Sunday, December 31, 2017

Parting Shots

School kids in Albuquerque's Old Town

There are so many directions to go in photography. And going off on tangents can be its own reward for the ADHD among us. Seems that my photographic impulses are just that, impulses. I’ve got a high key thing in its infancy on Instagram, for example. The first, an intentionally blown out tree on the Vista Verde Trail above the Rio Grande got my juices flowing in the bleached midday sun sort of way. We’ll see where that goes.

Today, however, are a smattering of street shots. Street photography being another continuing passion. I’m more drawn to urban downtowns than villages, to be honest, but you gotta go with what you’ve got.

Sisters I'm guessing on the bandstand of Kit Carson Park in Taos.

I met this angular dude at Troy Brown's wake last summer. He's Kevin Somethingorother from Jamaica, Queens, NY. Supposed to play a mean jazz piano.

And a friendly reminder that I usually post more than one image. The way to see the whole shebang is to click on the title of the post that appears at the top of the email you received ("Parting Shots" in this case. That'll take you to the actual blog where you can view screen size images by clicking on one of them. 

Next week will be 2017 in review; kind of a highlight reel of captured moments throughout the year.  Seeing those gems, I hope you agree, will be worth the extra step.

Have healthy and joyous New Year.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Russians are coming. The Russians are Coming.

Inside the stockade where the Russian born leaders of the expedition worked and lived.

The Czarist explorers from Alaska recognized prime oceanfront property when they saw it. The year was 1812. Their contingent arrived on the northern Sonoma Coast where green pastures slope to the Pacific and towering Redwoods climb the hillside toward Cazadero and down the other side to what is now Guerneville and the aptly named Russian River Valley. They named their settlement, Fort Ross. The original manifest lists 25 Russian craftsmen and 80 native (mostly) Aleut sea hunters; natives of the Aleutian Islands that are strewn for 1,100 miles along the Bering Strait between Alaska and Siberia.

A window to the Pacific.

At Fort Ross the settlers were greeted by another first nations community, the Kashaya Pomo.  The Kashaya called the Aleut hunters “Underwater People” because their boats sat so low in the water. The Alaskan sea mammal hunters traveled great distances across rough open water in their tiny boats to hunt for sea otters and fur seals. 

As in Alaska, many colonists were mixed race or “creole.” Mixed Russian/Alaska Native or Russian/Californian boys were apprenticed in trades or sent to Russian for their education. In return the boys pledged 10 years of work with Russian American Company at Fort Ross and elsewhere.

On a bluff between the fort and the ocean a fence bends toward the surf 100 feet below.

In 1820, 53 percent of the adult population of 260 were Alaskan natives. Alaskan Native workers were initially marine mammal hunters but later became coopers, tanners, carpenters and sawyers. But at their core the Alaskan Natives were skilled hunters and it was those very talents that caused the eventual disruption of their native cultures. Unable to master these remarkable hunting skills themselves, the Russians captured, coerced and enslaved much of the native population for the procurement of seal skins and the highly prized pelt of the sea otter.

By 1839 the Russians had tired of their southern adventure. In 1841, Swiss pioneer, John Sutter, who had built Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, bought the Russian enclave with a promissory note he never paid.

My first visit to Fort Ross came nearly 70 years ago when I was a camper at Camp Cazadero nestled in the redwoods some 13 miles to the east. At that time I would have lived in Oakland or San Leandro. More precision escapes me.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Afternoon Delight

I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona next to a flatbed Ford when I glanced up to see a liaison, or facsimile thereof, in the window above me. Was the subject girl, my lord, the owner of said vehicle? Was that real hanky panky on the second floor or a vestige of my aging but vivid imagination? It makes me remember being picked by a dish in a pick-up in Florence, Arizona when I was twenty. That led to absolutely nothing. Thank you very much. 

I was heading to El Paso for a gig at folk club there and to visit a lady friend, not necessarily in that order, I caught a lift in Tucson, dozed off shortly thereafter and woke up in the hospital in Lordsburg, New Mexico with 60 stitches being sewn into by scalp. Even today you'll see aftermath of the butchery on my forehead just above my right eye

My alleged doctor told me that my benefactor had rear ended a flatbed truck a few miles east of Tucson. 

Yes folks, there is one too many flatbed trucks in this tale.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Blue Blue Mood

Some years ago, the artist Ulrich Gleiter, of Saint Petersburg by way of Strasbourg and Munich asked me to take his passport photo. He was emphatic that he could not smile as the impudent act would render his pic unacceptable by his Russian watchers, I mean hosts. “Der vill be no smilink” or words to that effect. 

