Meet the Street Photographer Documenting Divisadero for 12 Years and Counting

Hey, that’s me!

 

 

 

 

 
It was wonderful to sit down with my local online publication Hoodline and talk about this ongoing documentary photo project I’ve been working on (for 12 years now).

Divisadero Corridor is a project that is near and dear to my heart. When I started it, back in 2004, I owned an Olympus point-and-shoot 3-megapixel camera. I thought it was the greatest thing at the time. There was no Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I had a blog – but no one read that.

The neighborhood I had just moved to was dark, gritty. Sandwiched between still colorful Haight-Ashbury and its weird cousin, the Lower Haight, the Divisadero Corridor didn’t warrant much explanation. It was (as it still is) a major north/south thoroughfare through San Francisco, a part of the much larger area known as the Western Addition. There were few businesses besides the car repair shops and gas stations. A couple of corner stores. A few quirky places to eat and drink (Club Waziema remains a favorite). No one came to Divisadero to do anything. But they used to. As I walked the Corridor and its surrounds I began to pick up on the rich African-American history that was once at its core. Sadly, I’ve watched the little parts of that which were still here in 2004 be chipped away at even more. Yet, I’ve also watched a slow and careful gentrification take place. I was here when the shift was made to calling the neighborhood NoPa, but as I still photo walk the Corridor a couple of times a week, I can still feel the beat of Divisadero. It’s all about where you look.

 

IC Meet Series: Q&A With Kathy Drasky

I love participating in the Indisposable Concept – a project dedicated to film photography and bringing back the use of disposable cameras. Long before the first cell phone and its little one- or two-megapixel camera, let alone the latest iPhone, we occasionally picked up a disposable camera at Walgreens or CVS on our way to a party or on our way out of town. In many ways, these little grab-and-go cameras were a precursor of what was to come. Shooting with one today is a trip back in time to when you really had to think about if you wanted to make a photo of something. There is no taking a look at your images and there is no deleting as you snap your way through a roll of film. And, you have to wait at least a couple of hours after you finish a roll to see your efforts.

Selfie with film

Meet Kathy Drasky

We call it the #ICMEETSERIES and thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about the people behind the disposables. We asked a few IC contributors to tell us a bit about themselves and this is what we got in return…

Kathy Drasky – San Francisco, CA. USA

Click here to read what I love about disposables and how they got me back into shooting film.

Favorite Shots of 2015

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It’s that time of year again, another year of photography, another selection of favorite photos – or in this year’s case – significant photos.

In assembling this year’s picks, I came across a quote from Ansel Adams that I was somewhat surprised I had never seen before. Perhaps it’s new to you, too:

Twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.

I realized what went into my selections of so-called favorites was in big part their significance to me. They are not always great photos, or even good ones. They are not the ones that got the most likes on Instagram or in many cases photos I shared anywhere until today.

My 12 most significant photos of 2015.

I write a lot more about photos on KazzaDrask Mixed Media – and I wrote a lot more about pulling the truth out of your most significant photos as a way to identify your recurring themes of any given year. Mine were struggle, challenge, closure and an all-important need to not take yourself too seriously. Have a look at the album on Flickr.

See my favorite photos of 2014 and 2013.

Favorite Shots from 2014

Enjoy the Road AheadI’ve been compiling my favorite photo shots for years for family and friends – travel, birthdays, that sort of thing. But starting in 2013, I took a more serious look at the images I make all year long and how they tell a deeper story of where I’m at in the work/creative/life process. The challenges. The triumphs (as small as they may be). The questions. The sometimes circuitous way I come to answers, solutions or shifts in focus.

What I can tell from compiling my 2014 favorite shots is that what I chose to define my year was the epitome of all that went right. Obviously, the year was not without its personal and professional challenges, difficulties and stumbling blocks – those play into the images one makes all year long. But where I chose to portray those more in 2013, I flipped the coin in 2014.

View 2014 vs. 2013 on Flickr.

As I move from the freelance career that has spanned nearly three decades in publishing, journalism, public relations and marketing into one that employs all this into a creative agency that tells stories with digital media, you’ll see that in 2014 I got to travel fairly extensively, spend quality time with my 80-year-old parents, watch my paying work begin to merge with the image making and writing I’ve struggled with for so long, and enjoy the freedom of living life with my Australian wife in the afterglow of equality, justice and simple fairness being granted in the United States.

I also got a new camera.

Wishing all of you who read this far continued breakthroughs in your creative process in 2015! Enjoy the road ahead.

“Enjoy the road ahead.” Photo by KT Drasky. Hipstamatic, taken with an iPhone 5S, Helga Viking lens, Blanko film. Savannah, Georgia, March 2014.

Marsala Is the Color of 2015

marsalaNot to be outdone by recent press heralding the word of the year (2014: “vape“) or other famous food-themed colors before it (“eggplant”), the color sensation predicted by Pantone to be on every interior designer’s palette next year is: Marsala.

