Thursday, January 18, 2018

Odd in the Desert: Salvation Mountain, Salton Sea, California

Drive southwards along the east shore of the Salton Sea in southern California, pass a
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) checkpost (yes, they have a new bureaucratic name), turn left at the sign for Slab City, and you come to a man-made mountain. This is the famous Salvation Mountain, the life work of Leonard Knight (1931–2014), who made his edifice of straw bales and adobe mud, covered with gallons (tons?) of paint. According to Wikipedia, the edifice "encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner's Prayer."
There are plenty of painted artifacts here, with Love, God, and other homilies in bold colors. These remind me of the folk art at Margaret's Gro, on North Washington Street, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. That, too, was built by a preacher as his temple to the Lord.
It really surprised me that this is a popular wedding photography site. Well, why not? But the light was harsh; the couple this day needed an assistant to hold a sun diffuser.
Drive a couple of blocks through Slab City, round a corner, and you reach East Jerusalem. According to Wikipedia, "Slab City, also called The Slabs, is largely a snowbird community in the Sonoran Desert located in Imperial County, California, 156 miles northeast of San Diego within the California Badlands, and used by recreational vehicle owners and squatters from across North America. It took its name from concrete slabs that remained from the abandoned World War II Marine Corps barracks of Camp Dunlap." The marine base closed in 1956, and the land status is a bit murky but likely belongs to the State of California. The residents of Slab possibly could be classified as squatters, but they certainly are creative ones. "East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable and habitable art installation" made from recycled materials and discarded electronics. Interesting stuff; it is well worth a drive to the Salton Sea if you are passing through southern California. Well, skip mid-summer, when the temperature is well over 100° F.

Photographs taken on Fuji 200 film with a Yashica Electro 35CC compact rangefinder camera. I scanned the negatives with a Phustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Long-Term Decline: Tallulah, Louisiana

Snyder Street, Tallulah, Louisiana
Snyder Street, Tallulah, Louisiana
Tallulah, the parish seat of Madison Parish, Louisiana, is a small town in northeast Louisiana just off Interstate 20. I remember going there about 25 years ago with some other photographers to take pictures. It was rather forlorn then, and is even rougher today. The main businesses are the parish government and the large state prison on Green Street, with agriculture in the surrounding farm fields.
220 Snyder Street, Tallulah, LA, Dec., 2016.
Snyder Street, facing the railroad tracks, was once the thriving commercial strip. Today, most of the store fronts are empty, and a couple of roofs have collapsed. Several times a day, a Kansas City Southern freight rumbles by, often with four locomotives pulling container carriers. This is the new global commerce that has left towns like Tallulah behind.
East Green street is also U.S. Highway 80, which runs east-west through town. A number of old commercial buildings are in various states of use and abandonment. Before the 1970s, U.S. 80 was the only major highway, and all through traffic drove right through town. But I-20 was routed south of town, and today, most travelers ignore the city unless they specifically have a need to pull off at the Tallulah exit (and many of them just go to the truck stops and then continue on the interstate).
The Madison Parish Court House was cheerful and crowded during the 2013 Teddy Bearfest. I wrote about the 2013 Teddy Bearfest in a previous article.
This is one of the many abandoned stores, this one on Chestnut Street, facing the courthouse.
East of town, Louisiana Route 602 takes a U-shaped path south of the interstate. It makes an excellent bicycle route as you pass farm fields, silos, and patches of woodland.
Former restaurant, 314 West Green St., Tallulah
Former teen center, 407 West Green St., Tallulah
Abandoned house, 522 West Green St. This structure is no longer extant.
Closed store, 800 West Green Street, Tallulah
Heading west on Green Street, which is U.S. 80, you pass some rather rough neighborhoods, then pass the prison, and eventually get to farmfields. The main attraction to the west is the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, which has a large resident bear population.

The rectangle black and white photographs are from a medium format Fuji GW690II camera with 90mm f/3.5 lens. The film was either Kodak Panatomic-X or Kodak Tri-X 400. I scanned the negatives on a Minolta Scan Multi film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ladies of Kathmandu (Nepal 2017-03)

Hanging around at Asan Chowk, Kathmandu. Photograph with Leica IIIC on Tmax 400 film.
At the Asan Chowk, October 2017.
Dear readers, I have examined (so to speak) the ladies of Kathmandu before. But I could not resist another survey in case they had changed since my 2011 trip.
Taking in the view at Asan Chowk, Kathmandu
The ladies in question are almost exclusively European (or Western). Many of them have poofy hair, as if they stepped in from the 1970s. Well, some parts of Kathmandu do look like the 1970s, although the rapid rebuilding after the terrible 2015 earthquakes is changing the city rapidly. For the subject of Kathmandu's lovelies, color photography really is more effective.
The roads near Chhetrapata and around Indra Chowk (square or intersection) are full of fabric and tailoring shops. This clustering of small industries is similar to what you see in many cities, like Athens. And to my untrained eye, the fashions look much alike, so I wonder how a customer chooses one shop over another?
To prove that I am an unbiased reviewer of fashions, here are the gentlemen of Kathmandu, all decked out in their latest dress. "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man," (Hamlet, William Shakespeare). In the top picture, I am not sure what the little kids are wearing; clothes for a wedding, perhaps?
Cloth vendor, near Chettrapati, Kathmandu (from Nexus 4 phone)
The two black and white photographs are from Kodak Tmax 400 film, exposed with a Leica IIIC camera with 50mm Summitar lens. The color frames are from Kodak Ektar 100 film, from a Yashica Electro 35CC compact rangefinder camera.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Doors of Nepal (Nepal 2017-02)