I think “Uli”, a diminutive he no longer welcomes since he's forty, looks a gulag bound deer in the headlights.

Gleiter was born in Germany in 1977. He studied at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, the Suricov Art Academy in Moscow and the Repin Academy in Saint Petersburg from 2004-2010. The man speaks four languages fluently which means that, according to sworn testimony, he doesn't have to translate as he moves seamlessly between German, Russian, French and English. Oh, his physicist father helped discover the nanoparticle. There's some kind of gene pool thing going on.

This outtake was made with two Profoto flashes and matching 48 inch Chimera softboxes. The shutter sync lagged a tad which accounts for the pesky black stripe at the bottom.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Alta Vista

A stream wanders to the east between Tucumcari and Concha Lake

It’s not just the arrow straight roadway from Corazon Hill to Las Vegas that makes NM Highway 104 so magnetic. It’s how high desert becomes prairie at the height of land and tiny villages punctuate the landscape every dozen miles or so. Settlements with lyrical names like Trujillo, Trementina and Alta Vista appear ahead then disappear in the folds of memory. 

Be aware, the only gas between Tucumcari and Las Vegas is at Concha Lake 35 miles northwest of Tucumcari. That leaves 75 miles of empty between you and the known world.

A bare tree on the prairie near Trujillo

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Vanishing Points and Big Skies

New Mexico Highway 104, a regular on these pages, slices a diagonal course from Tucumcari to Las Vegas or the reverse if you must know. It's a mighty scenic, mostly empty and a favorite in the Immel household. In April we traversed the road in both directions since it's the most direct path to and from I-40 and the mind-numbing boredom of freeway driving across the flats of eastern NM and Texas. While the tarmac twists and turns as you ascend from the nothingness of Tucumcari it runs arrow straight when you reach the height of land past Concha Lake, like a horizontal plumbline into slowly gentrifying Las Vegas. 

I have a thing about vanishing points and big skies don't hurt my feelings in the least.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Precious moments

The lissome lass has leapt from Vermeer's easel it seems to me. The alabaster child and her loving papa pose serenely beneath a gnarly oak at the Taos Wool Festival and are the beneficiaries of the much ballyhooed open shade referenced in last week's post.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Commending Open Shade

On occasion a street photograph enters the realm of environmental portraiture. This may be one. Two things were at play. First, this vendor at the Taos Wool Fest this year was awash with woolly garments and was posing pensively almost poignantly for my camera. That she had the grace to place herself in the open shade in front of her booth is a marvel of good modeling. 

Let’s raise a glass to a photographer’s best friend; the soft light provided by a canopy of something or other. Once again I attest to the glories of diffusion at midday. The stuff shot with direct sunlight moments before and after was harsh, harsher and harsherer.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

El pago en cash

This hand-written sign made me smile. Staffing that graveyard shift must be a bitch. If ever there was a blatant effort to beat the system this is one. Could they be more obvious? Apparently paying $12.00 an hour cash money for a dishwasher on the vaunted 12am -4am  shift Fridays and Saturdays is the only shot at getting a pearl diver. I've waited decades to use that term.

Ask yourself who in the hell would report at midnight for a four shift? $48.00 tax free dollars is, well, $48.00 tax free dollars. I get that.  But this is 2017, chico. This little Tacos al Carbon operation is throwing caution to the wind it seems to me. Does getting caught cheating Governor Brown’s Tax and Revenue department and the IRS mean anything to you? And, did I mention the INS and ICE?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

LA Noir

Cops in shorts

More questions than answers

After a couple of weeks of technicolor skylines from the City of Angels comes a grittier look at street level. How better to portray the human condition in the urban environment than in glowering black and white?  The monochrome strips away the gloss and renders the scenes darker and more soulful it seems to me.

Call Moon and Yang.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Looming Large

September 2017

Last month in Los Angeles I discovered that a high rise in progress is occupying the very parking lot from which I made the photograph just below. Just twenty-one months earlier a reflective puddle was the sole resident of the broken asphalt. 

January 2016

January 2016

This is exemplifies the onslaught of new construction that's transforming LA's downtown into a desirable place to work, live and play. At every turn cranes scrape the sky and scaffolding grips the sides of office buildings as they morph into upscale lofts.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Face In The Crowd

Outsize portraits adorn buildings all over booming downtown Los Angeles. The murals are funny and creepy at the same time. Is it a big brother thing or somebody's warped sense of humor?

