Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Memories and Projects

the farmhouse, 2016
 Over the past few weeks I have been diligently going through my various hard drives and consolidating my image files onto one 4TB hard drive.  I am appalled at how poorly I used to organize my scans.  On top of that, I find that I have probably lost some files that had been previously on a Mac.  Once I am done, I will then recopy the newly assembled files onto several 1TB hard drives, and erase the old drives that had previously stored all my backups.  One thing is apparent -- I have shot a lot of digital images over the past 12 years.  Even though I also shoot even more film now than I did 15 years ago, I still have quite a few digital images, though I would say that the number has dropped considerably from a few years ago.  It's also given me a chance to revisit images that I haven't looked at in a while.   In some cases, I can see where a series of images from different years could easily be a project, or even a publication, were I inclined to forge ahead with them. I will be considering that aspect more seriously in the coming months.  Some images meant a great deal to me at the time, and in retrospect, have less interest to me now, and others that I may have thought less of at the time, and may even hardly remember now, have more significance.  That's the thing when I shoot digital -- it's easy to take a lot of photographs and experiment with the lenses and controls at the time of exposure to make a shot "just so."  The instant feedback is certainly a creative bonus.  However, I found that some of the results were exactly what I was getting with some of my "toy cameras," where I may have only taken one shot of a scene.

I am enjoying looking at images from 10 years ago, and seeing how my photography has changed -- not just subject matter, but also the quality of the image.  I will still be shooting some similar subjects as a decade ago, but am choosier about it now.

Along the way, I looked at a series of images from June 2016, when we were visiting my mother-in-law (Charlotte Murphy) and family for her 90th birthday.  Looking at them now, I was probably thinking at the time -- when will we be back to her house again?  I shot a series of images inside the house that to me, captured how I would always think of her home.  Charlotte is still doing well at 92, and I am impressed with her mental acuity and ability to be on her own.  I tell her she's my favorite MIL, and that always get a bit of a chuckle.  After knowing her for 42 years, she's probably heard most of my jokes at least twice.

the road to the farm

apple trees

Cat and stairs

Corner cupboard


Living room with desk and empty gun rack

Mementos on the mantle

There is a different look to the two sets of images - indoors vs outdoors.  The interior images, taken in the quiet morning are relatively sharp and focused.  The "memories"  are the objects depicting memories.  Trinkets from trips, photographs, paintings, and the accumulation of a lifetime.  These are purposefully shot to indicate those things.  On the other hand, the outdoor images, shot with a CCTV lens on a Nikon 1J1 camera,  are blurred, in soft-focus, and somewhat surreal.  That's because we have a memory of the farm as it once was - a working dairy farm with many acres of land and crops.  Now, it's a horse farm, owned by someone else, and partitioned off.   While I photographed it in 2016, my mind was still imagining the scene of 40 years ago.    That's how minds work.  Our reality is shaped by our experiences.  Memories are plastic, as well.  I think this is why toy cameras such as the Diana and the Holga are great at producing images that make us think of memories.
old silos

fence and trees

The flag

As I looked through the images from the farm, I realized that I have many such series that have "photo essay" all over them.  I will try and do more of these in the coming months.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Last Exposure - Celebrating the life of Marc Akemann

 This is probably the hardest post for me to write. On Tuesday (07/03/2018), I lost my best friend, Marcelino (Marc) Akemann (born 10/27/1956).  Marc had been battling non-small-cell lung cancer for over a year, and the latest treatments had him feeling quite positive and feeling good.  He drove over to the house for a visit on Saturday, and we laughed and had a good time. He also got see to my daughter Jorie, who was down for a few days from Marquette.  I took a photo of the two of them in front of Hound, the Jeep Cherokee that Marc bought from her a few years ago.  I gave him a big hug, and he drove home.  On Monday afternoon, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, and died peacefully Tuesday afternoon in the ER surrounded by family (and Adrienne and I, who arrived just moments earlier).  It was a surreal scene for me, to see a man that had just a few days ago, been talking about the future, lying still, and never again being part of this world.

