Saturday, April 30, 2011

Then...and Now

(Snapped on 5/01/10)

It's crazy to think that the photo above, was snapped a whole entire year ago - today. And the only reason that I happened to even remember that it was - is because the local Apple Blossom Parade is underway, as we speak - just as it is every year - on the Saturday over the first weekend in May. 

Last year my youngest daughter was one of Queen Apple Blossom's Little Maids, and she rode with the Queen on a float in the parade. I should mention that I abhor every aspect of Apple Blossom; from the hellacious crowds, and obnoxious drunks - to the nauseating pink and green theme colors - I literally have no tolerance for any part of it. But last year, I sucked it up and did the right thing...I put on a happy face, and walked two miles from the closest parking place I could find, in order to watch my child perform her royal duties... 

The instant she reached the end of the parade route, and disembarked from that god-awful float - I told her how proud I was, gave a hug and a kiss, and left her in the care of her "Bloom"-lovin' dad.

Once home again, I hopped on my lawn tractor - all set to mow for the remainder of the day...which was a nice idea in theory - but (as seems to be my curse) my mower suffered yet another malfunction, and was rendered completely useless, midway through.

I was so disappointed. But then I got the big idea - to make use of the clunker as a prop for my pics.. I put it in neutral, pushed it to a (fairly) tidy spot in the yard - and got busy staging my 10th ever self-portrait shoot.

Lookin' back at 'em now, it kinda cracks me up that I was so proud of the way that these self-pics. turned out. I mean...they were not difficult to capture, my poses were - eh? And they're devoid of anything mysterious or odd - that might leave viewers scratching their heads.

(Snapped on 4/28/11)

Anyway, here we year later...Apple Blossom time again. Besides the fact that I did not have to attend (YIP!) I guess the biggest difference this year - is that my mower just got fixed, and after picking it up from my repair guy this morning - I spent the day cutting grass, instead of snappin' pics..  

(Snapped on 4/28/11)

That being said, I did take some self-portraits on Thursday of this week (THANK You, nice lady with the house and the field!) and although in posting this group out of sequence, I'm breaking my "chronological order" rule - it's clearly the best way to make the comparison between where I was last year, and what I'm doing now

(Snapped on 4/28/11)

Oh and hey listen, if it seems like I'm rushing to get through this post - I can't deny that I definitely am. Which is sort of a shame, cuz there's lots that I'd love to write about this house, if I didn't have like 55 other things to do - before this day and the month...are finis.

(Snapped on 4/28/11)

I'll be curious to see how I feel about these new snaps, once a whole 'nother year has gone by. But for now, let's just hope that my stuff's gotten better - since I took those silly tractor pics. last Apple Blossom...

Monday, April 25, 2011


(All pics. snapped on 4/03/11)

Remember the boy (my son's very close friend) that I wrote about, in February's Outta the Mouths of Babes entry? Well...since that time, back when I took his advice and snapped self-portraits and Instagram pics. at a creepy, old house that he was 100% correct in assuming that I'd love - we've kinda become picture-taking pals. Not only is he an enviably gifted, natural-born photographer, but he's also a delightful person to be around, as well as completely willing - even eager - to join me in my search for cool places to shoot. And I'm talkin' - places that very few 12 year olds that I know, would be willing to even dare set foot...that creepy, old house included.

The boy and I have gotten into the habit lately, of spending hours together - iPhones at the ready (on the weekends when my kids are with their dad) at the flea market, the race track, even a stinky, mucky pig farm. But my very most favorite of all of our destinations - is a sprawling junk car graveyard (seen here in this post), and just as he did with that creepy, old house - the boy clued me into the junkyard's existence. 

When he first brought it up - I was like, "No way, not possible...I've driven by there a gazillion times, and haven't seen anything like that." But then I thought, "Hmmm...he had been spot-on about that creepy, old house...I may as well go and have a look."

The next day, I called the owner of the business (behind which the junkyard purportedly sits) and got permission to explore the vast, hidden treasure (THANK You!) 

