Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Toxic Mounds Tour and Coldwater Creek

Last month, I joined a group comprised of artists, organizers, and activists to take a tour of the toxic mound sites in and around St. Louis, my new home. At a time when the group organizing the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons wins the Nobel Peace Prize, it is rather pertinent to discuss the production and eventual storage of nuclear weapons waste. A theme running through the Toxic Mounds tour was that all toxic sites became toxic with agents used for war: for bombs and chemicals like Agent Orange. And these materials have lingered throughout St. Louis, poisoning residents for decades. It seems our mutual destruction has already begun. I am, by no means, an expert on the topic, which is why a tour organized by an artist I met this year, Allana, helped uncover the problems and misery caused by nuclear waste impacting citizens here. Lindsay Toler wrote a far more thorough report of the West Lake Landfill's impact and history in the River Front Times.

Initially, I heard about these toxic sites from an episode on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. In the episode, Oliver mentions, Coldwater Creek, in nearby in North St. Louis. At first I panicked having just moved to St. Louis. But most Americans live within 50 miles of a site with radioactive waste or other serious pollutants. The problem is we have never found a proper way to transport and store the waste created by nuclear reactors. And that is especially dangerous because radioactive waste like Radium 226 has a half life of 1600 years. Radioactivity only intensifies over thousands of years. Residents living along Coldwater Creek, where Mallinckrodt left barrels of radioactive waste the company produced for the atomic bombs in the 1940s, experienced high rates of rare cancers linked to exposure to radioactivity. The cancers continue to impact citizens.

We went to the headwaters of Coldwater Creek and other sites on the tour. Below are photographs from the day. I encourage those interested in or worried about this to schedule a tour with Allana. I'm also eager to go on the North STL County Nuclear Legacy Bike Tour, a bike path near where radioactive material has been illegally dumped on its way to other dumping locations. But this will do for now.

Who will be held accountable for this? Supposedly Scott Pruitt will have a plan. The EPA has ignored the issue, possible nuclear fallout at West Lake, for decades. Pruitt claims he will have a plan next month.

I retain copyright to all photographs. For request to use or download images, please contact me.

Allana, our tour guide with her tour guide dog.
Dioxin Mound
Coldwater Creek Headwaters

Industrial park near Coldwater Creek

Picnic in what was Carrollton

Carrollton, once a suburb near the airport

Carrollton, once a suburb near the airport

West Lake, the site of the River Front Times article

There's a fire underground that is dangerously close to radioactive waste

Home on a cliff in the distance overlooking West Lake

Dusk on a chilly November day, overlooking the West Lake landfill

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fall sessions and leaves changing

With the leaves changing this fall, it's a great time for an outdoor photo shoot. I had the opportunity to photograph my friends Jay and Katherine with their pug, Ichabod, just as the leaves started to change in southern Illinois last month. Below are shots from that session and also photographs I've taken of Tower Grove Park, the park in my neighborhood in St. Louis. Not being a city dweller until recently, I marvel at how this park looks and its function in the neighborhood. The beautiful trees, paths, and pavilions, built in the early 20th century, are treasures I've never directly experienced until now. I am currently training for an 8k run and having the park close by to run in has been a relief. Even while I do not particularly enjoy running, the opportunity to be in the park during the fall color transitions has made it more than worthwhile.

Now is the time to schedule an outdoor pet and family portrait session with me. These vibrant colors won't last long. Email me or go to my website to see more!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Photo shoot at an artist studio

This month, I've taken on a few more photo shoots. Just a reminder that through December 1, I am offering a 50 dollar discount for a one hour session taking pet portraits. In addition to pet portrait photography, an artist requested I document her art. Rachel Malcolm Ensor is an artist living and working in Murphysboro, Illinois. I loved that Malcolm purchased the home next to her house and turned it into a studio and art education space. Artists make good use of any space. I found the project to be exactly what I like: interior photography and working with artists.  Below are images I made the day of the shoot.

Rachel Malcolm Ensor's studio (exterior)

Rachel Malcolm Ensor's studio (interior)

Bright, colorful work on paper/painting by Rachel Malcolm Ensor

If you're an artist in St. Louis in need of good photographs of your work, for portfolios or exhibition submissions, contact me to schedule a shoot! I also photograph studio/work spaces that can easily go onto websites or other promotional materials.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Back to Osage Arts Community

This weekend I had the pleasure of returning to the Osage Arts Community, located near Belle, Missouri. The OAC hosts writers, musicians, composers, and visual artists throughout the year for their AIR program. It was perfect timing as I needed to shoot some more videos for the Excavations section of the project I am working on. I wanted to shoot the video on location and returning to the place where I started the project, at the OAC, made sense.