I’m of two minds upon hearing this. Why, of course, is one of them. Tanya Basu writing for The Atlantic pretty much covers off all those reasons. Specifically, a quick social media roundup:

Social media has questioned what Pantone calls “a naturally robust and earthy wine red color” as “a color that makes you want to go to Olive Garden or order Tampax in bulk.”

My second inner voice wants to cook up a batch of a dish I used to make a lot (back in the ’80s, I think – which is fitting, since the color Marsala per the above cited article is also associated with nearby decade “’70s-era carpets that lined offices and industrial spaces, created to disguise wear-and-tear from foot traffic and errant crumbs from desk lunches.” Yum.

But, if you feel like I do (Peter Frampton) about the Internet, writing, color schemes and food, you have quickly blocked such images out of your head and are ready to cook. Here’s my version of Chicken Marsala, adapted from one of the best cookbooks I ever scored at a yard sale: Italian Cooking for Pleasure by Mary Reynolds (pp. 70-71).

Petti di Pollo al Marsala (Chicken Breasts with Marsala)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts (pounded to be thin, like fillets – or just buy fillets)

Seasoned flour (i.e., salt and pepper)

3 oz. butter

4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

4 Tbsp Marsala wine

4 Tbsp chicken stock

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

Coat the chicken in seasoned flour and fry in butter. When golden pour over Marsala; let bubble for a minute. Cover each breast with grated Parmesan cheese, moisten with chicken stock. Cover pan; cook gently for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, then serve with pan juices poured over the chicken.

Photo courtesy of Pantone.

 

A More Imperfect Photo

lofi calendar cover 2015My 2015 Lo-Fi Love calendars have arrived. This is the second year I’ve put together a selection of the photos I take all year long using lo-fi apps like Hipstamatic on my iPhone. Why do I find the lo-fi look so appealing?

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

I grew up in a Kodak moment – occasionally punctuated with a Polaroid. Those images from the ’60s and ’70s – their colors, their unlimited list of imperfections – have always resonated with me. In my office there is a shoebox full of childhood snapshots, fading more each year. And yet, when I pull them out for Throwback Thursday or some other fun Internet game, I am overcome with experiences I don’t remember. How so? That shoebox is not really filled with snapshots. It is filled with emotions.

“When we are nostalgic we take pictures.” – Susan Sontag

The endless stream of images we are bombarded with each day, taken with smartphones and then slapped on the Internet fail to give us the chance to reflect. There is rarely any delay from photo snap to share – the worst offenders are those who post-process on the spot. Trying to make that photo of the Grand Canyon you just took two minutes ago look exactly like it does two minutes later siphons the emotion from the image and then badly attempts to resuscitate it.

If the only emotion you can conjure looking at someone’s Facebook photos of a destination vacation is “meh,” then something has definitely been lost in the translation. Or, in cases of random slapping (no editing of image or sequence – not even taking the time to rotate an image to its rightful right side up) there has been no translation.

“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.” – Andre Kertesz

Using lo-fi apps on my iPhone (current fave is Hipstamatic, which is hard to beat, but I’ll also occasionally edit photos taken with the regular iPhone camera and run them through Camera Bag 2) allows me to create what I call more imperfect photos.

The lo-fi look takes me back to a time when what you saw when you took a picture wasn’t necessarily what you got when you drove up to the FotoMat a week later to pick up the developed film.

At which time you may have experienced a feeling called “disappointment”.

Years later, though, you look back on that disappointment as any number of emotions: lessons learned (i.e., confidence), what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (i.e., survivability), and my favorite, it didn’t really matter after all (i.e., nostalgia).

Lo-fi apps on your iPhone can regenerate all that with a color scheme that reminds you of your grandparents’ Naugahyde seating arrangements and the way the lake looked that day you got caught skipping school.

Or, maybe you want to pretend what life was like that time you accidentally bought a roll of black and white film, or loaded film back-ass-wards (twice) and got a range of multi-exposures that horrified all concerned back in the day, but in shuffling through the shoebox turn out to be the coolest pieces of art you could ever possibly own.

“Industry is best at the intersection of art and science.” Edwin Land

Photography in all its forms has always been the blending of art and science, and over the past 10 to 15 years that pure science has given way to technology. It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs was greatly influenced by Edwin Land. The guy behind the iPhone + the guy who invented the Polaroid = why we all have “instant” cameras in our pockets today.

All digitally competent photographers now have the power at our fingertips to make perfect photos. But some of us choose not to.

Buy my 2015 Lo-Fi Love desktop calendar for just $12 USD. Click here.

