Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Thirsty work

It's half term in The Liberties, which means Missy is off for the week and - hurrah! - no school runs to be done.  Replaced by runs to and from town, to and from cinema, to and from friends' houses.  Not sure which is preferable, mind you, but it makes a change.

This print is the last one from the batch of Italian lith prints I did the other day.  We were walking aimlessly around Sorrento in the early evening and I liked the shadows thrown up by the sun hitting this old pump.  The bit of graffiti on the wall didn't do any harm either, on what was otherwise a fairly blank canvas.  Anyway, as I pointed the camera to compose I became aware of a gentleman waiting for me finish.  I lowered the camera, smiled and motioned for him to go ahead.  His dog clearly knew the trick and I snapped them up as it quenched its thirst:

Early evening in Sorrento, 2018.  Lith print.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Water fountain

In the back streets of Sorrento there are a million cafes and boutiques all vying for your Euros.  But inbetween the stores there are more interesting things to be found:

Marble fountain, Sorrento.  Foma fibre paper, lith 

I'm not sure this marble fountain is a thing of beauty, mind - those fish-like things aren't exactly the most welcoming of critters.  But as a small example of Italian craftsmanship it ain't bad - and I like the fact that it's almost hidden (as much as you can hide such a thing) between the clothes rails and the outlets offering day trips to Capri.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Spice shop

I don't know about you but when in holiday mode I'm focussed more on my loved ones than on a camera but I always feel guilty if I don't take a few snaps when I’m away somewhere new. I'd spied this particular scene a few nights earlier (it was near our favourite restaurant in Sorrento) and on our last night I excused myself for a few minutes and ventured forth to snap something up:

Spice seller's shop, Sorrento, August 2018
Lost in the shadows there's a little girl sitting the doorway down the alley but it was the spice seller's front-of-house that caught my eye.  9.5"x12" print on Foma paper, lith developer.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018


Another shot taken in The Red Lion, Lincoln Park, Illinois - the favoured watering-hole of DePaul University's Philosophy Department.  This is Liam - a good Dublin man who has made his home in Chicago and teaches all sorts of interesting stuff to DePaul students.  At the start of the evening Liam sounded like an American, but after talking to me (and The Brother) for a few hours he was pure Dublin again.  Order was restored and all was well with the world again :)

Liam in The Red Lion, Lincoln Park, IL

Another one on Foma paper via lith developer, if you care about such things. And yes I know Liam's face is not in focus - I seemed to have nailed his pint glass, though! Ah sure it adds to the mystery of the man, eh?

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Opera Society, Italian style

As we wandered aimlessly around the back streets of Sorrento we happened upon the place you see in the print below.  A gated courtyard in very grand style, the plaque on the wall indicated an Operatic Society - perhaps Opera lovers, or singers/actors?

Operatic Society, Sorrento
Whatever it was, I got the impression that it wasn't the sort of place tourists would be welcome to just wander into, so I did the decent thing and moved on.  Not before getting a couple of shots in, though :)  Foma paper, lith.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Doing what they do best

This is Sean and Michael - two of The Brother's colleagues.  Doing what they do best - which, being Philosophy Professors, is thinking, questioning, engaging in discourse, and, ahem, socialising.  Particularly socialising.

Sean and Michael, 2018.  Foma paper, lith developer.

This was a tough one to print.  My own fault, since it was way underexposed in the Hasselblad.  I had no meter with me so it was a bit of a guess - and a poor one at that.  My first print was distinctly lacking in anything and the second not much better.  I turned to lith for salvation and wasn't disappointed.  It was HP5+ rated at either 800 or 1600 and developed in RO9.  Almost full frame and the grain is nicely enhanced by the lith developer.  I was well pleased with the result.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Oak Park, Illinois

A bit more of the story of Oak Park, just west of Chicago.  It's a very affluent suburb - there are some pretty, large and expensive private houses there - and not just those designed by the famous Frank Lloyd Wright.  Property taxes are stratospheric by UK standards, even for modest properties like my brother's and most of those taxes appear go to the single, large (very) local high school - Oak Park and River Forest, or OPRF as it is known.  Ernest Hemingway went to OPRF - although my brother's daughters took great delight in telling me only for one year and he hated it, apparently.  From the amount of property taxes that goes to OPRF I was slightly disappointed when I learnt the corridors aren't paved with gold. Mind you, there was a proposal a few years ago to spend more than $35m tearing down an existing building and constructing a new swimming pool/aquatics centre.  Yes, you read correctly - $35m on a swimming pool, for a high school.  I think the Trustees were hoping to sell various bonds to fund the scheme and while I'm all for thinking big the whole thing seemed a bit unrealistic to me.  I think the plans have been shelved, indefinitely.

