Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Virgin of Guadalupe


The Virgin of Guadalupe is everywhere in San Miguel. She is a very powerful icon to look at, and the story is also quite powerful. Of course there are the skeptical criticisms of this story and further allegations that this was just one more, of the many, mechanisms employed to convert the indigenous people to Christianity - not only was there a miracle, but the directive to build a church on the very site of an Aztec temple dedicated to an earth goddess(click link to see more images from Day 4).

Graphic

Doing photography in San Miguel has been a wonderful exercise for me as I really have never been even remotely interested in color other than when I had been taking snapshots. San Miguel has so much color and yet great forms and textures that it has been relatively easy for me to cross over to color. My true love is still black and white and I love the graphic nature of this image with the geometric patterns of shadows, wood and gritty white stucco.

Animate


The light is always on the move in San Miguel. In a few minutes the scene, from a photographic perspective anyway, can dramatically change. I love the fact that the shadows are always in motion and their effect is typically soft and warm (again, speaking from a photographic perspective).

Christ



There are numerous and sometimes, very intense depictions of Christ in the churches here (San Miguel). This church easily had ten different representations, often powerful images, bloody, on the cross and with a crown of thorns.

Elaborate


The is an abundance of beautifully ornate and elaborately carved doorways in San Miguel. This one was right near the Jardin Principal (in the town center). The door is clearly very old, yet the wood has a lush warm color. Given the depth of the carvings, these doors must have been made from some massive slaps of wood.

La Ventana


The shop windows (las ventanas) are getting more spectacular each day as Los Dias de Los Muertos approach. This one caught my interest because you can barely make out the ornate cross as you look through the reflection of the building across the street.

Del Diablo


Speaking of mysterious portals, where in the Hell do you suppose this one goes? This building was the most incredible color and the texture was so wild it looked like a shag carpet that had been soaked in paint.

La Aurora


La Aurora Art and Design Center is a very interesting collection of art galleries and design shops all interspersed throughout what was once an industrial complex. As you walk through this facility you come across some strange comingling of artifacts, turn of the century machinery and art.

Shadows


The light in San Miguel is quite wonderful and it yield dense yet soft and diffuse splashes of light and shadows as in this image of a flax plant contrasted with the shadows and light on the stucco wall.

Milagros


As Los Dias de Los Muertos approaches, there is even more thoughts turned towards the notion of miracles (milagros), and to that end, there are many ways to request a miracle, including tossing coins into a well. This pool was no exception, replete with ornamental coy and five peso coins.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Corazón


The shop windows with the displays for the upcoming Los Dias de Los Muertos seem a fitting metaphor to convey the complex and layered cultural influences that weave the intricate tapestry that is the mindset of the indigenous people of Mexico. I am referring to the conquering Europeans and the introduction of Christianity followed by various revolutions that have all taken place in just the last few hundred years. These influences are evident, though in a way that is not unlike the layers in this image. Also like this image, the heart of the Mexican people is visible, though somewhat obscured beneath the only partially opaque layers (click link to see more images from Day 3).

The Apple


There is symbolism everywhere here in Mexico, and surely, the opportunity to communicate some thought, feeling or perhaps even a story, would not be wasted when it comes to a door knocker. It seems fitting that a culture, which is so steeped in Christianity, someone might have a door knocker that is a hand holding an apple. What lies behind this door?

The Light


This church had a very Aztec sort of bold graphic motif that ran around the waist of the building, almost as though it was a belt. I liked the way the sun reflected off the window in a manner that made me feel, at least for a instant, that there was a blinding light within the church that could barely be contained by the walls, windows and bars.

Patina


Everything here in San Miguel seems to have a patina of ages, brilliant and intense colors, yet the air of antiquity. Just look at this deep rich red with the black, soot-like stains of time. The doors almost look like the mouths of twin furnaces.

Fresco


This is one perspective on a huge room that is covered, floor to ceiling, in a spectacular fresco. It was strange that the room was very dark and it was hard to make out the paintings. I used a digital camera without a flash and it picked up the images include the amazingly vivid colors. This is more of what I have been talking about with regards to the very powerful nature of the Mexican art we have seen here.

Stunning


The Mexican art that we have seen here echoes the bold, passionate, unbridled, yet somehow layered with intricacy, sort of expression that is often characterized of the Latin culture, be it poetry, paintings or love making. This was one of a series of very powerful sculptures that we saw in San Miguel today.