My take on LA's gritty city center has been that it isn't a real downtown and that the City of Angels can't join the pantheon of great cities until it has one. My premise is that to be a "real" downtown people have to live there and it has to be abuzz with action day and night. Manhattan? You bet. Chicago? Damn straight. San Francisco? I left my heart there when I was six. Boston? They don't call it "The Hub" for nothing.

Downtown LA has been a dud until recently but is exploding with new construction. Yet it struggles with livability in my view. All growth can't be vertical. More green space would seem essential especially in Southern California where folks live outdoors. Lofts alone aren't going to cut it. City fathers and profiteers alike should get a clue.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Rhythm and Flow

We got to Point Reyes Light fifteen minutes too late to walk the 308 steps down to lighthouse itself. The gate is locked at 4:30pm. Undaunted, we scoured the area for suitable subjects and these receding pickets captured my eye. The shallow depth of field fore and aft was just the ticket.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Treasures within Treasures

When visiting our magnificent national parks it’s hard not to settle for traditional landscape photographs of the epic kind. Certainly, Grand Canyon National Park north or south compels us to capture its vast beauty. Not frequently enough I will take the time, look more closely and discover a more intimate jewel like the Cliff Rose (or so I believe) depicted here. And, after all, I am a card carrying gnarly tree fan. That the Cliff Rose may be a shrub doesn't diminish the point being made. To wit, dig a little deeper. There's good stuff lurking beneath the obvious.

I've rendered this image high key to focus attention on the intricate subject. I've blown out the background so that nothing competes with the twisted Cowderia Mexicana. In the original capture the mesas beyond are visible.

Below is the image from which this came.

Nice comparison, what?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

No sitting on horse without permission. Look for horsemen.

During my recent driving trip with my son, Garrett, one that took us through Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands we realized that way more than half of the voices we heard were from foreign shores. And my best guess is that this aspiring John Wayne hailed from eastern Europe. I going with Kazakhstan because I like the way it looks in print.

Posing as the Duke on a Navajo pony in John Ford country is an assiduously controlled endeavor as you can plainly see. It’ll cost you five buckaroonies for the privilege. Or for you, my young Tselmeg, that'll be 1,704.984 Tenges.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Canyon Glow

On a Wednesday night we arrived at the east entrance to Grand Canyon National Park just as the sun was falling below the canyon rim. The ranger warned us, “You’re about to miss the sunset. You’ve get about five minutes. Desert View Tower is half a mile on your right. Hurry and you might make it.”

We sped to the parking lot and literally ran to a spot to the right of the watch tower. The brilliant orb was falling fast. But not too fast for these.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Just because

The church in Coyote, New Mexico

No name mesa on the way to Monument Valley.
I left Taos Wednesday mid-morning with my son Garrett and by the time we got to LA Friday evening we’d seen parts of the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. At 11 tonight (Sunday) we drug our sorry butts home from the Emmys and I am dragging like a sod farmer in the Dust Bowl. This one is as perfunctory as I've ever done. Doing it 'cause I can't miss a post after something like 550 and counting 

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Immels at Immel + Immel: Our New Mexico

Saturday night our Immel + Immel extravaganza opened at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art here in Taos. I’m pleased to say we enjoyed a big turnout, especially for a Labor Day weekend with about a thousand competing events. Big thanks to Rob Nightingale for mounting such a handsome show and even bigger thanks to all the collectors, fellow artists and friends who made the opening so special.

A special call-out to out my dear friend, the photographer Daryl Black, for being our designated paparazza. Didn’t expect it, Daryl, but it sure was appreciated. Photo up top of Peggy and Steve courtesy of Ms. Black.

There's still time to catch the exhibition. It's up till September 17.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Count Down

As I write this post it’s one week or five business days till our exhibition Immel + Immel: Our New Mexico opens at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in Taos. Not to beat a dead horse, but if you’re within say, 1,000 miles, we expect to see your handsome visage at our opening reception from 5 to 7 Saturday, September 2.  Up top are three more samplings from the show.

And if I may crib from our press release:

A life-long photographer and essentially self-taught, Steve Immel, is best known for his spare black and white images of the depopulated reaches of the desert southwest. He is drawn to a broad range of subjects: classic landscapes; architecturals; abstracts and still lifes; portraiture and street photography. That variety is evident in the Immel + Immel show. “I’m well aware that showing that kind of gamut in 12 to 15 images risks continuity. Yet I don’t know a better way to express my love for our vast vistas, New Mexico’s rich history and my deep appreciation for all that New Mexico gives me. I hope that each photograph tells a story or that it prompts the viewer weave one of her or his own for the image.” Blah, blah.

