Saturday, August 6, 2022

Back To The Big Dam Bridge

It's been an awfully hot and dry summer this year. The lack of rain has dried up waterfalls in the Ozarks and the grass in my yard. And it has lowered the Arkansas River enough to where it looks like no water is going through the dam at the Big Dam Bridge, which means that there might be some good reflections of the bridge lights at night. So I headed out there recently to see if that were the case:

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It was actually fairly crowded down there along the riverbank. There were lots of people out there fishing, including one guy who caught a large catfish (I think that's what it was - it was dark). He tossed it back in the river, creating ripples that briefly messed up the reflection.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

4th Of July

We headed down to Riverfront Park in North Little Rock to find a place to watch the annual Pops On The River fireworks show that is held on Independence Day. After driving through traffic and finding a place to park, I realized that I forgot to bring my tripod. Whoops!

We sat up our chairs along the River Trail, and I used a concrete bollard as a sort of makeshift tripod. It was placed there rather precariously, so I spent most of the time before the show started making sure it didn't tumble off the bollard and also making sure my six year old didn't run off into the river. It managed to work ok, since I was able to capture some non-blurry pictures of fireworks that night....

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Downtown In Infrared

While heading home I decided to quick swing through downtown Little Rock with the infrared camera to try to get a few pictures. The first stop was the venerable old Pulaski County Courthouse, which dates back to 1887.

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And about a century after the courthouse was built, its neighbor the Stephens Building was constructed (in 1985). At 25 stories, it's the fourth tallest building in Little Rock.

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And then across the street from the Stephens Building is the Old State House, which was built between 1832-1842 as the first capitol building for the state of Arkansas.

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And then just down the road is the art deco Robinson Center, built in 1939. This was taken from the small park across the street:

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Old Sheridan Barn

A really good photographer that I follow on Instagram recently posted a picture of a grand old barn near Sheridan, which was sadly starting to fall apart. I reached out and she was kind enough to point me in its direction. So one Sunday afternoon I hurried over to get a few pictures before more of it collapses. But along the way I stopped by an old church near Alexander, which has also been left alone and abandoned.

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I drove south and eventually reached the old barn. It sits right outside of Sheridan, which has a population of about 5,000 and is the county seat of Grant County. It looks like the loft inside the barn has collapsed, along with some of the interior walls. The shell of the exterior is still holding up, but who knows for how much longer.

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It is a very photogenic old barn. I wish I had the opportunity to get pictures of it earlier.

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My apologies for posting so many pictures of just one barn, but it was such an interesting old place that I couldn't help but take a ton of pictures...

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Advertisements used to hang on both side of the old barn. The ads on one side were completely faded and gone. But on the other side there remained the remnants of few previous signs (one for a bank and the other for real estate, maybe?).

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Scattered around the barn were pieces of the metal roof, which had curled and twisted off from the barn like they were peeled off with an old-timey can-opener.

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I headed back to the car and the welcome embrace of air-conditioning, and started to drive back home. But along the way I made a quick stop along this road that seemed to go through a tunnel of overhanging trees.

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And then I quickly pulled over to get a picture of this abandoned building, which may have once been a market (according to a sign that was almost completely covered by vegetation).

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And one last shot, before heading back to Little Rock:

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Saturday, July 16, 2022

Intruders In The Dirt: The Architecture and Landscape of the Arkansas Delta

I'm excited to announce that an exhibition of my photography has just opened at the Laman Library in North Little Rock. It includes 33 pictures taken over the past 10 years, which showcases the architecture and landscape of the Arkansas Delta. Many of the photos in the exhibition are of buildings and structures that have been abandoned or are threatened to be torn down. Included in the show are notable places like the Hotel Pines and the Saenger Theater in Pine Bluff, and the Riceland Hotel in Stuttgart. But the exhibition also includes humble and seemingly forgotten places like abandoned farmhouses and country churches. Several of the places that have been photographed have since been torn down or destroyed since the photos were taken.

Saenger Theater

The Delta region contains a rich and vibrant history, but many of the Delta's historical places could soon be lost. The goal of this project was to showcase these places, in the hopes that some of them could be saved. And if that isn't possible, to document them before they are lost forever.

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This exhibition was orginially supposed to debut in 2020, but has been delayed twice thanks to stuff like the pandemic. I'm so happy that it is finally up on the walls. I humbly invite anyone who reads this to please visit the Laman Library (2801 Orange Street in North Little Rock), the gallery is on the second floor. The exhibit will be up until September 23. There will be an opening reception on Friday, July 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30.

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Here's the Artist's Statement that I put together for the show. I hope anyone reading this can check out the show at Laman Library, from now until September. Thanks!

Even though I had permission to be there, it felt like I was breaking and entering. That was mostly because I was entering via a broken window, like a thief in the night. The remains of the wooden boards that once covered the window had already been roughly kicked aside and were scattered on the ground amongst a mosaic of broken glass, which popped and cracked as I carefully stepped through. It felt eerie and wrong, like I was entering a neglected tomb.

Beyond was the lobby of a once grand hotel, which had been left abandoned for several decades. Its current condition was rough, a far cry from the luxurious landmark that it once was. The fine marble floors were covered with a thick layer of dust and debris. The stained glass in the skylight was gone, and rain water had been allowed to pour through holes in the roof. The marble steps were fractured and crumbling. There was that sweet and pungent smell of decay, and an eerie stillness that muffled the sounds of the street outside. Cool air that was caught on a current passed through the building with a chill, like a ghost sweeping by. Above all was that pervasive sense of melancholy that seems to infect all forgotten places.

The hotel was the Hotel Pines in Pine Bluff, which opened in 1913 but closed in 1970. After decades of abandonment, it was sold in 2017 and plans have been made for its revival. But other buildings in the Arkansas Delta are not so lucky. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Pines is the old Saenger Theater, an architectural masterpiece that is crumbling away. Every year, more homes and buildings in the Delta are lost to arson, the bulldozer or just the unending assault of gravity and weather on weary structures.

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The Delta region of eastern Arkansas is an area filled with rich history and culture. But economic and cultural changes have led to a steep decline in population in many Delta communities. Once bustling cities now have boarded up and closed downtowns, and many old homes and churches are abandoned and empty. These buildings and places represent generations of lives; of people who lived, suffered, rejoiced, and worked amongst these ruins.

Until The End Of The World

This project was undertaken in order to help showcase the architecture of the Delta, with a focus on its historic and abandoned structures. The hope is that these photographs might help bring attention to these places, and perhaps even help in some of them being saved. And if that is not possible, to at least document them before they disappear. There is no way to replace a structure once it is gone, but a small capture of time that is preserved in a photograph can suggest, in a merest whisper, that somehow we might be able to hold onto a place for just a little bit longer.

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These photographs were taken with either a Canon 6D, an Olympus E-30 or an Olympus EM-5, between 2012 and 2022. They represent several thousand miles driven across the state, and hours of work spent researching and editing. I would like to thank Richard Theilig and everyone at the Laman Library for hosting this exhibition. It’s a honor for me to have my photographs on display at my hometown library, near where I used to read books in the children’s section or did research in high school.

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And I can not thank enough my wife Caroline for her encouragement and infinite patience. And also my sons Jonah and Elliott for all the time I spent away driving out towards old buildings. I would never have been able to take these pictures, or put on this show, without their support.

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