Wednesday, October 19, 2016

From the archives: Vicksburg in 1997 with Agfa Scala film

About 20 years ago, the venerable German photographic company, Agfa, made a black and white transparency film named Scala. It was intended to be projected, meaning to be used for black and white slides that would be projected on a screen. I tried Scala several times and liked it, but did not use it regularly. The Scala was ISO 200 and needed to be processed at a laboratory with the correct Scala chemicals. Possibly you could buy the chemicals for home use, but I never checked. Recently, I rediscovered my 1997-vintage Scala 35mm slides and did a test scan with my Plustek 7600i scanner. They looked really nice and I scanned most of the roll. Here is a semi-random tour of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In the 1990s, three river boats regularly visited Vicksburg, the Mississippi Queen, the Delta Queen and the American Queen. All three stopped service during the economic downturn of 2007-2009. The Mississippi Queen was cut up for scrap in 2011. The Delta Queen, which was made of wood, can no longer be used for passenger traffic. But the American Queen is now (as of 2016) back in service with regular stops at the Vicksburg waterfront on the Yazoo diversionary canal.
In 1997, the Harrah's Vicksburg Casino was moored in its cofferdam on the canal side of the floodwall. The hotel was on land, but the gambling facilities had to be on floating plant. The subsequent owners of the casino filed for bankruptcy, and the barge is now moored in the Yazoo River near the Ergon petroleum refinery (I assume awaiting scrapping).
Vicksburg's famous Attic Gallery was formerly at 1404 Washington Street above Michael's Jewelry. The Gallery was a great place and packed tight with sculpture, paintings, and stuff. Attic Gallery now is at 1101 Washington Street and almost as tightly packed with interesting things.
This was the steel framing for the Vicksburg Convention Center on Mulberry Street.
This photographs shows some of the earthwork done for the convention center. The Bunge Corporation grain elevator on Levee Street is in the distance, with the Yazoo Canal beyond.
Oak Street is one of Vicksburg's older residential neighborhoods. No. 3517 is an early 20th century duplex.
Pearl Street parallels the railroad tracks. This cottage at 2521 was also a duplex and still had the characteristic split porch pillars that can be seen in many older Vicksburg houses.
These almost-twin shotgun shacks are at 1300 and 1302 Harrison Street. As of 2016, they are still extant.
An old Plymouth has been parked in the garage of 920 National Street for decades. I have never seen any occupants, but someone maintains the grounds and house, so it is not abandoned.
This is the railroad cut between Belmont and West Pine Streets. I took this photograph on Feb. 3, 1997, just after an ice storm draped the kudzu and branches with ice.
This is North Fisher Street, also draped with ice.
By the time I took this picture of Letitia Street, the ice had already melted from the street.
This little church on Yazoo Street was condemned and scheduled for demolition as of mid-2016.
The cottage at 1101 Stouts Street, near the Yazoo Street church, is also gone.
Finally, we have another duplex cottage at 2729 Alma Street. I have not checked recently if it is still there.

Sadly, Agfa is gone, another victim of the digital imaging era. The company was founded in 1867 as Aktiengesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation and renamed Gevaert & Co. in 1894. Once a prominent European manufacturer of film, papers, and chemicals, Agfa-Gevaert sold their consumer imaging division in 2004 to a management buyout. But within a year, the new AgfaPhoto GmbH had filed for bankruptcy, ending over a century of top-quality film and paper manufacture. I still use their Rodinal film developer, which was invented in 1891 by Dr. Momme Andresen. Fortunately, Rodinal is still made, now by Adox, another old-line photo company. How many other 120-year-old consumer products can you buy? Freestyle Photographic Supplies in Los Angeles sells Rodinal as well as Adox and other traditional black and white films, but Scala is gone forever.

All of these photographs were taken with a Leica M3 rangefinder camera, most with 35mm or 50mm Summicron lenses. I wrote about Leicas in a 2014 post.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Vicksburg from the Archives - 1993-1994

I recently had some old Ektar 25 negatives scanned that I exposed in 1993 and 1994. Even with the passage of only 20 years, you can see changes in slow-moving Vicksburg.
Let's take a walk on Washington street and head south. This is the old Vicksburg Cafe at 1625 Washington Street, formerly at the corner of Washington and South Madison. I do not remember when the building was torn down. And now I realize why the Warren County library, seen to the left, did not have an entrance on the south side. The architect likely felt there was not enough space for a driveway and entry stairs. But now this is an empty lot, and this side would be a much more suitable entry area for the library than its inadequate and awkward parking lot on Walnut Street.
F&G Beverages at 1701 Washington Street has thrived and grown. The drive-through on the left is gone now. Whenever I bicycle by, the store has customers. I better not write what I think of this demonstration of small-town prosperity.
Dollar General has also thrived, but this building at 1713 is gone.
This is the view north from the corner of Washington and Bridge Streets. The former Mississippi Hardware company is in the distance to the left. In World War II, the build housed a fabric and sewing manufacturer.
Nick's Auto Parts in the old brick corner store (1733 Washington Street) is closed.
The next building south was the Vicksburg Seed store. I recall that several additions or porches on the side were torn down over the years.
This view looking north is over the railroad viaduct.
If you turned east and walked up Belmont Street, from some of the parking lots on the north side, you could look north over the railroad cut. There were once a number of houses and gardens (mini-farms) on the slope. Most are gone now. Some of the shotgun shacks were the classic Vicksburg type where the entrance was level with the road, but the back projected out over the slope, supported by wood posts. A retired city engineer told me that these post houses cannot be rebuilt or permitted if they collapse. But they were common in the early 20th century as a way to accommodate the area's complicated topography.