Gateway to house in Junbesi, Solu Khumbu district.
During my October 2017 trip to Nepal, I had not planned to do a series on doors, but I kept seeing these fascinating examples. Most were home-made in craftsman-built buildings, with interesting signs and paint patterns. I really like seeing what local workmen can assemble as opposed to the dull factory-made uniformity we have in more industrialized countries.
Hotel above Junbesi, Solu Khumbu.
Unused lodge at Phurtyang.
Hanging around in Phurtyang.
We stayed in the nice little Sherpa town of Junbesi for three nights and then walked to the town of Ringmu. These closed hotels/lodges were along the trail.
Numbur View Cheese Factory Lodge, Ringmu, Solu Khumbu
We stayed in the Numbur View in Ringmu for three nights. The lady who ran the lodge prepared the best food that we had in the Solu Khumbu. The accommodations were OK, the toilets pretty rough. She heated the dining room with wood in the evening, but by morning, it was cold. The hot water came from pipes that circulated behind the wood stove.
Shop at Taksindu Pass - more beer than cheese.
Maoist symbols, Taksindu Pass.
Taksindu Pass (Taksindu La) is at 3031 m (9940 ft) elevation, about two hours walk uphill from Ringmu. The pass gets significant tourist traffic because the traditional trekking trail from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp crosses Taksindu. Most tourists now fly into the town of Lukla further to the east and trek (stampede) to Base Camp from there. But some intrepid hikers still want to walk the traditional route, which can take three weeks, thereby getting acclimated along the way and sampling more of the local culture. On the return, they fly out of Lukla rather than walk all the way back to Kathmandu. When the American Everest expedition came through here in 1963, they had 900 porters to carry supplies.
Grocery/beer/cola store, Taksindu Pass. Note the leaning building.
The earthquakes of 2015 caused damage even here in the Solu region. In the photograph above, the building had been made of limestone blocks without mortar or a reinforced concrete frame. The cracks show how the building settled, and the door frame now really is a trapezoid.
Store near Taksindu Pass with Maoist posters.
The wise shopkeeper attaches posters extolling the Maoist regime, which, as of November 2017, was in power in Kathmandu.
Takgon Tharling Monastery
Takgon Tharling Monastery dormatory
The Taksindu Tharling Sheddrup Monastery, a short distance below Taksindu Pass, is an expansive complex of buildings and school dormatories. We hung a string of prayer flags for a friend who was injured shortly before our hike and could not join us.
Phera, Solu Khumbu, Nepal
On the trek back south to Phaplu, we passed Phera and more doors.
Shop near Phaplu, Solu Khumbu
Phaplu has an airport and road access, so it is bustling with tradesmen, shops, and guesthouses. And chickens.
Gateway to Siran Danda, Gorkha region, Nepal
Much further west in the Gorkha region of Nepal, we stayed in the town of Bhachchek at 1790 m elevation. A walk uphill took us to the tidy little town of Siran Danda and this welcoming doorway.
Siran Danda house and guard chicken.
Siran Danda had been partly rebuilt after the 2015 earthquakes with very neat houses, funded by a UK charity organization. The town's residents included a number of former English Army Gurkha soldiers, and they kept the place clean and orderly, like an army camp. There was no trash, the corn was hung in perfect rows, and the paint was fresh.
Siran Danda guesthouse.
We saw neat stacks of beer bottles like this in several towns. Eventually, a truck comes to take the bottles away to a bottling plant for reuse.
Hanging around in Anbu Khaireni
Back to the city via a brutal jeep ride down rough rutted roads with mudpits as deep as a jeep. A short stop in Anbu Khaireni on the Pokkhara highway for lunch and a change to a minivan was very welcome.
Royal Palace Ratnakar Mahavihar, Patan Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal
Finally, we returned to the big city. The spectacular golden door is in the Royal Palace in Patan. Patan is also known as Lalitpur city, one of the three ancient cities in the Kathmandu Valley. At one time, the three were separate, but now the urban sprawl has grown to form a large urban mess. Patan's Durbar Square is one of three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The palaces and temples in Patan Durbar Square, masterpieces of Newa architecture, were badly damaged in the 2015 earthquakes.

Most photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film, exposed in a Yashica Electro 35CC rangefinder camera with Yashinon 35mm f/1.8 lens. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner. Four photographs are from a Nexus 4 phone.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Toilets of Nepal (Nepal 2017-01)

Dear Readers, let's end 2017 with a blast. Sorry I could not resist. Toilets or loos in rural Nepal are still a bit rough. But in the countryside, the buildings in which they are situated are often rather colorful. I should have photographed more of these little buildings, but there were so many interesting sights, I could not photograph everything. I can save this theme for my next trip (toilets of the world; outhouses of the world....).
Older toilet house at Takgon Sheddrub Tharling Monastery School, near Ringmu, Solu Khumbu region, Nepal. An aide group recently built a modern toilet and shower facility nearby. 
Shower and toilet facility at Numbur View Cheese Factory Lodge and Restaurant, Ringmu, Nepal.
Room with a view, as long as you are facing the squatty potty.  Chiwong Monastery, Chiwangteng, Solu Khumbu district, Nepal.
Hanging around in Junbesi: ready for scrubbing.
The first two photographs were taken with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera on Kodak Ektar 100 film. The squatty is from  a Nexus phone.

This is the start of a Nepal series. Standby for upcoming articles in 2018. Thank you, Readers.