Marc and I met for the first time in late 2007, when he showed up at my house for a Crappy Camera Club Meeting. We had actually talked earlier that year when he visited the A3C3 "Cheap Shots" exhibit in Nickles Arcade, and of course, in true Marc fashion, he remembered our conversation, while I did not.  Someone had told him that he should meet me, as we had some things in common.  I know that we quickly became friends, and by 2008, we both went to our first Photostock and traveled around together.  In the ensuing decade, we became the Marc (with a C) and Mark (with a K) show, and made many photo trips together all over Michigan.   In Facebook posts while we were travelling in 2013, it seemed that we were eating our way across the Upper Peninsula. In fact, restaurants were the only place we had good wi-fi!
At the Two-Hearted River in 2013

Marc was the most honest and conscientious person I have known.  He was a gentle soul that made sure those who needed help were okay, and always had time to help out if you needed him.  He was a master of constructive criticism, and rarely had bad things to say about anyone.  Both of us had common ground in many things, and we both abhorred hypocrisy. Marc served in the Air Force during the post-Vietnam era, mostly in Germany.  He was a "fuelie" - working with AV fuel and other ground support.  In hindsight, I have to wonder if that was the cause of his cancer. He never smoked. In the Air Force, he was able to travel a lot in Europe, and that gave him a better insight than most US citizens about other countries.  His father (Dutch) and mother (Indonesian) emigrated with Marc from the Hague to the US in the late 1950s.  His younger brothers Max, Victor, and Dimitry, and sister Nicole were born in Wisconsin.  His dad worked in the auto-industry, and Marc had tales about when his dad worked for American Motors, and they had some of those amazing cars that came out in the 1970s.

Marc and I used to meet up for coffee in Dexter, where we might have first dropped off some film at Huron Camera, had a leisurely chat at Joe and Rosie's coffee shop next door, and then went back to Huron Camera to get our processed film.  In its heyday, Huron Camera was an amazing place that had just about everything, and there were always the "treasure bins" at the back where we found the occasional bargain.   It closed in 2014, and our subsequent Dexter meetups were less frequent.
At Roos Roast, Ann Arbor, April 2017.

We had so much fun traveling around together. We both had the same sense of humor, and I recall a couple of times that we saw things and had to double back and take a photo.  Marc used to have a rusting Jeep Wrangler that he drove everywhere.  It of course had a short turn radius, and he was never hesitant about making a quick U-turn to get back to the scene.  Somewhere in the thumb region of Michigan we saw a hilarious sign and we knew that if we didn't shoot, we would never get over a missed opportunity.  I included the photo in an exhibit I had at the Common Cup in Ann Arbor, and I was asked to remove it from the show.  It's here for your enjoyment, though.

Travelling across the back roads of the Upper Peninsula we saw a strip club.  In the middle of nowhere (to us, at least). It seemed so out of place in the UP.

Later that day, we made it to the Delta Peninsula and spent several hours at  the ghost town of Fayette, now a state historical park.  Marc and I had different approaches to our photography.  He was very deliberate, and he often used a Mamiya RB-67 and a damned heavy Gitzo tripod.  Me, I was scampering around with my much lighter Bogen tripod and usually a 35mm Nikon.  We both had a preference for Nikon cameras, and he always had a very nice black Nikon FA that he used regularly. So much so, that I regretted selling mine years earlier.  His other daily shooter was a Nikon F100 with a 50mm 1.4 (which his brother Vic had found at a garage sale for $25), and he almost always had his compact Olympus XA with him.   Of course, Marc was no stranger to GAS, and we often brought our latest acquisitions to a coffee meet-up.  He was especially fond of his nice Contaflex system, and shot with it regularly.   He had acquired some interesting gear over the years, and always took great care of it.  He had planned on getting his darkroom set up at his new place in Whitmore Lake, and then he fell ill with the cancer.

One November about 6 years ago, Marc and I were on a little photo trip to the Adrian, MI area.  At some point we saw something odd in the road, so we stopped. It turned out to be an expensive shotgun in a case.  We loaded our find into my Escape, and went searching for the proper authorities to turn it in.  As it was Veteran's Day, we had a hard time locating the police, and since it was not an emergency, we had to go find the station.  It wasn't in their jurisdiction, so the Sheriff Dept. had to deal with it. When we finally found the right place, we turned in the shotgun, and Marc filled out a form.  Two days later he got a call from the owner.  Turns out the guy had taken out the case to load something else into his truck for a hunting trip, and put the gun  on top of the cap.  He drove off, not realizing that it had dropped to the ground about 500 feet from his house.  He was so grateful that he sent Marc $50, which bought the two of us lunch at Seva.  That was so typical of many of our trips -- we also ended up with a story.
12/31/2012, on our River Raisin drive

