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Name for the project: "Changing Denver"

We’ve been mulling over names for the project and have settled on “Changing Denver.” Simple, and pays homage to Berenice Abbott’s book, “Changing New York.” Hers was not a rephotographic attempt, but documentation of the city in 1935-1938 for the Federal Art Project. An incredible achievement; 302 images. New York Public Library has the archive: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/explore/?col_id=160

But perhaps “Denver Changing” is better? Something to ruminate on…

Phase One is complete

Today I brought home 37 beautiful sets of matted photographs (111 photographs: 1937-1978-2012).This is the first phase of the rephotographic project. The  next step is to print the remaining 180 streetcorner views. I will need to purchase scans from History Colorado for the 1937 images and then digitize the 1978 images. Most of the 2009-2012 images are scanned as JPG’s. Everything will need to be filed and preserved now and going forward.
This will constitute an amazing look at how Denver has changed over 76 years.

I will initiate a Kickstarter project shortly.

Published a photo book!

This past week I published a book! The one I planned to do through blurb.com: “Love Letter to the Railroad Yards.” The 30 or so photographs featured in the book came from my 1976-77 images of the yards in Denver, done with B&W infrared film (no longer made by Kodak). As I noted before, I was very passionate about trains in those days and particularly the yards in Denver…the yards which don’t exist anymore, at least behind Union Station. This is out of the scope of our rephotographic project, of course, but led to the project, which I undertook in 1978-79. I used to pass through LoDo on my way to the yards…with some trepidation, I might add. Streets largely deserted…some weird people hanging around…I usually hurried on to my subject of the time. Union Station was also deserted in those days and I often sat in there writing or just resting from a couple of hours photographing. It was a great time. I went out everyday and shot at least a roll of film; developed it in the evening and printed contact sheets (anyone remember those?!); and on Saturdays, would spend the whole day in the darkroom at Metro printing the best images. Then to class the next week with the finished product(s)…

I’m really proud of this work. Blurb.com did a great job. Used a premium paper–lustre–and was very very careful to prepare the photos in Picasa before uploading them to the Booksmart template. Yes, Picasa. I don’t have Photoshop–at this point. And I used scanned prints instead of negatives…my scanner has trouble with negs. Ah–post-production is beyond me. I can take great pictures…but I haven’t made the darkroom to digital leap yet. I will soon enough.

It’s Halloween 2012…we had 35 trick or treaters tonight…the most ever. I’m drinking hot carob milk and trying not to think about the upcoming election and what will happen if…

Progress and plans

Almost done with the Kickstarter script. Sam and I went over plans for the video and decided to use “Seeds” as a backdrop, for at least part of it. Wish that parking lot on 16th street wasn’t there. Denver parking lots: the bane of my existence since 1974! I’ll have to look at the older photos–not sure what was there before. Possibly a gas station.
Organized photos that we are going to repeat. Many of them were done during the summer months last year. Harsh shadows and totally washed-out streets. Streets are important parts of these photos, so they have to be right. Also, the view down Wynkoop street from 16th. We’ll be meeting at 7:30 on Friday morning to cover that view. The EPA building should have some nice light; hope it’s soft!
I’m also working on my book, “Love Letter to the Railroad Yards,” to be published by blurb. The question is, should I have Photocraft make the JPEG’s or should I do it at home on my own scanner?

First look at the 37 exhibit prints (draft version)

Today I printed out the 2009-2012 prints that correspond to the 37 that were exhibited in 1981. For the most part they look really good. A couple of them could use a re-do because of Denver’s harsh summer light. We may (gulp) finally go digital on at least a couple of them, as Chris recommended. Film has proven to be very expensive because we have to digitize the images anyway. Next time, there probably won’t be any film anymore the way things are going with Kodak.
I pulled out my old photo gear and I feel like I’m surrounded by Kodak Yellow…sad memories of a wonderful place to work (three summers in college). I learned photography there in the company’s darkrooms. Too bad the “Silver Halide Gang” didn’t see the digital handwriting on the wall…
This project was done completely with Plus-X. Just as in 1978-79.

