Saturday, June 30, 2007

Super Market

Last weekend, I was cruising around the south side of St. Louis before going to shoot the Pridefest parade. This part of the city was traditionally blue-collar, filled with the descendants of German and Dutch immigrants. Now it's much more diverse, with black, Bosnian, Vietnamese and just free-thinking people (as indicated by the location of the parade in the heart of the area). The closer you get to the river, the poorer it is. This store was just a couple of blocks back from the water.

This is a general neighborhood store. There are fewer of the chain supermarkets around here - fewer customers with money. The store itself must have had better days: the sign has connections for neon tubes over the lettering, now gone. But then there's the satellite dish. The mural seems pretty fresh. Don't know what's with the sailor, though. We're in the middle of the continent. There is a Coast Guard station on the river here but that's definitely a US Navy uniform. Maybe it's the son of the owner.

I noticed something interesting in this area, the laundromat to population ratio. There were a heck of a lot of laundromats around here. In the nice but hardly opulent suburb where I live, there are almost none. Lots of people in this neighborhood can't afford their own washing machines. Almost all of the laundromats have a personality, a look of their own. I might do a series on them. Readers, is it worth the effort?

TOMORROW: CDPB Theme Day - RED. Belly up to the bar. No, not Budweiser.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Liberty or License

Perhaps this picture is a counterpoint to my posts of Tuesday and Wednesday from the Pridefest parade. This self-explanatory billboard is being towed around downtown before a baseball game.

"What's that, daddy?" What the hell are you supposed to say to your kid? It's the outdoor equivalent of Viagra ads on TV during, oh, say, a baseball game. We don't need this. It's quite legal in the US but it raises a very old question: you are permitted to do it, but should you do it? Or, to put it another way, what price money? Perhaps I am being naive. If something is allowed, someone will sell it.

Note that the sign invites fans to head east after the game. To us, that means crossing the Mississippi. We don't allow such things in Missouri, In Illinois, anything goes. Look at Chicago politics. The caricature of Illinois politicians is that they are crafty grifters. The broad image of Missouri politicians is that they are backward buttheads. Both of these generalizations may sometimes be true.

How much of this stuff goes on in your society?

Tomorrow: What on earth is a sailor doing here?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

One of the few night time shots I have of the Arch. I'm not a late night guy at my advancing age. This was shot in December 2006. Our office had the holiday party on a boat on the Mississippi: dinner (mediocre), dancing (music supplied by an iPod whose owner had bad taste) and a cruise on the river along an industrial area. On a dank, overcast night. Did I mention that it was pitch black?

But I brought my camera and a small tripod. I tried to take some pictures as the boat was docking but the damn thing wouldn't stop its throbbing engine. When I started editing the pictures, I decided that I actually liked this effect - grainy, shot at ASA 3200 equivalent, and soft focus caused by the motion of the boat.

Since I started this blog I've noticed lots of thing I want to shoot at night. That will have to wait a few months until it gets dark earlier.

TOMORROW: From one extreme to another

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Their Majesties

This was shot at the assembly point for Sunday's St. Louis Pridefest parade. Once again, these, um, ladies were happy to pose for the camera. They were colorful and engaging. However, they would never be able to get jobs in the philosophy department of the University of Woolloomooloo due to violations of faculty Rules 1, 3, 5 and 7. See also here. What a shame. They might have interesting points of view and special areas of expertise.

PS to Sydneysiders: did I spell the name of the district correctly? Stayed there once years ago at the musically named Woolloomooloo Waters Hotel. More "O" sounds than are reasonably needed by any accommodations.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


On Sunday, St. Louis had it's annual Pridefest parade and festival. I got some shots at the parade starting point before I about swooned in the heat and my camera battery croaked. And then the spare did, too. Someone told me you have to charge them once in a while. Damn.

This was a lot of fun. The people were delightful. Now, on the one hand, I'm as straight as the shortest distance between two points. On the other hand, anything anybody else does or thinks is fine with me, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else; the state should stay the hell out of it.. I wondered how the marchers would react to a middle aged guy wearing a wedding band taking pictures of them. They were happy to let me carry on - notice the eye contact with the camera in these pictures. The neighborhood parade watchers were interesting, too. You could almost see the cartoon thought balloons hovering over their heads, saying, "What the....?"