Awe


Churches are designed to evoke a sense of awe. This can be experienced in so many ways - enormity, power, breath-taking beauty, splendor to name a few. This is one of a pair of matching doorways to a church in San Miguel. The are so amazing to see in person that they almost make you want to drop prostrate upon the steps.

Reflections


There is so much to reflect upon as an American visiting in Mexico. Americana have an amazing standard of living, wealth, comfort, safety, freedom, security and the list goes on. So, as an American visiting Mexico, you would have to be pretty dense to not experience the layers of history that are reflected in the people and the place. This is a very powerful place to take some time for introspection, revelation, growth and thanks.

Dante Alighieri



'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here', seemed to be the thought that ran through my head (compliments of Dante's Divine Comedy) as I gazed upon this sanguine wall in San Miguel, Mexico. The colors are so rich and dense, mostly earth tones with the intermittent splash of blue.

Scorpio


There has to be a bit more going on here than the sign explicitly declares. This place was almost invisible unless you just happened to notice a very narrow stairway down to this doorway.

Portal


I am curiously drawn to these sort of portals. There certainly must be a mysterious and fantastical place that is only experienced when approached through a portal such as this. If I could have reached it, I may very well have crawled through to see what was on the other side.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cafe


This cafe is right across the street from a group of fabulous churches. It leverages the fame of a well known and sexy actress, so everything in this cafe had a pinch of sex and dash of humor, including this painting. Mexico is big on chocolate and the hot chocolate drinks at this cafe, accompanied by a plate of churros, will send you on a sugar propelled high for the rest of the afternoon (click link to see more images from Day 2).

Flying Buttress


The churches are everywhere in San Miguel... I mean three of them right next to one another. They are, of course quite beautiful. They include wonderful stonework. Something interesting, as is often found in conquered societies, there are subtle messages that seem to be saying, 'we are still here and not entirely repressed'. This form of messaging includes subtle symbols and images integrated into the ornamentation of the churches.

Dark Perspective


Even though we traveled all night and into the next day to get to my mother's home in San Miguel, I could not wait to get out and look around the city. I really enjoyed taking pictures at night, as the shadows and light played in such as different way than in the daylight.

Cobblestones at Night


The cobblestone roads in San Miguel are so worn that they are somewhat polished and reflect the lights from the cars, as seen in this night image of a cobblestone alley.

Los Dias de Los Muertos


This is a very unique time in Mexico. Los Dias de Los Muertos runs for three days. It permeates everywhere and everything. There are some regional differences, and one of the things I notice here, is that the iconic figures (Mary, the Baby Jesus) are sometimes dressed in interesting ways.

Receptacle


This trash receptacle was at the Houston Airport. I almost looked like some sort of strange metallic orifice. We arrived in the airport prior to dawn for a connection to Mexico and the light was golden with a tinge of blue as the sun just began to rise (click link to see more images from Day 1).

Intersection



San Miguel de Allende is just beautiful. I love the wonderful laid back and easy going feel of Mexico with an architecture and atmosphere of Europe. It is very strange to see these delightful cobblestone streets and stucco sided buildings, replete with animal figured drainspouts for the rooftop terraces, yet an amazing tangle of power lines, telephone and even cable.

Callejon de Coda


My mother has been living in Mexico, on and off for quite a few years now. More recently, she designed and built a beautiful home in San Miguel de Allende. I love the light, colors, space, air and feel of antiquity. Although largely conforming to the colonial aesthetic, at least for the front facade, the interior and the courtyard make me think of Pompeii. She did a fabulous job as the designer, architect and construction manager.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Subconscious

I wonder what Sigmund Freud might have to say about my fascination with deep, dark, mysterious pools. I can not deny this fascination since it makes itself so clearly evident in my photography. Furthermore, it is the raw, unedited aspect of creating artistic imagery through photography, that concerns me a little since it seems to reveal inner secrets (secrets that I don't even know about myself). I say this as much of my imagery is dark and foreboding (see http://www.jamessims.com/) and I do not feel that way, nor do I believe I project that sort of persona in my daily life.

Do I have some dark side that I do not get to consciously get to tap into and explore? It is hard for me to analyze because it appears that I only have a sort of secondhand access to this aspect of myself, which I only discovered accidentally through the expression of my photography.

Butterfly Effect


A friend of mine and I had an interesting conversation the other day. He was going to give a talk at his church. His objective was to encourage the members to take a more active role in aiding our population of homeless people. As we discussed it, we determined that it would not be a successful tactic to force people to confront, head on, the realities of the homeless... as it is not all that uncommon for folks to prefer to remain in denial about these realities.

