Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Quick Visit to the Imperial Capital, Washington, DC (B&W film)

The protest sign man, Pennsylvania Avenue, directly in front of the White House
Business took me to Washington, DC, in September of 2018. I had not been to Washington for many years, and it was fun to walk around and see some sights that were new. I have always liked Washington, and as a visitor, it is exciting to be at the seat of imperial power. These centers of empire (present or past) are always interesting because you see the trappings of power, the grandiose buildings, the monuments to heroes, and the souvenirs of colonialism or the souvenirs purchased with vast wealth (think of Moscow, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Athens, Paris, or London as other examples).

But in Washington, it is challenging to do much creative photography in a short trip. Historic neighborhoods have largely been torn down or gentrified, and the cell phone crowd takes a million snaps of the monuments every day.
Room with a view: 17th Street from the Mayflower Hotel
My hosts reserved rooms for us at the Mayflower Hotel. Nice place! I appreciated seeing photographs of Harry Truman and other notable guests. Even Nikita Khrushchev stayed there (no nasty budget people's hotel for those Soviets).
FBI building, Pennsylvania Avenue (Leitz GGr yellow/green filter to lighten foliage)
Salad greens, Rosa Mexicana restaurant, 7th Street NW
I saw an interesting idea: grow the salad greens in plant boxes where the customers sit. Certainly fresh and wholesome.
Checking in, National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is always rewarding. To think, you can see Rembrants and daVincis for free.
Mirrored pyramids occupy the concourse between the east and west buildings of the National Gallery.  Selfies have been taken here since long before the cell phone era. In the two frames above, I used the same 1949 Leica IIIC. It is a pity the photographer did not age as gracefully.
7th Street at the Mall
7th Street food truck
Walk along the mall, and there are always tourists from around the world walking, eating, taking selfies, and hanging around. The food trucks are a decades-old institution, but I admit I have never tried their culinary specialties.
World War II Memorial
World War II Memorial with Lincoln Memorial in distance 
The World War II Memorial at sunset is a peaceful setting. The Lincoln Memorial is due west in the distance.
Tree trunks, 17th Street SW
Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, DC
The quote above is engraved in the granite panels at the FDR Memorial. It is a somber and meaningful place. Consider this quote when you observe the vile and self-serving man who occupies the White House today and the way we institutionalize abuse of the poor.

This is the end of our short tour around Washington. As with so many other places, I should return and explore in more detail.

The black and white photographs are from Fuji Acros film, taken with my dad's 1949-vintage Leica IIIC rangefinder camera and its 5cm ƒ/2.0 Leitz Summitar lens. I previously showed a comparison of my 70-year old IIIC with the new Leica Monochrom black and white digital camera when I stopped at the Leica Store Washington DC.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Heading west in Jackson: Woodrow Wilson Ave. and Medgar Evers Blvd. (B&W film)

Construction at Children's Hospital, Jackson, from Woodrow Wilson Ave. (Leica IIIC, 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens)
1968 aerial photograph of the original University Medical Center building (from Preservation Mississippi). Woodrow Wilson Ave. is on the right. 
Woodrow Wilson Avenue is another major east-west arterial that crosses Jackson. Near North State Street, it passes by a cluster of hospitals and medical facilities, part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Preservation Mississippi recently wrote about the 1960s construction of the first part of this huge hospital complex.
Canadian National rail yard, 2018, Leica IIIC camera
CN rail yard, 2017, Fuji GW690, Kodak Tri-X 400 film
A long overpass crosses the Canadian National railroad yard. There is always activity there. Jackson has been an important rail junction since before the civil war.
Peace Street runs south from the viaduct. It did not look too camera-friendly, so I did not venture down there.
This bayou, just west of the CN rail yard, is one of the many creeks and drainage ditches that have been channelized in the past. I wonder when they will start un-channelizing them to allow plants and riparian habitat to be reestablished?
Medgar Evers Boulevard diverges from Woodrow Wilson and runs northwest-southeast, eventually becoming US 49 after it passes I-220 in northwest Jackson. Much of the infrastructure and commercial activity along Medgar Evers in west Jackson looks beat-up and dilapidated. The Delta Mart at 3133 Medgar Evers is an example. Many of the stores were closed. The sign had a 1960s vibe to it.
Continuing northwest, I came across some closed stores and empty brick house at the junction of US 49 and Forest Avenue Extension. A gent came to talk. He was Mr. Stevie Rose, as he showed me on his hospital identification wrist band. I could not tell if he was homeless or traveling somewhere, but he had a big bag of ramen noodles and other items.

This ends our short tour. A future article will have some pictures from Flora, which is a short distance north on US 49.