Photographs taken with a FujiFilm GW690II medium-format camera with 90mm Fujinon lens using Kodak Ektar 25 film. This was a fine-grain, contrasty emulsion, a bit hard to use but spectacular if you wanted fine detail.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Continuing Decay, North Mill Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Dear readers, I wrote about Jackson's North Mill Street in the area near Union Station in a previous post. Let's continue our tour heading north.
Mill Street parallels the Canadian National Railroad tracks and the rail yard. Jackson has always been a major rail center. The best view of the rail yard is from the Woodrow Wilson Avenue crossover. The photograph above shows the view looking south.
There were once private homes on Mill Street. This abandoned early 20th century cottage is at 1112 N. Mill Street.
1154 Mill is a lounge with residence above.
1326 Mill Street is an abandoned supermarket. I do not know where residents of the nearby streets shop.
Clear water was bubbling out of the ground on the lot next to the supermarket. I have noted before that Jackson must lose a tremendous amount of its drinking water to pipe breaks and leaks.
The Magic Spot Sports Bar II is at 1836 North Mill. It has an ambitious mural on the north wall.
Jackson Generator and Starter Service occupies this 1927-vintage factory building. I was glad to see that it was a going concern.
Respect for the customer was molded in the concrete about the door.  I wish more companies today followed this golden rule.
A warehouse with a former spur line is at the corner of Lorenz and North Mill. It was locked but clearly unused.
Neglected 18-wheeler trailers were in the muddy field north of the warehouse.
More clean water was gushing from a break in the hydrant.
A paper recycling company occupied a steel shed and fields at 3002 North Mill Street. I could not tell if the company was defunct because the rolls of baled paper were out in the rain, seemingly abandoned.
This is a Tri-X film photograph of the recycle facility.
Drive west on West Mitchell Ave., and at the corner of Commerce Park Drive, an empty pink warehouse once housed the Traderhorn Discount Store.
The aerial photograph from Google Maps shows the railroad turntable and the track remains that show where there would have once been a roundhouse. One day I will try to get permission to take some photographs of the turntable.

This has been a rather gloomy view of west Jackson. This area was once a vibrant commercial and manufacturing district, but now many buildings are empty, the roads are crumbling, and the buried infrastructure decaying. I just don't have any answers.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera.

Friday, September 16, 2016

More tests of Tri-X film in Vicksburg and Jackson

With the return of my Fuji GW609II camera from repair (I broke it in Kingman, Arizona on my Route 66 tour), I wanted to check if the shutter was working properly and test if North Coast Photographic's processing of Tri-X suited my preferences for contrast and "look." The following pictures are 2400 pixels wide, so click any picture to see more details.
It is always nice to find a high viewpoint. This is the view looking southeast from the 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill, which is atop the old First National Bank building at 1301 Washington Street. Most of the floors below have been converted into apartments. The big building in the distance is the WPA-era former Federal Post Office and Courthouse. For many years, Vicksburg District of the Corps of Engineers occupied part of the building. It has been empty for about 10 years and may be redeveloped. The roof in the foreground is St. Paul Catholic Church. The original St. Paul was damaged in the 1953 tornado, and this modern building replaced it.
This is the view from 10 South looking southwest towards the Yazoo Canal. The canal joins the Mississippi River in the distance. The parking garage in the right center was built in the 1970s during the "redevelopment" fad, when tearing down historic architecture and replacing it with parking facilities was assumed to be the pathway to revitalizing urban downtowns.
The Yazoo Canal runs north to the Port of Vicksburg. The road in the center is North Washington Street, which used to be US 61. Now, the official 61 bypasses Vicksburg east of the city. I used an orange filter on the three frames from 10 South to emphasize the cloud texture.
The church at 906 Yazoo Street has been abandoned for several years. The spray paint numbers mean the city engineer has condemned the structure.
Here is the same church in 1996, when it was still active. This is a 35mm Agfa Scala film frame, taken with a Leica M3 camera.
2511 Cedar Street is a condemned cottage. It is a pity; this was probably a rather nice house decades ago.
The last two frames on this roll of film are from Jackson. This is the Canadian National railroad yard photographed from the Woodrow Wilson Avenue overpass. There is a sidewalk on both sides, so you can safely stand away from the traffic. These are hand-held with a yellow filter, with exposure of 1/250 sec. at f/5.65. The amount of detail in these Tri-X frames is impressive, especially if you consider that Kodak introduced the 120 film format for their Brownie No. 2 camera in 1901. The lessons of this roll: the Fuji works correctly, but the frames are a bit too harsh and contrasty for my tastes. If we had overcast gloom, like Scotland, this would be perfect. The Clayton F76+ developer that North Coast Photographic uses does not seem quite right, so I will go back to developing future rolls myself in Kodak's HC110 developer.