Visit to a Wazee building

Today Sam and I had lunch with a friend who owns a building on Wazee St. We  ate at McCormick’s in the Oxford Hotel, then walked over to the building, which was designed by Frank Edbrooke about a hundred years ago. (Edbrooke was the architect of both the Brown Palace and the Oxford.) Soon we’ll set up a time to go inside and photograph some of the more interesting attributes, like the huge wooden beams, very large windows (for the time) and even the freight elevator. (We like details like that).
Tomorrow I meet with Chris, who is printing the contemporary photographs. He will match those to the two older images, which I printed in 1981 on Portriga Rapid, using a variety of old developers (Amidol, for one–Walker Evans used it. His fingernails turned brown.) It will be interesting to see how Photoshop will handle the match. This time we will probably matte and frame horizontally rather than vertically.
Details, details…my love letter to Denver. (Theme for the Kickstarter campaign.)

A little rain

Finally we’re getting some rain in Denver, but mostly it’s wind and thunder. One can only hope that the lightning doesn’t spark another fire.
Got the negatives back from that smoky morning I photographed in Denver. The intersection of Wynkoop and 16th is highly frustrating. Once again, the Tattered Cover building is very dark and the EPA building is very light. Sam thinks I should try dawn! We need another cloudy day, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards quite yet. Cloudy, without lightning and rain, obviously.
Tomorrow is a tour of a building on the National Register and a discussion about its original purpose, renovation and great architectural features. Looking forward to it!
I’m making progress on the railroad yards book. I’m searching for a graphic artist now to come up with a good cover.

Too hot in Denver

Yesterday I got up at 5 am to photograph some sites that needed to be done again. I took the 6 am bus down to Denver, did the photographing in an hour, and then had a Bruegger’s bagel (first time). The light was diffused by the smoke from our numerous fires, so the shadows weren’t so deep. I re-did the one “corner” which is not a corner: looking straight down Wynkoop St. from 16th toward Cherry Creek. There was a viaduct there once, but it’s been taken down, of course. Tattered Cover on the left side, and EPA on the right side. Also, re-did the spot where Constitution Hall once stood: the burned building of 1978. Now it’s a parking lot. Poignant.


I have engaged a photographic printer in Boulder who will be matching the exhibition prints of ’37 and ’78. He is excellent, and I’ll be excited to see how they turn out. 


Over 100 degrees yesterday, probably today as well. It was a good incentive to get up really early and do the work in Denver. The whole week is mid to high 90’s. Eight fires currently burning in the state, and we’re waiting for Boulder to erupt (and praying it won’t happen again). At the very least the heat is really enervating and there’s no way I would venture out to photograph in downtown during the harsh light and shadows of mid-day. 

Oral history plans

I am putting the finishing touches on a deed of gift to use for the oral history interviews. The interviews will mostly be conducted in audio (that’s the current plan), but some will be in video. I hope to talk with some 90-plus year-olds who live or lived downtown, a businessman, and a structural engineer. These will be the first interviews.

Blurb, and Berenice Abbott

On another note, I found all my old prints last night. There were many more views of the railroad yards that I’ve forgotten about. Most date to 1977, a few from 1976, and a very few from 1978. (By 1978, I was moving forward with the rephotographic project.) It will be a difficult decision to choose for the book. Many of these newly-discovered photos are rather illustrative of the yards, showing warehouses, trucks, the “Q,” and other features of a diverse industrial area.

I also purchased “New York Changing,” a play on the title of a book from the late 30’s, “Changing New York,” by Berenice Abbott, one of my favorite photographers. She photographed the city in about 1938, including the outer boroughs, and a contemporary photographer rephotographed many of her sites in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He was fortunate enough to be able to use one of her 8×10 view cameras! Lovely, wonderful prints with great descriptions. Here’s what stood out: building are tilted (!), he worked over a period of time, instead of just one year (as we are–2009-2012), and his affection for the city is obvious. That’s the most important thing. I still feel great affection for Denver. Despite the parking lots of 1978.