Oh my gosh, you guys...when I first walked up to it? I honestly felt like I was dreaming. It was as if I'd stepped into some sort of wonderland...a sea of discarded, antique cars - like a museum and a cemetery rolled into one. I was so mind-boggled, that it actually took me a sec. to remember I was there to snap pics.. But I collected myself, and after a couple of hours, I had more pictures than I knew what to do with...and the best part was - I'd only covered about a third of the property...

I returned the following weekend to pick up where I'd left off, but that time - I brought the boy along with me. There was a selfish side of me that had wanted to keep the junk car graveyard all to myself, a secret spot meant for no one but me and my cameras. But let's face it, I'd have never even known about the place, if the boy hadn't told me about it - so it only seemed fair that I should share it with him.

I typically prefer to fly solo on my outings, which obviously makes sense on my self-portrait shoots, but even when I'm snappin' with my Holga and iPhone, I prefer to work unencumbered by sidekicks. But the boy has proven to be a capable copilot - he's quiet, engaged and he never complains, i.e.: it was pouring down rain at the junkyard that day, and he never once whined about wanting to leave...he was just as thrilled as I was - to be there.

I owe the boy a huge debt of gratitude, not only for directing me to choice locations - but also for allowing me to watch firsthand, the methods that he uses to capture great images. I've learned a lot from observing his casual technique (one that is far less fastidious than mine) as he produces photos that to me clearly indicate that age has no bearing on talent. 

The boy did not join me on my third trip to the junk car graveyard, nor did my iPhone or Holga. Instead, I took only my Cybershot so that I could focus entirely on staging self-portraits. Good timing was of the essence, since Spring was threatening to cause the network of twisted and plentiful vines - to leaf out, and I worried that if I waited until after the foliage was in bloom, I would a.) no longer be able to navigate my way through the already prohibitive under/overgrowth, and b.) my co-stars (the immobilized old cars) would not be nearly as visible. Also, I wanted to shoot on a Sunday - when the neighboring businesses would be closed for the day, giving me the freedom to work with more privacy.

This was one location shoot where I felt completely at ease, and I'm not even really sure why. Yes, I had permission - so trespassing wasn't an issue, and although strangers could see me as they drove along the roadway - I never felt the need to duck or hide. I got so wrapped up in each different scenario - that real life seemed to evaporate, as my fantasies became more real...such a strange thing to say, but it's true. 

When I take the time to think about it, I cannot believe how lucky I have a life so rich with amazing opportunities, and an outlet through which to capitalize on them. But even more enriching - are the people in my life - like the boy, the junkyard owner, and a handful of others - who accept me for the way that I am, but also - selflessly see to it (whether they know it or not) that my dreams do indeed become reality…

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Molly...

(All pics. snapped on 4/11/11)

...I can't even tell you how surprised and delighted I was, when I read that you had selected The Big Ugly as the second ever recipient of your "Molly's Daily Kiss" - Kiss of the Week award!

Where to even begin THANKing You - for your kindness and generosity...mmmmuuuuuah!!!

I'm sure that you would agree - props must also be given to the ever-benevolent Curvaceous Dee...for if she had not featured your photo and mine as two of her March Photo Favourites, you and I might never have crossed virtual paths... 

And so a big, juicy, smoochy THANKS! - to both of you fabulous ladies...

All the best to you, Molly - in your blogging and photographic endeavors...I look forward to savoring the spoils of your toils!

Fondly and Sincerely,


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kicking the Habit

All righty promised - this will be the last "abandoned house" entry (for a little while, at least). However, I need to come clean about something really quickly...After quitting old house shoots cold turkey, and staying on the wagon for several weeks - I fell off a coupla days ago...and my debaucherous abandoned house bender did not subside - until late yesterday afternoon. I'm an addict, what else can I say...