Marc was a regular exhibitor at our Crappy Camera Club shows, and a regular attendee at meetings.  Even if he didn't have photos to show, he was always there to help put up a show or take it down.  For him, it was a way to connect with other film shooters in a group that was not about egos or agendas.  I will say it again that Marc was a dedicated film shooter, even in his professional mode as a photographer.  Only recently did he use digital cameras, and then only for very specific jobs.  He had come to really love flying his DJI Phantom drone, and this past May, he took it out when we went on our last photo/lunch/thriftshop day trip.  We went out May 5, which was one of those bright sunny days with no clouds.  We visited a bunch of places, and finally in the afternoon, visited a thrift shop in Chelsea, where he bought a LOMO LC-A camera for less than $5!
Drone Pilot, May 2018

Marc's drone at Pickerel Lake

Marc, atypical pose. May 5, 2018.

We both looked forward to attending Photostock, which is a yearly event held in late June by Bill Schwab, near Harbor Springs, MI.  We didn't always attend, but we made many of them over the past decade.  It's a great gathering of photographers - mostly film and alt-process users, but nobody is a stranger to digital, either.  People leave their egos at the door, and we talk a lot, show our work, and do some photography.  Oh, yes, and we party at night, too. We both met some fantastic people at Photostock.

Marc at Photostock 2008

Marc and I traveled together a lot at Photostock.  I think 2013 was my favorite year, because we also did a UP photo trip afterwards.  We saw a lot together, and always came away with some good images and memories.  
At a later Photostock 
Another trip to the UP was in late October 2012.  We drove Jorie's Jeep up to Marquette after I had some work done on it in Arbor. We switched out with my Ford Escape, and then drove it to some spots in Alger County that were definitely worth the trip.  Marc used to tell me that I drove like an old man. That's because I didn't have his lead foot on the gas. We did some great photography on that trip and saw the places mosquito-free, especially at Mosquito Falls.
Marc and his Contaflex, Deerton, MI

At Mosquito Falls area

At Tannery Falls, near Munising.

We definitely loaded up the SUV with our respective camera gear. However, Marc's Gitzo tripod and RB-67 bag ALWAYS took up the most space.  He had a separate bag for his Nikon gear and his Contaflex outfit.  I don't know that I saw many of those images from the Contaflex.  We went on a trip to the Ghost Forest at Sleeping Bear Dunes one year, and he carried that monster tripod and backpack across the sand and up the hills.  He was always in better physical shape than me.  We always had fun, though, and I don't think he and I ever had a cross word with one another in all those years.

It's not every day that you meet a person that you immediately like. Marc was one of those people. He had a way of making one at ease, and could start a conversation with anyone.  In his various jobs, I will bet that his demeanor and honesty was a great asset to him.  He had been a freelance photographer for some time, and one of his biggest accounts was doing photography at Domino's Farms, and was still intending to finish up some work. 

He was what I call a once-in-a lifetime best friend.  I wish we had both been able to live out to a decent old age, and I will miss his graciousness, his sense of humor, and wry smile.   I know that he made me a better photographer and a more outgoing person.   
November, 2017

street shooting in Holly, MI, 2011

At Photostock 2008

2008 Crappy camera meeting


Marc will be missed by so many people. I know his wife Coleen and daughter Camille will miss him most of all. He was a proud father, good husband, and wonderful brother to his siblings.  I know that he made me a better person, and I will always be thinking of him when I venture out on a photo trip. Marc, you may not be with us now, but your spirit lives on in how you touched our lives, and so our lives must go on. I'll be thinking of you when I see the night sky and the water over the falls. Rest in peace, my friend.

08/06/2018 --PLEASE NOTE: A Celebration of Life event will be held on Sunday, August 26, at 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., at Domino's Farms Office Park, EBA CafĂ©, Lobby H, Level 1, 24 Frank Lloyd Wright Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48105. There will be an Open House at 11:00 a.m., a Remembrance Service starting at 11:30 a.m., with a luncheon to follow, and plenty of desserts.

Memorial donations in memory of Marc may be made to the Huron River Watershed Council.