As we discussed it further, we thought, perhaps it might be more effective if he could take a different and more positive spin on this challenging topic. What if he used the 'Butterfly Effect' as an illustration of the opportunity that we all have with regard to the homeless. Who knows, just as the single flap of a butterfly's wings might have far reaching implications, perhaps there might sometimes be the same sort of profound impacts to some of these people's lives through the simple acts of kindness such as food, clothing and shelter, a little compassion, respect and understanding.

No Contest

It is just incredible. As much as I love and admire the creative capacity within human beings, nature has the most amazing capacity for beauty, at the macro and micro levels. Take this tropical leaf for example. The complex patterns of dark and light green segmented by the veins, and accented by the jewel-like drops of water, is magnificent. I really enjoyed just taking in the detail of this before I ever got around to photographing it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mission


While visiting a mission a while back, I found myself drawn to an oft overlooked and run down graveyard around and in the back. There were very old graves in varying states of disrepair, but it was quite powerful to be there and it felt very personal. It enjoyed this part of the mission the most, probably because, unlike the rest of the mission which had felt like a Museum of Natural History exhibit - accurate, but still somewhat artificial - this space seemed to communicate a more genuine story about the mission.

While taking in the tranquility of this graveyard, my eyes were particularly drawn to the farm fields seen in the distance below the old mission wall. These fields were strongly contrasted with the rest of the scene as the sun was beating down on fields, whereas the graveyard itself, was mostly shaded with just a sparse dappling of sunlight.




Hello?

I was looking up just past an overhanging roof the other morning, and there was a patch of shimmering silver clouds that caught the light in and odd way. They were reflecting the morning sun, which had not yet found its way to the ground I was standing on, and they practically blinded me with brilliant white light. I was tempted to whisper a 'hello' in a tentative manner, wondering if there was not some God like voice that might answer. If nothing else, it gave me pause for reflection and awe in the possibilities that we can only hope for, yet never be 100% certain of... but then, that is why we call it faith, isn't it.

Other's Eyes

This last week has been quite wonderful. I had a few of my dearest friends come together, along with my lovely wife, for an evening to honor the fact that I am about to turn 50. It was a very nice evening in the company of a few of the finest people I know.

This is a picture that one of my buddies took of me as I was fingerpicking a few songs before dinner. You know, we are not often really all that aware how we appear to those around, us, as a person, or just to look at us, and I thought that this image captured some of what I hope I do look like when others are in my company. I had shared this blog with a handful of my friends and was gratiously treated with some very kind and positive feedback regarding this blog, more specifically, the sort of person that I am. That makes me extremely happy, as I am striving to be a better person, in a myriad of dimensions, everyday. My response back to each of you is, thank you for being you... sincerely.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Strange

Fall is here, or at least just starting. And it was very strange to be filling up the car with gas early this morning and finding these fantastically colored leaves standing out so boldly against the cold, harsh, stained concrete. What a great contrst.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Doorway

I am insatiably curious, and if I don't have the answer, I am quite happy to invent one in the meantime. Who knows what goes on behind a doorway such as this one? And, since I don't know, I will have to make something up.

I am guessing that this is warehouse for one of the largest and most comprehensive herb and spice distributors in the nation. The building gives no indication of this fact however, because age old traditions of the spice trade still exist today. If it was known what this warehouse really contained, it would be subjected to constant attacks of piracy, whereby other spice merchants would send raiding parties in an attempt to steal away all of the spices treasured away deep inside the vaults within the warehouse.

Tanks

I just love fuel tanks of any sort, especially when they are white or silver colored. They have a fabulous range of shadows, particularly if shot in the early morning light as this image was. Since these tanks are white, they are also reflecting the yellow tinge of the light that comes just after the purple of first light. Take a look at the base for these tanks... aren't the layers of paint interesting, beginning with a faded black paint, then peeling, then moss, then street art tags?

It was interesting to shoot this particular object because it was on the way to work, as a number of folks that I work with, who are accustomed to me in a specific work related context, were concerned that maybe something happened to me, such as a flat tire.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another World

There is a whole other world under our bridges and freeway overpasses. People less fortunate than most of us may set up temporary camps and street gangs can take the time to produce some pretty elaborate and large scale art. Doesn't it make you wonder what may be going on under an overpass that you drive on everyday. People may be living there, cold, in fear, forgotten... they live in another world that is unknown to you and I (click link to see more street art images).

