Lost in the archive again recently, I had the chance to revisit this moment from a shoot of dozens of train cars delivering long sections of  48" steel pipe for a new stretch of pipeline. There must have been thousands. It gave me the opportunity look through this section and others lined up when the train stopped for unloading. I enjoy those subtle variances in and out of symmetry and the repetition of the barely apparent rims of pipe showing between the sections. Why wouldn't so many pipes just lie there and reveal another silent melody?  A very lucky find seeing it.

This is actually our friend at the top.
ASSIGNMENT: Image for cover story featuring mayoral candidates to attend a gourmet cooking event.

It was suggested that the cover feature mayoral candidates standing in a bowl of gumbo in acknowledgement of the campaign heating up and to set the stage for the event. Of course, due to jammed schedules, candidates would have limited time and already, little time remained before the publishing deadline. Hoping at least to photograph them together to maintain consistent perspective, I elected to shoot them just inside the door of a garage with natural light plus strobes from the subjects' left.
Day of the shoot; oops, "they can't all make it today...blah, blah, blah" so reschedule and leave everything set for the next afternoon. The next day, all happens on time. Then the gumbo comes with with no time for more than minimal styling--not too tasty either. Not what I expected, the digital kitchen can help. With all my ingredients, I start chopping, stirring and it starts to simmer and smell nice.

Next, peel these guys out of their backgrounds. I had set up a group of old file cabinets to help me recognize where the edge of the bowl might be and where they'd be leaning. I didn't get the bowl I'd expected/asked for, so much of the vision just had to adjust; no room for rice and the shrimp had to be moved, too.

Working on the placement; considering editorial preferences for text, additional graphics and such, I finally accepted the arrangement lower right and started working on incidental detail. Almost finished and the phone rang, "Really?! One more thing—the gentleman in front with glasses won't be attending after all, rearrange." Okay, only one guy at the front rim means more room for that shrimp and the okra. Leave the background separate so the magazine's masthead they can slip in front of the background, but still behind their heads. Okay.
A few little tweaks here and there and they're in a happy hot-tub of gumbo with some fresh yummy, twenty-pound shrimp and huge okra. Tasty, if you can't see behind the curtain...pay no attention!
I was recently asked to photograph these works by Steve Culp. I was aware of his interest in aircraft. I knew he was a pilot and restored planes and had even, just recently, learned that he'd won numerous flying competitions, I had no idea about the extent of his metal-working skills. I'd been told that he worked on motorcycles planes, but not that he designed and built his own bi-planes—from scratch. I've since learned that he'd completely restored many fine classic and racing autos from the ground up.
These are pieces from a group he's produced recently with special historic car and motorcycle parts and miscellaneous other things he's found elsewhere and melded them into these fanciful creatures that seem like they might have evolved on some strange mechanical planet.

These aren't plumbing and appliances bolted together into robots. While some seem derived of Earth creatures, they depart with such whimsy, there's just no way to easily associate them with the one's we know on our planet.

 Beyond an initial response, detail after detail draws one into features noticeably similar to jewelry as he's introduced the use of contrasting polish against texture and fantastic iridescent hues in the surface of the metals. Even Steve's welds go beyond merely joining parts and serve to invent texture and are even used alone to add embellishment to associate different areas to each other.

Tarty Bird
There are some parts one might recognize, for example, tarty bird's clearly wearing some ginchey old lady's glasses, dog fella is really a copper fire extinguisher and machinists might be able to point out specific engine parts and such, but over all, they get lost in the identity and humor of the piece.

It isn't often that I have the opportunity to photograph a body of work crafted with a character and level of ingenuity equal to these. Add the good-natured confidence of the artist, who's already proven himself, engineering serious projects dependent on functional design, yet able to apply the same level of creativity to objects like these, intended for pure enjoyment and I'm pleasantly reminded of the the excitement I experienced in my early successes as I learned to operate my first camera.  

Steve Culp and sculpture, "Tally Ho"

Inspiration in His Artistry

Often, I'm called upon to produce photographs that lead to an inspirational experience. This shot of Wayne Anderson is a prime example. Wayne is someone whom I've known for many years. We originally met when he was among a group of my older brother's college partying friends. Our original meeting was less than inspiring as my brother's friends were pretty hardy partiers for the sixties. Or so it seemed to me at the time. I was still in high school and hadn't begun developing the more playfully adult social skills (talents?).
I attempted to remedy this a few years later, when after graduating, I again encountered a few members of the group and fell under their influence and guidance for a short while.
Many years passed before I would again hear of Wayne, but this time, related to his reputation as a craftsman. It was during one of my occasional calls to "touch base" with Wayne, that he asked me to produce photos to accompany an article about him in a national trade magazine. I was happy to have the opportunity to capture him at work, though I'd hoped for sometime to take on the task. As anyone can see, he offers much to the character of a photograph with strong features set off by the color and texture of his classic beard. He could pass for a guild member in any era. Seeing how he produces the finely detailed features, working with all manner of fine woods, more than set the solemn mood I hoped to portray with him and his special tools.
This image is a spec poster I proposed, but that Wayne's modesty prevented from being produced. I can see now that at his level in the industry, he needn't stimulate more business lest he spend less time per task and risk compromising;the quality of his work. Seeing the refined nature of his work, it is easy to be overwhelmed by its appeal. I rarely have an opportunity to play, but whenever I think about it, my fantasy is to approach the table with one of Wayne Anderson's splendidly custom-crafted Bella Sera cues.

WayBack Machine Set for 1975

I forced myself out tonight for a productive meeting after recreational plans fell through and ran into someone I'd not seen in decades. Whole chunks of grey matter quivered and asked for fresh plasma to shake off sleep so they could compare notes.
Hours later, I'm remembering things related and others I've meant to attend, but re-forgotten lately. These images are some from my student archives of '75; a summer of living in my studio, a former dorm in an ancient on loan to the Art Department and overrun by art students. Much like a dorm, but worse.
As I was prone to do, I floated on the fringe of groups including this cluster of aspiring painters who more successfully enjoyed Bob Wills and Coors which, at the time, had be imported from Dallas and I managed to facilitate on return from visits to a young woman of no uncertain interest, whom I'm sure would insist on remaining nameless (initials JL)—there was some partying. The "Sundown West" and 3.2 beer were still a new thing in Ruston. I still had three quarters to go until I'd have to formulate a realistic plan for survival supported by my still evolving photographic skills. I had no idea what I was in for, poor kid/lucky fool.
I abandoned Ruston a year later, failing to come up with sufficient interest in going for a Master's and hoping the world of Fine Photography would soon discover my talents and demand that I allow publishers to produce expensive books of my photographs while I traveled from museum to museum in the company of successions of admiring young women. Oddly, all these many years later, I've begun to doubt that it might ever happen or if I would even find it that satisfying anymore. I still feel a certain obligation to at least indulge it for a while should the opportunity present itself.
My co-scholars, depicted here, have also moved on to careers unknown. I'm guessing most might have taught or somehow found some use of their degrees, if they even got them, but I can also imagine that they might have eventually relented to family requests to join a family business or divert their effort toward something totally unrelated to their studies.
I'm sure that most likely, their social skills remained as finely tuned as they were during this summer when there was one night in particular when I drove in from Dallas again with a couple of cases of canned Coors to ice down. And we drank as we stomped our feet on the dusty wooden floor of an old house and sang along while Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys played "San Antonio Rose" far into the night and the next morning.
Artist Dub Brock with the upright piano painted with a scene of Aretha Franklin
floating down the Nile in a '60-something Chrysler Imperial