Leslie Feinberg’s Screened-In Series

6151364693_dddd21aa12_oLeslie Feinberg was a writer, most famous for a book called Stone Butch Blues, which I never read. But I was aware of Feinberg’s transgenderism and all-around activism from my own many years in “that life” I call writing for LGBT publications. You could not call yourself a person who wrote about LGBT issues and not know about Leslie Feinberg and Stone Butch Blues. But I suppose you could drift away from that work and receive the news of Feinberg’s passing on Twitter and be jolted back to a time and place when AIDS was devastating a community, gays and lesbians had few – if any – rights, and a lot of folks in “that life” had major problems with the “T” (and heck, even the “B”) being tagged onto the “L” and “G”.

Enter Leslie Feinberg, competing for space in the Advocate alongside lipstick lesbians and Elton John. Feinberg, whose wife Minnie Bruce Pratt, submitted her obituary using the pronoun “her” (so, I will, too), described herself as “an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.” Notably she left out “writer”, less notably, she left out “photographer”.
For those who wondered “Whatever happened to Leslie Feinberg?” or, those who didn’t, in reading the Advocate obit, we’d learn that she suffered from decades of illness related to “multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica.” Further,

During a period when diseases would not allow her to read, write, or talk, Feinberg continued to communicate through art. Picking up a camera for the first time, she posted thousands of pictures on Flickr, including “The Screened-In Series,” a disability-art class-conscious documentary of her Hawley-Green [Syracuse, NY] neighborhood photographed entirely from behind the windows of her apartment.

The Screened-In series is a remarkable look at life from the point-of-view of a confining illness. Life goes on, outside your windows, mundane as it may seem. Yet imagine not having the strength to go beyond that window and participate. View the Screened-In series here.

And then, remember Leslie Feinberg not as a writer, activist and/or photographer, but as she requested in her last words, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.” Done.

Photo by Leslie Feinberg via Flickr.

Source: The Advocate: “Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died”.

Ferguson

fergusonIThe images coming out the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, ignited in protests since a white cop shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown 10 days ago, are eerily echoing the kind of photos we associate with the Deep South in the years leading up to the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago.

Civil rights protestors are attacked with a water cannon.ferguson5

This time around, it’s a little different. We are a nation led by a black man, in spite of the kicking and screaming of less than half the electorate (and probably half of those who could vote but were not uninterested enough to bother). We also have become a global society where the image – delivered in nanoseconds via Twitter, Facebook or any of the thousands of online news sites – enables us to see the bigger picture without reading any of the facts.

If you want facts, click here (as of Tuesday morning August 19).

More will be forthcoming, no doubt. In the interim, the pictures will continue to flood our feeds and Americans (and the rest of the world) will continue to draw conclusions and wonder. Why, 50 years after the Civil Rights Act is racial unrest still a problem in America? Will Ferguson finally be the end of it? Could social media and online coverage as well as instantaneous (and nearly constant) imagery play a healing role? Or will it just fan the flames more glaringly?

Image credits: St. Louis Post-Dispatch cover by David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Civil rights water cannon, 1963 by Getty Images; Police fire device at protestors by Jeff Roberson, AP.

Anthony Friedkin’s Gay Essay

friedkin_gay_essayThe small selection of black and white photos by Anthony Friedkin called “The Gay Essay” currently on display at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco has a haunting, almost 19th century feel, a far cry from early 1970s Los Angeles where most of the photos were shot.

Friedkin has spent nearly 40 years trying to get “The Gay Essay” published into book form. (The book is now available here.)

That in, and of itself, at first sounds remarkable, until you think back during this Pride Month and recall that the Stonewall riots occurred just 45 years ago. Friedkin’s photos were shot in the wake of that, on the Left Coast and perhaps showcase best the dichotomy between life in New York vs. life in L.A.

It seems LGBTQ history on the West Coast, while unfolding at the same time as that in New York and elsewhere, had its own distinct vibe. Perhaps that vibe, along with the times when photos of gay people were still limited to Diane Arbus freak shows or street photojournalism, was what kept Friedkin’s Gay Essay from finding its audience for so long.

Now, in the glow of post-DOMA America, we can finally sit back and enjoy this slice of history as art.

Photo: Anthony Friedkin.

Bad Cropping Award Goes To…

Hillaryclinton-people-cover-1040605-new.blocks_desktop_mediumA mini-firestorm erupted earlier this week when right-wing fringe blogger Matt Drudge caught a glimpse of a People magazine cover while waiting in line at his local supermarket and decided to tell the world that Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, might be using a walker.

Yes, people who read People and those who just glance at thousands of images per day while browsing screens on multiple devices (i.e., the majority of Americans) were temporarily titillated by this image shown here of the 66-year-old Clinton grasping a… patio chair!

Unfortunate cropping of the photo of Clinton standing (um…leaning) poolside gained mini-momentum from the usual right-wing media mouthpieces that, should Clinton run for President in 2016, she would be 69 years old on Election Day. Should she win and serve two terms (the U.S. conservative base is really quite worried about this), she would be 77 years old by the end of 2024. Clinton is reportedly in very good health and embarks on book tour next week to promote her new book, Hard Choices.

Photo courtesy of People magazine.