Shooting at public celebrations is a treat. I go wandering around in old clothes, two DSLRs hanging from my neck, one of which sports a blatantly phallic telephoto lens. People assume I'm from the newspaper. It's a public event, this guy's obviously from the paper (wrong), so why not let him take my picture? Several people came up to me and asked me to photograph them. Couldn't ask for better.subjects.

The Pridefest parade was full of eye candy. I think I'll post some more of it.

TOMORROW: This photo has absolutely nothing to do with the borough of New York City where I grew up.

Mi Buenos Aires querido, cuando yo te vuelva a ver, no habrá más penas ni olvido

Raise a glass to the memory of Carlos Gardel, the greatest singer in the history of tango. Once again, my friend Karine in Buenos Aires has done me the honor of posting one of my pictures of her city. This is a photo of Gardel's tomb and a very special tradition. Click here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Working River

Few of my posts have included the Mississippi River. After all, it's the reason why my city exists. This was shot just south of the Arch. The bridge in the background ir the main highway viaduct, carrying three Interstate highways from Missouri into Illinois.

St. Louisans don't go the river much. It isn't pretty. It's wide and muddy, and carries a huge volume of barge traffic up to Minneapolis-St. Paul and down to New Orleans. The Mississippi is America's inland bulk freight hauler. Watch for more pictures of the river in the coming days and weeks.

TOMORROW: We're here. We're queer. Get used to it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Didn't know if I would stick with it. Was it worth the effort? Doing a daily photo blog can suck up your time like a Hoover on a filthy carpet. (Well, some minor cutting of corners here, posting references to the blog of a colleague when she posted my pix of her city.) I put off work. I opened Photoshop instead of books. Went out with my camera every weekend, seeking fuel for this hungry machine. Never posted a photo without slaving away over a hot laptop, compulsively editing the images. Learned a hell of a lot about the town where I've lived for 40 years, lost old habits of perception, made friends again with a city I had seen only hazily.

I'm not sure how long I can keep this going, but it's become a bit of an obsession. Doing this makes me a better photographer. My thanks to those of you who have posted comments. Special thanks to Karine of Buenos Aires for posting some of my pictures of that marvelous city on her blog and Chicago's U "R" Us (atsa my boy) for cross-posting when we needed to cover one another. This will keep going as long as I can squeeze in the time. Now, down to the river, and not to shoot waterfowl.

TOMORROW: Life on the Mississippi.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Zinc Inc.

A line of three buildings on Broadway between Market and Walnut Streets downtown has been converted into a Drury Inn, a chain of mid-priced hotels concentrated in the Midwest and South of the U.S. The building in the foreground was formerly the American Zinc Building, designed by Hellmuth, Obata, & Kassenbaum and described by a local architecture web site as "a small, stunning Modernist jewel of a building," There are several pictures of the group of buildings here.

TOMORROW: # 100!

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Climatron

Bits of the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden have been on a few of my earlier posts. This shot gives a better view of the whole structure. It is an ingenious building. In 1976, some association of architects named it as one of the 100 most significant architectural achievements in United States history. It is 175 feet/53 meters in diameter and 71 feet/21 meters high. Inside is a reproduction of a tropical rain forest.

Yeah, that's the same pool and Chihuly glass gumdrops as in the other pix.

TOMORROW: How about some architecture in black and white?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

This is the last or my recent posts of the Arch reflected in downtown buildings. Next week it's back to the stripped-down black and white images I had been posting since the blog started in March. Need to get down on the riverfront with my camera and refresh the stockroom.

TOMORROW: Been here before but I know you'll like this one. (Sez me.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Have a Few Brewskis

Anheuser-Busch is one of the world's largest brewing companies and by far the biggest in the US., Its headquarters is in St. Louis. The picture above is the huge brewery here. Their corporate offices are adjacent.

