Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fire Escape Chutes

While methodically photographing dozens of abandoned houses in Gary, Indiana this weekend I came across something I hadn't seen before.  A metal tube slide coming out of the second floor of a building.  The next day I re-visited the same house with a friend who told me a story of her nearly blind grandmother who attended a school for the blind in Janesville Wisconsin while growing up.  She spoke of fire drills in which the blind children would be shuttled out of the side of the building down slides to the ground below.  Fascinated by the visual of blind children zipping down chutes to escape flames I could not resist taking a look around to see if I could find some information about these chutes.

Views taken each day of the building in Gary. The Fire Escape Chute can be seen on the left, I should have hopped in and grabbed an image of the slide in its entirety... next time.

It seems these were used in some hospitals and schools in the 30's and 40's. The following image is of Maxwell school in Nebraska, which was built in 1912. 

An ad from a newspaper advertising these speedy fire escapes.

"Those on the slide are whisked to safety"

In this photo "boys at Amesbury School, Windhead, practice rescue tactics with an escape chute extending from a third floor window to the ground."

We can end with an image of the Wisconsin School for the Blind, Janesville.  Which is where friend Alissa's Grandmother must have spent her youth.

Tom Harris

Friday, February 25, 2011

What is an Artist? an answer to Tom...?

Tom asked us all "what is art?"  and  "what makes an artist?"

People that make art? but that definition is dependent on the definition of "Art."

Is art made only by Artists.

Does it all depend on proficiency in a medium?

Originality? no.

I guess I don't have an answer.  Tom's origanal post on the subject started a few interesting conversations, so I am just bringing up the subject again.

Here are some Artist (?)  talking about their Artistness...


NOVA The Film (trailer) from ROJO on Vimeo.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gary Indiana: Abandoned, Burned Out, and Gang Controlled

Nearly a year ago Matt Messner and I made a number of images on Easter Sunday in two abandoned churches in Gary, Indiana.  Some of you may be familiar with the images, there were a couple of shows in Chicago that featured the work.  As the darkest part of winter is now behind us I am again drawn to that city to make a new series.

These were the postcard invites to the first show which contained exclusively work from that Sunday.
The trips to Gary now date back more than 4 years, each trip we have made brings us new finds and changed architecture and environments.  We started with the more dramatic buildings that invited us in with gaping holes in their walls, the large factories, theaters, and cathedrals.  As the years passed we started expanding our radius from the main drag downtown, Broadway.  We began to find burned out buildings, streets of derelict homes, and various other products of a greatly shrunk population.

This weekend I spent a number of hours documenting the rampant abandonment of homes in and around downtown Gary.  I begin to form a typology of average Gary dwellings.  Some have been burned so badly that the roof simply is gone, some are tagged with the gangs that control the blocks they are on such as the "8th Block Vicelords".  Dozens more have simply been left to rot, vandals have torn doors off and shattered windows to strip out any valuables.  Here are some images from the first of hopefully many fruitful excursions to Gary.

The snow seems to have rearranged the front awning here.

Other typologies have undoubtedly been made in cities such as Detroit and Flint, Gary needs documenting.  I find a terrific sense of wonder and astonishment at these homes.  The American dream, left with doors open and windows smashed.

Tom Harris

Friday, February 11, 2011

Portraits of Australian Criminals from the 1920's

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my attraction to photographs. In doing so I've realized that a well considered photograph of almost anything can hold my attention for a substantial period of time.  Concluding that the subject matter is not, for me, as important as is the consideration within image itself.  

Shinichi Maruyama
Though images, as well handled as the one above, of interesting subject matter are in themselves often successful.  I find that the subject of the photo is not key to its success. Here are some more from that (beautiful) series: throwing water.  We'll save that stuff for another post.

So on to the main event here.  These are images from the archives of the Sydney Police. They are now published in a book entitled City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948. While the subject matter is interesting on a number of levels. "what crimes did these people commit?", "They don't look like criminals..." and so on.  What really drives it home for me is the quality of each specimen.  The questions and statements above could be made about any mugshot taken today, but I am not that interested in looking at below photo of Fernando Camarillo (from the Chicago Tribune's "Mugs in the News" section of their website which is another terrible story altogether...) below.

Instead of using a view camera to document every detail of someone who traffics Cannabis like our friend Fernando here, or someone who took the life of another, we toss up a web cam attached to a computer or some equally poor image recording device and simply settle for what is easy.  My assumption is that people look at the mugshots in the tribune as a sort of outlet; to see who did all the bad things and to feel better than them for not breaking the law or at least not get caught breaking it. I am not entirely interested in seeing these images or when subject to one, I am certainly not willing to give it more than a second glance before moving on.  The images below, which are the same in purpose and function could occupy my time and thoughts for plenty of time, all the while I don't have the feeling that my time is being wasted as it does while I flip through mugshots on the Tribune's website.

I now urge you to spend a minute looking at some of these photos and if you don't find them appealing not only in subject matter but as objects themselves, you might at least ask yourself why we stopped dressing so beautifully as a population... These are criminals remember!

Thanks to Sarah for sharing the link to the story about these images (in french mind you).

Tom Harris

Friday, February 4, 2011

Two Shorts and a Blizzard

Tuesday night, for a good portion of the United States was a Blizzard Wonderland.  With Class and Work cancelled for most of Chicago, Tom Harris (the same regular contributer to this blog) and I trekked out into the maelstrom to take advantage of the event.  My roommates, Joel Fernando and Ryan Morris, had the same idea and spent Wednesday filming as well producing their own short film.

This first is the film Tom and I made using music from The Kings of Convenience, and you can watch it in HD on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Architectural Film : Studio Gang's Columbia College Media Production Center

I am very fortunate that in my line of work I get to cross paths with amazing architects, designers, and thinkers on a daily basis.  A recent project I was lucky enough to be a part of was to move Hedrich Blessing into the realm of video.  Thirst Design worked along with us taking the footage and imagery we made in the space to produce this video which I hope sets a new bar for what is possible with a strong vision, good technique, and some thought.  We spent a couple of sessions at Columbia College Media Production Center here in Chicago and made video clips, time lapse imagery, and sound samples.

Best viewed at vimeo in HD and in Full Screen. 

One of the exciting parts of how it all came together is the thought that went into the sound that accompanies the footage.  Light and color values from key frames were mapped onto the Circle of Fifths to use as a road map for the notes.  The music was then composed using those frames as way points, so the flow of the sound actually is dictated by how the architecture moves light into the space.

We have all seen some of the video's out there of the same genre, Spirt of Space being a group who has done some pioneering of their own in the field, a great group.  This field is growing quickly enough to prompt a first Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York this fall, thankfully for some of us not on the east coast, the first Chicago festival takes place in a couple of months, provided we all survive the storied snow storm that will befall us in a few short hours.

Enjoy the video and if you have any thoughts about it, or about Architectural Videography in general, please feel free to comment here on the blog.

Tom Harris