(Snapped on 3/21/11)

Ok so, remember the critically compromised house from the last post? Well Honey, lemme tell ya' somethin' - that house ain't got nothin' on this one...woooooo doggies!

The two houses are only about a five minute walk apart from each other, and one day last month - after taking snaps with my phone at the other one - I strolled up the road to find out what the deal was with this one. Upon entering the front room (seen above), I was instantly taken with the aesthetic of the place, but at the same time - cautious and leery of it's condition. Vandals (I'm guessing) had somehow managed to send two enormous couches crashing partway through an exterior wall, causing that side of the two-story house - to drastically droop...not good. (Little did I know, I hadn't seen anything yet)

Next, I opened the door (in the photos above), exited the front room on my way to explore the rest of the house, and just beyond a really weird, totally out-of-place, 1970's era, den-ish kinda room (see sixth pic.) I was astonished to look up and see...

Holy CRAP! It was SO not what I'd expected. I gasped...audibly! And let out an, "Oh......My......God
This was the mother of all my abandoned houses...and I was in absolute heaven...(cue harps and lyres and lutes)

(Snapped on 3/21/11)

The house sits super close to the street, and it's quite narrow along its front side - so I've always assumed that it's much smaller than it actually is. Turns out - it's deceivingly spacious! Or should I was...before the roof above a major portion of the back end collapsed, demolishing the first and second floors, and subsequently - filled the basement with a mountain of rubble...

It just blows my mind that I'd never noticed such remarkable devastation, any of the many times that I've driven or walked past this place. One thing's for sure, I notice it every time, now.

Needless to say, this last-minute outing wound up to be a fabulously prosperous scouting effort, providing two scrummy backdrops to inspire a slew of ideas for self-portraits. I shared the spoils from the other house in last week's post, and the top two self-pics. in this entry - are from the first set that I took inside of this incredible find.

(Snapped on 4/13/11)

The trouble was, when I sat down at my computer early yesterday morning, all set to spend however long it might take - hammering out the entry that would accompany the photos from this shoot - I realized that I only had two. Two measly photos to talk about, that's it...and neither one was all that fantastic. Well, maybe three at the very most, but even that was a stretch. It just seemed like such an anticlimactic way to close the this abandoned house chapter. So what did I do? I scrambled around my studio and house, gathering everything I thought I might need - and went back to the sad, old house - hellbent on plumping this entry...

In retrospect, I think that the first time I went there - I was too intimidated by the house to let myself take (m)any risks. But yesterday (although admittedly still nervous) I was far more willing to put my trust in that glorious disaster... 

Each time that I crawled out to the edge of the mangled second floor, while shooting the series from which I chose the image seen above - I heard chunks of the ceiling underneath, fall to the floor below. And each time that I made it back to my camera in one piece, I felt the most insane'll never know.  

(Snapped on 4/13/11)

The teacup and saucer pics. were easy though, and gave me a chance to chill and regroup - before heading back upstairs to find out if the floor in the bedroom would in fact support me...or not...

(Snapped on 4/13/11)

I left this house for the third time - physically unharmed (phew) which was great, but it did make me wonder about certain things like...maybe all these ramshackle houses that look so dangerous - are not nearly as delicate as they seem. Maybe I've made a much bigger deal out of the potential to get seriously hurt. And what worries me about that - is if I start to believe it, then I might end up doing things that are truly uber-stupid.

But I'm not gonna think about any of that right now, cuz at the moment I'm more concerned with kicking this abandoned house habit…for the meantime at least.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

T'Ain't Nothin' But a Blip on the Screen

(All pics. snapped on 3/14/11)

I hope it's not too much to ask of you guys, to please bear with me while I crank out yet another couple of entries in my ongoing "abandoned house pics." series. I realize that I could be on the brink of belaboring the point altogether by essentially running this concept into the ground...but this is a phase, man...could be my "Blue Period" (or something like that) ya' never know! Anyway, I've already decided that we're gonna work through it, before moving on to that which shall eventually come next.