A print for you:

On Lake Street, Oak Park, Illinois

This was shot the same day as the one the other day.  The cinema on Lake St (the main drag) looks great - very Art Deco. It was a busy Friday afternoon and I had to stand a serious amount of time to get a break in the traffic and then only just made it, as you can see.  This one's on Foma 131 paper, by the way, via Moersch Easylith developer.  Perfect for anything with stone/brickwork in it.

Oak Park is a strange mix of nothing-too-special modern and very-special historic.  The Unity Temple and buildings like the cinema above stand out in my mind as 'buildings of interest'.  As do the historic Frank Lloyd Wright houses - if you are ever there, take one of the walking tours around that district, they're very informative and it's a great way to spend a few hours.  The new library, next to Scofield Park where open air concerts are held during summer, is an impressive modern, glass-fronted building but very soon you are into the more usual mix of boutique shops, cafes and stores like...you've guessed it...Whole Foods.  Or Whole Pay Check as the joke goes.

While Oak Park and neighbouring River Forest are very genteel places to be, to the East of OP we have the district of Austin.  Austin is not wealthy.  In fact, Austin is on the other side of the spectrum entirely.  A few years ago it acquired the label of Chicago's deadliest neighbourhood, with more homocides than even places like Englewood on the notorious South Side.  Lake Street (above) extends into Austin and you don't have to drive too far to see a heck of a difference in terms of the shops, bistros, cafes etc...not to mention the various 'types' you see walking about, or just standing around.   You need to keep your wits about you wherever you go, even downtown Oak Park.  The day of the pic above my daughter and I were strolling around, looking like tourists (hard not to) and feeling a little like fish out of water.  Missy got heckled at least once as we passed a group waiting for a public bus...'Sup, baby' was said so low I didn't even catch it, but she did.  A little creepy, given her age (15) and the age of the commenter (closer to my age than hers).  Still, as I told her over a hot tea, with looks like hers she'll have to learn how to deal with a lot worse than that in the years to come...

Monday, 1 October 2018

Illinois Route 43

So yes, I took the head-staggers early August and decided it was time I paid The Brother a visit.  It was certainly my turn, since it was nearly 4 years since I was there.  Due to his work commitments (not mine, anymore) it was either go now or go between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  When I was last there, for a couple of weeks around Thanksgiving, the cold was so intense it was bone-numbing.  I mean we think it gets cold here in the North-West of Ireland but no, we get damp, we get wet, we get chilly but we don't get cold, not Chicago-cold.  So I checked the cheapest flight from Dublin and the deal was done. American Airlines, by the way. And they were good - very good, actually. I’ll say more about the actual travelling in a future post.

I knew it would be hot, in Illinois,in August.  And I wasn't disappointed.  It was hot - very.  That's from the perspective of an Irishman, of course...  It got up to the mid-90s on most days and the humidity was pretty high.  Hot enough and humid enough to make be feel very queasy most of the time, to be honest.  I enjoyed spending time with my brother but I didn't enjoy the heat.  Do you get the feeling I don't like the climate in Chicago much?  I'm sure it's lovely for a couple of weeks in April or May and similarly around late September/early October but the rest of the year it's either too hot or too cold for me.  I can't help it - I'm just used to the temperate climate we get here in Ireland, where it rarely gets hotter than the mid-70s Fahrenheit or drops much below freezing.  When I got home, late August, we had a couple of days with the temperature around 60 degrees and I was very, very comfortable - I could breathe again!

Anyway, time for a scan of one of the prints you might have seen the other day resting on my home-made drying rack in the darkroom.

IL-43 as it cuts through Oak Park, Illinois
Illinois Route 43 is, apparently, a major north-south road through Illinois.  Although I've been to Illinois more times than I can remember in order to visit The Brother I can't say I'm overly confident knowing whether we're driving north, south, east or west - unless I get a glimpse of the Willis Tower or one of them big tall skyscraper things in the distance, that is, which is a dead giveaway since they are due East of Oak Park where The Brother lives.  It would probably be different if I was the one behind the wheel, but I leave that to him.  This particular day I went for a dander around 'The Village' of Oak Park but it doesn't look remotely like the villages we get here in Ireland.  It's famous as the birth-place of Ernest Hemingway and for having a number of houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  As the name would suggest it's a leafy old town, about a 20 minute drive from the city of Chicago.

Believe it or not, it was the roadsign informing everyone of the fact that you are on Illinois Route 43 (aka Harlem Avenue right here) that caught my eye - not the rather leggy young girl strolling towards me.  I did wonder about waiting another second or two until she came up a bit closer but since I was using the Hasselblad, which has a mirror slap about as subtle as a brick I decided to trip the shutter then and there.  Printed on 9.5"x12" Adox MCC fibre paper - a first for me and very nice it is too.  Mild sepia tone.  HP5+ of course, developed in RO9, in case you're interested in that sort of stuff.