The show tilts toward landscapes but I've tried to mix it up tad in order to reveal my utterly confused state.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Immel + Immel: Our New Mexico

Wagon Ruts, Cline's Corner, NM

Pecan Grove #1, Mesilla, NM

Out of the shadows, Las Vegas, NM

In less than two weeks on September 2 Immel + Immel: Our New Mexico will open at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in Taos. My part, the photographs, include images that have never been shown in print form or in a gallery setting. You have seen some of them in my blog, however.

Above are three from the show.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lenny Leaving

Homage to Lenny

Lenny Foster has left the building. Arguably Taos’ most successful photographer pulled up stakes last January and took his show to Saint Augustine, Florida. I'd joke he's looking for the fountain of youth but he doesn't need no stinking fountain. 

On Saturday, August 5 he returned to our arid environs for curtain call and a one-year retrospective he called “El Año Pasado” held at Magpie in the Overland Sheepskin Complex. As you would expect, the joint was rocking with friends and collectors hoping for a second chance to say goodbye to the last celebrity artist since R.C. Gorman left the planet. Good luck with your futile attempts to get face-time with the man of the hour. Dude was a freaking rock star.

Local photographers have mused about Lenny’s contribution to our little community and to our image as a place to find, dare I say buy, good photography. Lenny had become the face of Taos photography over his 23 years here; all respect to Geraint Smith, Bill Davis, Zoe Zimmerman and a host of able shooters.

One friend, the noted photogravure practitioner, Cris Pulos, went so far as to wonder if Lenny’s departure signaled the end of the photography era in Taos. My not entirely tongue in cheek response was, “No, because there’s never been a photography era here.” This a painter’s town, chico. He’ll be missed as will his beautifully curated and hung gallery near the corner of Main and Main. It’s a simple as that. And we are left with a blight of an operation in his old space; one that is an affront to our artistic sensibilities. We are not pleased.

Up top you’ll see my entirely derivative riff on Lenny’s “Healing Hands” series; the one that put him on the map. Those are Lenny’s two fingers holding his brown fedora with five dreadlocks hanging into the frame. He's wearing Ryan Michaels if you must know. He 's nearly as well known for his threads and dreads as his thoughtfully composed, spiritual confections. 

Poignant image, no?

And, finally, this image and a dozen or so others along with a similar number of Peggy Immel's paintings will be seen at the "Immel + Immel: Our New Mexico" show that opens Saturday, September 2 at Wilder Nightingale. See you there.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Give it to me one more time, and I do mean one

Epic sky above the plains near Miami, New Mexico

By 9pm on Sundays I usually have a clue about what I’m going to post. Most weeks I've been picking at the thing for days and have put it to bed. This edition, though, I'm grasping for the straws of inspiration. I’m also struggling with the absurd concept of “less is more” usually attributed minimalist architect Mies van der Rohe but, in fact, drawn from Robert Browning’s poem “Andrea de Sarto.”

Some have lamented that I will always post nine images when one would do the job quite nicely. Thank you for that input. If I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you.

Still on the slim chance there's something to it here’s a one and done.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Westward Ho Moments

Emanuel LeFevre or so he says

The man from Rolla

Last Saturday we took a jaunt to Rayado, New Mexico where we had learned there was a Kit Carson Museum. Though we have our own Kit Museum here in Taos, the open road called and we headed east on US 64, through Angel Fire, Eagle Nest and Cimarron Canyon to tiny Rayado. Do we have names.

Rayado and the museum reside on the monumental EX UU Bar Ranch and are part of Philmont Scout Ranch about which I dreamed in the early and mid-fifties.

At Rayado we found the appropriately named Rayado Trading Post which does double duty as the Kit Carson Museum and is manned by college age reenactors playing frontiersmen and offering tours of the old post. Among them were two young men: one hailing from Saint Joseph’s College in Brooklyn Heights, Nuevo York and the other from Springfield, Missouri. The former, clearly a method actor, called himself Emanuel LeFevre, who came west from Quebec or Saint Louis. Contestant number two, an Eagle Scout, was a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri. That's him with his trained chicken Rosita below.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Intimate Details

There was an Aztec ceremony or velación at famed Ranchos Church a week ago Saturday. Steve Bundy, John Farnsworth and I photographed the spectacle in all its colorful glory and yet again I default to toned black and white. Which is not to say that Kodachrome moments won't follow in due course. 

As the pageantry wound down this intimate exchange emerged. As best I can figure these participants are experiencing a cleansing practice called limpia using prayer sticks made of fresh flowers. I found their warm engagement to be brimming with kinship and goodwill, commodities in rare supply these days. And I find hand kissing to be largely missing in public discourse.