These people know marketing and want to stuff their products into your brain and down your throat. Many of you around the world are hit with
advertising for Budweiser. (Click this link to see one of their time-tested techniques.) In some EC countries, they have to sell it as Bud because of the never-ending trademark battle with the Czech Republic's Budějovice Budweiser, or Budvar.

A-B's marketing is inescapable in this country. I went to the Cardinals' baseball game last night at Busch Stadium (yes, as in Anheuser-Busch; the Busch family has run the business for generations). Their trademarks are everywhere. You can't go a day in the US without seeing their ads dozens of times unless you hole up in the wilderness. When you return, it will be one of the first things you see, right next to Coca-Cola.

I drink beer occasionally but I don't like Budweiser. It tastes slightly sweet and cloying to me. When I do drink beer, I prefer Mexico's Pacifico (which, ironically, is half owned by A-B) or another Czech beer, Staropramen. I hate to say this because I adore the country, but I think the worst beer I've ever tasted is Argentina's Quilmes. To my palate, it's flat and bland with a bit of a soapy taste.

What's your favorite beer? What would you never drink again?

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bite Me

Another photo from the pile of wacky bric-a-brack in front of Gringo Jones, the lawn and garden shop for people with, let's say, alternative tastes. This is the same store as my Pig Dog post of June 11. This big plastic alligator was chomping on some Mexican pottery in the bed of a pick-up truck parked in front of the store.

TOMORROW: Chug-a-lug

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness

At my neighborhood block party. Next thing you know I'll have pictures of puppies and Hummel figurines.

Bite me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dark Angels

This picture makes me think of Laurie Anderson's bittersweet song, Dark Angel (brief mp3 clip here). This another of the reflecting pools at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The darkness of the day is underscored by the fact that this was shot looking north in mid-afternoon.

TOMORROW: Cute kids. Who can resist?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dark Water, Bright Fish

Many Japanese gardens have a koi pond. After it started raining during my visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the fish swam right up to me, hoping that I would feed them. I captured their image and gave them nothing in return.

Dark Angels

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nearly Silent

A back corner of of the Japanese garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Almost everyone left when the rain started, leaving me, my camera and the sound of the drops alone in this place. Behind me was a bed of white, raked gravel, the kind you might find at Buddhist temples in Japan.

TOMORROW: Liquid gold.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

An image half-way between two varieties of my Arch photos: reflected in a building but in black and white. The spire and flag pole sit atop the Old Court House. Some history and links to other photos of this historic building are in my post of June 9.

Wet, very quiet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What's New, Buenos Aires?

Once again, my thanks to my friend Karine of Buenos Aires for posting one of my pictures of her wonderful city today. The shot is inside the soccer stadium known as La Bombonera, home of the renowned Boca Juniors. It is a picture of the local fanaticos in their special seating area. They were crazed for the whole 90 minutes. Nothing in the US comes close. To have a look, click here.

Bucky Fuller, Dale Chihuly and the Garden

More from the Missouri Botanical Garden. The signature building of the garden is the Climatron. It is a visually striking building built in the form of a geodesic dome, containing the environment of a lowland tropical forest. Many of the principles of this kind of structure were worked out by the visionary architect and designer, R. Buckminster Fuller. The Climatron is in the background of this photo.

Last year, a big exhibit of the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly was spread throughout the garden. Some of his work remains indefinitely, including these glass bulbs floating in the reflecting pool. The interplay of all these elements creates a complex image.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Flowers? Me?

Usually, I'm not a big fan of nature and floral photography. My wife, who grew up in a rural area, is smitten by flowers. Sometimes I think she considers me a bit of a Philistine because I don't share her enthusiasm. Me, I grew up in Queens with three siblings and two parents in a two bedroom apartment. Our plants were the weeds that grew up in the cracks of the sidewalk. I was more interested in that magical island 15 minutes train ride to the west, full of concrete and buzz. Now I wonder how it could be that my wife doesn't understand, as I do, that Philip Glass' Satyagraha is the greatest opera of the 20th Century (and it's gonna be at the Met next spring!). Chacun a son gout.

