this “bigness”.
On a recent trip to Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, I intentionally detoured my road trip to the small Ohio River town of Metropolis, Illinois, home of America’s number one super hero—Superman. I’ve been here numerous times with my folks when I was a kid and had not been back in nearly 40 years, so I was very happy to see Superman still stood next to the court house. But to my surprise, I found another giant in town, Big John, standing vigilantly outside the Big John grocery store. What a deal…two giants for the price of one!
Superman, © 2008, Terry Ownby.
Big John, © 2008, Terry Ownby