Silos

It is strange that I have really enjoyed color now that I have been using a digital camera (Nikon D200). As long as I have shot film, I have preferred Kodak Tri-X (B&W) in both my XPan (panoramic 35mm) and my Pentax 67II (6x7cm). I really enjoyed the lush warm colors of this late afternoon scene on an abandoned farm in the Central Valley. The colors are intentionally super saturated, as always, I am drawn to these sort of architectural shapes, especially when contrasted with their surroundings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dream Guitars

Speaking of 'Dream Guitars'. Here are two Fender Stratocaster I have recently built.

The Seafoam Green Strat is built on a USA body (Ash) which I painted with nitrocellulose paint, wet sanded, clear coated and hand rubbed to get that vintage finish. All the components are carefully selected for vintage look and sound. The 54' pickups are from the Fender Custom Shop. Knobs, pickguard, pickup covers and tremolo covers are all aged mint green. The neck is an 80' USA Strat maple neck with lots of birdseye and flame across the back with Fender chrome locking tuners. This guitar is a dream, it plays (you can hear it on this audio clip), feels and looks wonderful and it evokes a sense of the 50's just to see it.
The Olympic White Strat built around Lace Gold Sensor pickups with a 7 way switch that allows neck and bridge combinations as well as the more traditional. The body and tremolo are also vintage. The neck is a Mighty Mite licensed neck made of maple with an ebony fingerboard and jumbo frets. The frets combined with a 9.5" radius make this neck silky smooth for bends. The neck was finished with a vintage toner, bootleg decals, nitrocellulose lacquer and satin locking tuners. This guitar is also a dream, but very different than my Seafoam Green Strat, so the two are very complimentary.

But most of all, it is very satisfying to have guitars that really meet your specific needs and even more satisfying to have designed and assembled them yourself (click links to see more images of the Seafoam or Olympic White Strats).

Fractals


Did you know that practically everything you find in nature can be represented pictorially via one or more fractal equations - flowers, leaves, bark, water ripples, feathers and so on. Fractals have always fascinated me. Double-click on this image by Roger Johnson and check out the amazing detail. You can learn more about them by searching the web and exploring some libraries of fractal images, or, if your are really curious, there are a number of free downloadable tools that will allow you to design your own fractals.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fleeting

Costa Rica is an amazing place. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's landmass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. I was there many years ago, and yet, it was such a powerful experience that I still think about it. This is a country no larger than the state of Virginia yet is has more butterflies than any single continent.

If you think that sleeping in a tree-house only to be awoken by a troop of Howler Monkeys outside your window is cool, or if you think moonlight skinny dipping in a hot spring at the base of live volcano while you are treated to a spectacular lava light show is your idea of an adventure, then you should seriously consider visiting Costa Rica, as it is not going to last forever... the cloud forests are receding every year and will soon be gone.

Awash in Color

We used to Kayak Big River quite often when we lived in Mendocino. In the summer, the river would slow way down, and on some days, when the light was just right, there would be an amazing spectrum of colors as though someone had released pales of intense dyes just upstream from us.

Blown Away

One of my favorite times on the Northern California coast is right after the first big storm of the year. The seaweed that grew over the summer with the ample sun and gentle seas is now piled up on the beach in all sorts of tangled piles and strewn in lines resembling Bézier curves. There is a feeling of cleansed rebirth in the aftermath of a storm.

Third Time is the Charm?


I guess I am just not meant to be in Mendocino, however, I sure do miss it. I lived there with my family in 67 and again in 69 with a little more time spent, after my family decided to move away again, living with my older friend, and at that time, idol, Stan Kelly. That was until my father was murdered (a day or so before my birthday) and I needed to go live re-united with my family who were in Hermosa Beach at the time.

However, I longed to return to Mendocino. It retained all sorts of boyhood discoveries, a la 'Summer of 42', and sweet memories. Not only was I living on the beautiful Northern California coast, but this was the late 60's and all sorts of strange and wonderful things transpired in this place at that time.

The third time around, my wife and I bought this wonderful home, on the edge of the Jackson State forest in Mendocino. We owned for 5 years, though I only lived there for a year as economic challenges forced me to be elsewhere on consulting engagements so that we could make ends meet. Finally, we surrendered and sold the home so that we could be together and live a more consistent life, with a permanent position in the Central Valley.

Still Life


I like the idea of a still life composition. It freezes a moment in time, and, if done well, it conveys that same feeling to others as they view the image. I was enjoying the late summer sun, softening as Autumn approaches, and the way it passed through the jar holding the now decimated flower. These sort of moments seem to make time stand still momentarily, and you gaze dreamily, with child-like wonder, at the way the focused rays of light played on the wood counter. I hope you have moments like this too.