In addition to shooting video, I had the chance to reconnect with the artists there and revisit the building and infrastructure plans of OAC, which continues to impress. All I can say is if every small town in mid America had an arts program like the OAC, we'd live in a very different and, I argue, better world. Check out their work here.

Below are photographs I took while there for the weekend. I will not be able to show the videos until they are edited and to my liking but these images reveal the immense beauty of this region. I am also totally smitten with the dogs on the property.

sorry not sorry, Mark

two chairs on the Gasconade river


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Photo session with Manet

Every week, I am taking photographs of some pet, even if it's my own, to hone my skills at combining interior photography with pet photography. My approach uses natural light, the immediate environment of the pet, and then the subject within that environment. This past week's shoot was, in my opinion, rather successful. I had a lot of fun setting up a little mid-century furniture display and coaxing this handsome tuxedo cat named Manet into the scene. The furniture pieces include a mid century rocking chair with bamboo and a wonderful floral pattern, my grandparent's giant lamp, some books, and a green ceramic deer I purchased at an antique fair when I lived in New Harmony, Indiana. I then added a painting I purchased from an art student (I cannot remember her name at all) but I really appreciated her work. She was a on a mission to make a painting a day and you can only get better with that kind of work ethic. I knew I needed colorful pieces to contrast the black and white fur of Mr. Manet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Framing orders

In addition to photographing and printing pet portraits for clients, I am pleased to offer custom framing of those prints. I have years of experience working for art galleries and museums. The ability to produce custom, archival framing for works on paper is essential in any curator or arts admin gig. I quite like framing the pet portraits too. Even in the framing of the photos, you can be creative. My first client allowed me some time to work with this photograph of his cat Harley. I loved the result: an illustrated floral crown and a floral pattern on a mauve background. For this photo, I increased the saturation of the photograph, which turned Harley's fur magenta and blue. Side note: I love long haired black cats. My first cat, Gypsy, was a long haired black cat. With a cat like this, usually the fur is many shades of brown, reds, and then, when the kitty ages, some white and grey hairs. With the saturation increase, I think of this as a punk photo of Harley. And so the frame needed to be colorful too. I picked a dark blue/purple frame. The client encouraged me to do my 'art' thing, whatever looked good.

Below are photos of the framing process. The mat that came with the frame did not fit the dimensions of the print so I measured the mat board-acid free museum board- and cut a window mat. The mat protects the print from coming into contact the glass. I cleaned the glass and put that on the finished mat with the print sandwiched inside. And then I put everything into my purple frame. Below you see a custom framed, fine art print of the wonderful punk kitty Harley.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Oh Illinois, a good price

Currently, I am preparing for a small installation of my project Snow White Black Sheep at the Clemens Gallery in Paducah Kentucky. I began Snow White Black Sheep during my first residency at the Osage Arts Community about 2 and a half years ago. The Excavations part of the project includes 18 photographs and one video framed in handmade wooden frames (I built my own frames!). The photos are presented in three grids, which look like archaeological dig sites. While the printing and framing is complete, I am eager to finish the field notes for the grids.

After doing a lot of research online, I've found great tools (charts, etc), glossaries, and photographs of archaeological digs. For my project, the field notes act as the labels for the photographs. From my perspective, as an artist, the visual components of field notes resemble a journal, sketchbook, and map (cartesian grid) to reference when analyzing the dig site. Digs are inherently destructive and cannot be replicated. Therefore, digs need to be meticulously documented and field notes, in addition to photographs of the dig and recordings, are essential to capturing the features unearthed square by square in the grid.

My digs did not actually take place, so I am having some fun replicating field notes of an imagined dig and adding stories, maps, legends, and other information that enriches the story of the project overall. Ultimately, I am archiving my family history by eschewing the typical tree charts and using this media instead.

I have to add that my mother did extensive research of our family tree and shared that research with me. Otherwise, I wouldn't know half of the stories about my family. So I have her to thank for the inspiration.