Anyway, I was out working on my weekly photo quota at the
Missouri Botanical Garden on a lusciously dark, drizzly day. Many things photograph better in such soft, even light, IMHO. This group of flowers caught my eye. I began to play with composition and depth of field. This image appealed to be because the flowers seem to float in a relaxed, ambiguous space. You could reach out to the big one but not the others.

What do you look for in floral photographs?

Arts & Sciences

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pig Dog

There is a German insult, schweinehund, pig dog. What a wonderful, visceral expression: you swine, you filthy dog. On my way to take pictures at the Missouri Botanical Garden on Sunday, I stopped a few blocks away at two intriguingly named stores, side-by-side: The Bug Store and Gringo Jones. In the summer, their wares spill out onto the sidewalk, calling to passers-by. Gringo Jones has almost any weird thing you could imaging for your lawn or garden. However, only one of these two is for sale.

TOMORROW: I almost never do this.


I discovered a fourth Toynbee tile in the pavement of downtown St. Louis last weekend! See my obsessive posts of May 7, May 8 and May 9. This one is the most deteriorated of the group. It is located in the same crosswalk as the one I posted on May 9 (7th and Market), on the other side of the street. The mystery continues, as do my doubts about my own powers of observation. How could I have missed seeing these for so many years?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Diners and Greasy Spoons: White Castle

Ah, Le Chateau Blanc. My culinary love. White Castle is a chain of fast food restaurants n the midwest and northeast of the U.S. The signature item on the menu is a small hamburger on a square bun, approximately 2.5 inches / 6.3 cm on a side. The square meat patty is "steam grilled" with chopped onions and served with a sliver of pickle.

The steamy heat from cooking softens the bun and creates a unique flavor. The small size makes them look like hors d' oeuvres - you buy four or five and pop them in your mouth. Some people think they are awful and claim that the meat is bad quality, greasy and they feel like they slide down your throat. Others, including me, consider them a delicacy. I grew up on the same block of Queens, New York City that NYC blogger Ming the Merciless lives on now. There is a White Castle there in Sunnyside and a visit was a special treat during my childhood. People in New York and here in St. Louis call the burgers sliders for the reason just mentioned. White Castle celebrates the name and has trademarked the term Slyders.

The restaurants glow white at night. In the fall, when the sun sets earlier, I want to get out for some night shots of them.

Ming, do you ever visit the White Castle at Queens Boulevard and 43rd Street?


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dred Scott

This is the front of the Old Court House downtown. It was in active use from 1845 to 1930 and is now a museum. Its functions were gradually taken over by the Civil Courts Building (see May 16 post). Several more pictures are here.

The Old Court House was the scene of a lawsuit that played a pivotal role in American history. Most Americans have heard of the Dred Scott case but few know much about it. Scott was born a slave in Virginia. The family that owned him moved to St. Louis. Slavery had not yet been abolished in Missouri. They sold Scott to an Army doctor who traveled widely in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited. Upon his return to St. Louis, Scott sued for his freedom, arguing that his slavery ended while living in stated where it did not legally exist. At the end of long litigation, the court in St. Louis ruled that Scott was a free man. The owner appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In an infamous decision of 1856, the court ruled 7 to 2 that Scott was still a slave. The decision further deepened the divisions in out country which led to the Civil War of 1861 - 1865.

TOMORROW: Le Chateau Blanc

Friday, June 8, 2007

One Thing Follows Another

I should explain yesterday's teaser for this photo for those who are not native English speakers. It involves a bad pun. The word defined yesterday is segue. The vehicles in the picture, of course, are Segways. The pronunciation is the same. I was walking around downtown with my camera a few Saturdays ago, thinking about taking more pictures of Richard Serra's massive sculpture, Twain (see May 23 post). In the middle of the work's steel walls, I found the members of a Segway tour of downtown STL, led by Glide St. Louis Tours. They do Forest Park, too. What fun! The first time I actually saw a Segway was in Portland, Oregon. The police used them to patrol downtown and they looked very strange. Later on, I saw one in front of the American pavilion at the Expo in Aichi, Japan in 2005. A very tall American, wearing a helmet but going nowhere, stood on a Segway in front of the entrance. The Japanese visitors, as technologically sophisticated as anyone in the world, stood and gawked, fascinated by it.