However, in the interest of assuring you that this shan't go on indefinitely, I will tell you that my three most recent shoots have had nothing to do with abandoned houses. And although I could jump ahead and write about my newest self-portraits instead - I'm definitely a fussbudget about trying to keep things chronological. It seems to be the best way to gauge if I'm progressing in my work, or (heaven forbid) getting stuck in another dreadful rut. 

I guess what concerns me about all of this, is that many of you there on the outside looking into these derelict buildings through my photos only - might be bored with the relinquished homes that I've been showcasing in my self-portraits, because of their obvious similarities. In other words - what if to you, my pics. and the settings are starting to all look the same? What I'm afraid might not be evident to anyone besides me, is that each house does have its own distinctly unique qualities...and each one arouses certain different emotions. The problem is, it's hard for me to know if any of that translates through my pictures to you - my readers...or if all you guys see is just another bunged-up dump, and a slight variation in my characters and poses.

Thing is, most of the old houses that I creep around in, literally zap me with some sort of heavy-duty vibe - usually threatening or inviting, and not much in between. But in the case of the house seen in this post, what I felt right away, wasn't necessarily an intense emotional response - but rather - fear for my physical well-being. Matter of fact, the house is in such ill-repair - the first time I went there, I was too chicken to enter it at all. It actually wasn't until my third visit, that I was brave (stupid?) enough to climb the rickety stairs leading to the sketchy second floor.

It's one thing to worry about simply falling through rotten floorboards - maybe just a few feet into a crawl space or even to the lower floor - 7 or 8 feet below...but quite another thing to wonder if one little misstep, might bring the floor, the walls and the roof crashing down. I'm no expert in structural engineering, but when half of the entire second floor slopes a good coupla feet out of plumb - clearly there's a serious problem. And when the actual floor itself is obscured by carpets and furniture and heaps of old clothes - it's impossible to know if or where - any booby traps might be hiding. And yet, despite my apprehension about toppling the tiny house, I proceeded with my plan to begin shooting upstairs - with the creepy, legless doll which I'd found and photographed another time before.

Having made it safely through what I assumed would be the most agitating shoot of the day, I had to press my luck just a leetle bit more, cuz I was itchin' to take a few snaps with my phone. I nervously waded through an ocean of crap, which flooded the floor in that part of the house that was tipped up on one side like the sinking Titanic. The house didn't capsize (smirk), and I did get my pics.. 

Next, I went back downstairs and celebrated keeping the house intact - by treating myself to the less stressful nightgown pics. ^...less stressful meaning - I knew that I wouldn't break the house while I was takin' 'em...but still sorta stressful because there was something living in that mattress (I kid you not) and every time I lay down on top of it, my belly was parked by the critter's front door...*shiver*

Ok so - I asked my good girlfriend (who had dinner here, last night) if the photo above, too closely resembles the first pic. in my last blog entry. She said, "No" so I decided to post it. But she also threw in - that she didn't really like it...cuz for her, it's too dark and somber (what a lightweight). And then I thought, "More somber than the other one? freakin' way", but before I had time to grill her about it, she commented on a different picture. She told me that she really liked the last pic. in the previous post...and when I asked her why - she said, "Because. It shows you in motion." 

Now this made me realize that on top of having (possibly) exhausted the old house theme, it has been awhile since I've done anything interesting with movement. Hmmm...Maybe now that the weather is swiftly improving, I should hurry up and get back to shooting outdoors. Outside, the light facilitates doing more with my body than simply posing as still as a statue (something I've been doing a lot of, lately - since I never use a flash indoors)

In any case, when I finally wrapped this shoot, I was shocked to discover that I'd been insida that house taking pictures for two hours straight. Two hours isn't much in the grand scheme of a day, but it's a long time to crawl around in someone's nasty trash...curiously though, it only felt like a blip. 

And on that note, I'm out. But I want you to know - once this abandoned house nonsense is finally behind us? It too shall feel like a the grand scheme of The Big Ugly, that is...