TOMORROW: Slavery and justice.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Thursday Arch Series

This picture is a variation on
May 24's Arch Series post. Two glass-walled buildings face the Mississippi River near the south leg of the Arch. The color of the glass is a bit different, as is the shape and size of the windows. I like the way the building on the left, being closer, magnified the cloud and created different patterns of light. The sky is split in half by the bright south side of the building on the right.

TOMORROW: 1. to continue at once with the next musical section or composition (often used as a musical direction).
2. to perform in the manner of the preceding section (used as a musical direction).
3. to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption.
4. an uninterrupted transition made between one musical section or composition and another.
5. any smooth, uninterrupted transition from one thing to another.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Color Coordination

Still in University City's Delmar Loop. This self-consciously dressed young woman (check out the shades and Chanel tee shirt) watched the drum circle (see May 23 post) for a time, then got up and began to slowly dance in the center. There was a disconnect here: white fashionista and black drummers, many of whom wore African fabrics. Her dance did not approach the energy of the drummers; She seemed to be in a different, languid time scale. The drummers did not pay her much attention, but weren't hostile. Almost anything goes in the Loop.

TOMORROW: Thursday Arch Series

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Along the Delmar Loop

Back on May 23, I posted a picture from the interesting part of University City known as The Loop. I'm sure there will be more. This is an odd juxtaposition of vaguely Japanese objects in a store window. I thought the arrangement itself was interesting enough to photograph - and then this yellow-sandaled foot strode by, reflected in the window and stomped on the nice Japanese lady's head.

TOMORROW: Coco Chanel dances to an African beat, sort of.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Search For Justice

A homeless man, carrying all his possessions, walks past the St. Louis County Courthouse in Clayton. This is an affluent suburb, full of shiny office towers and expensive houses. It makes me wonder where he was coming from and going to.

There are some ethical questions in street photography. I took this while seated in my car across the street. It's what some photographers call sniping, taking a shot of someone in public without their permission, a quick hit and run. The detail of the man's face isn't clear enough in this picture, but he saw me taking his picture and stared at me. There was no other contact between us. I felt uncomfortable, even a bit guilty afterwards. What would have done in the same circumstances?

TOMORROW: Which of these things does not belong?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hallelujah! But Could You Turn Down The Amps A Bit?

For your Sunday morning, if you are of the appropriate persuasion: another photo from the lonely Jesus rock band rally. I posted a picture from this event on May 29.

The people in the red and black shirts under the sign on the right are taking pictures of the Old Court House and the Arch, indicating what's got their attention.

There are bumper stickers and even highway billboards around my area with this characteristic green and white sign. I just found the web site of the people who do all this. They are home-grown, based in an affluent suburb of St. Louis. Religious considerations aside, isn't this a bit strange? I wonder what effect they think these signs will have on people who see them. Click here for the organization's explanation.

Tomorrow: Search for justice

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Another Close Relationship

These are the co-workers, human and equine, of the pair in yesterday's post. Neither of them look happy with the weather.

Both yesterday and today's photos are about the relationship between a horse and a person. What do you see in them?

PS: Just got a email from Chrissy that the driver in this picture is named Carl and his horse is Pride. Why not?

Tomorrow: Sunday service (change of topic)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Chrissy and Curley

I was out taking pictures in the rain a few days ago, mostly from the safety of my car. There are horse drawn carriages that take tourists for rides around downtown. Two of them had taken shelter on the Mississippi riverfront, under the main bridge to Illinois. I parked there, too, walked over and struck up a conversation. The rain was ending and the sun just breaking through the clouds, making for beautiful light. Chrissy, the driver, told me that her horse is named Curley because the stable already had horses named Moe and Larry.

One of the wonderful things about street photography is learning how easy it is to approach people who are especially good subjects. Ordinary people often want to be left alone. They expect some privacy. Those with a flourish on display to the world love to get attention (see Brian's NYC post of May 29). You might make some new friends.

By the way, this is much more interesting than what's outside my bedroom window.

TOMORROW: The other horse and driver.