Most of these photographs are from Kodak BW400CN film, exposed in my dad's 1949 Leica IIIC rangefinder camera and a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Wandering around east Jackson, Mississippi (B&W film)

South Commerce Street, Jackson, view south. The tracks are no longer in service

When in Jackson, I often go to Jackson Ice, at the corner of South Jefferson and East South Streets, to fill up with 100% ethanol-free gasoline. The area near South Jefferson is semi-industrial, with warehouses and various businesses. I have never been able to do much photographically there, but one early morning in December, the weather was suitably gloomy to lend a certain air to the scenery.

Several ice companies were clustered near or along South Commerce Street because they had access to the railroad. Jackson Ice, where I buy the 100% gasoline, is still in business. The Morris Ice Company on South Commerce closed in 1988.

High Street runs east-west from the Pearl River levee past the fairgrounds and then ascends a hill to State Street and downtown Jackson proper. A modern but unused building sits at the very east end of High Street, just below the levee and just beyond the driveway that leads into the Herrin-Gear automobile dealer complex. I had never paid any attention to the empty building and drove in one morning. It was the abandoned Junior Achievement of Mississippi building. According to the Mississippi Business Journal, Achievement closed in November of 2009:
JACKSON — The recession has claimed one of Mississippi’s most respected charities. After nearly a half-century of bringing work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy programs to the state’s school children, Junior Achievement of Mississippi Inc. is shutting the doors. 
“This decision is not one with which anyone associated with Junior Achievement of Mississippi was happy to make,” said David Barrentine, chairman of the board of directors, Junior Achievement of Mississippi. “This organization has a 40-year history of educating young people about economics and the marketplace. Accordingly, it is with sincere regret, but with a prudent view of its financial condition and prospects, that this decision was made.”
This was a nice-looking modern building. No one could use it? This type of inability to recycle a structure always baffles me.

The 1927-vintage Hinds County Armory sits unused and only minimally repaired at the State Fairgrounds. In 2009, I took pictures inside, but now there is plywood over the door. In 2013, I photographed workers doing some stabilization and repair. This time, I was able to place my Leica on a small opening on a side door and take a 1-second exposure of the interior.

I have never been able to do much of interest photographically with South State Street. But this time, the old fire trucks caught my eye.

East Rankin Street is pretty dumpy, too (OK, it is horrifying). But at least there is a car shop that repairs old Volvos! What nice and practical cars compared to the lookalike bloated SUVs that pollute our highways now. Blaine's Upholstery Shop does excellent work. (These sepia frames are from a Moto G5 mobile phone.) Please see my 2020 article on East Rankin Street.

We will continue our exploration of Jackson in future articles.

Most of these photographs are from Kodak BW400CN film exposed with my dad's 1949 Leica IIIC camera and a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens. This is a C-41 film (sadly, now discontinued), meaning it can be processed with the same chemicals as any color print film. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.

UPDATE July 2022:  The tracks running in the center strip of South Commerce Street have been removed and it looks like the City will install sewer pipes under  the right-of-way. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

A few from the Rubber Reclaiming Factory in Black and White, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Dear Readers, I thought the Kodak Ektar 100 color frames in my previous article were effective at showing the old rubber reclaiming facility at Rubber Way, south of Vicksburg. But my black and white film came back from Praus Productions, and the rubber plant looked especially grungy. Maybe urban decay looks best (best? worst?) in monochrome. (Click any photograph to enlarge to 1600 pixels wide.)
As I wrote before, there is no shortage (tonnage) of rubber tire carcasses lying around at the site. I was surprised to see that some inner tubes were still inflated.
I looked for the Kingfisher again, but no sighting this time. Plenty of water - is it green in summer? I heard gurgling and pulsing - a plugged pipe or drain perhaps? Or Alligator-zilla?
This is the massive machine that once shredded old tires. I wonder when it was built? Might it be mid-20th century? Was it new when it was installed here or brought in as a used item from another company?

These photographs are from Fuji Acros black and white film, exposed at EI=80 in a Leica M2 camera. For the first 5 frames above, I used my 24mm ƒ/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated Pentax Takumar lens via an adapter. The photograph of the rubber machine is from my 35mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron lens. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Abandoned Rubber Reclaiming Factory, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Last December, my daughter and I drove down a semi-abandoned road off US 61 south of Vicksburg. To the left was a field of abandoned and decomposing car bodies and trucks. To the right, a factory? What was it? It was empty, no one was about, and there were no "No Trespassing" signs. Ah, Mississippi is fun because you can walk into places like this. 
This is the remains of the former U.S. Rubber Reclaiming Company. According to Bloomberg:
U.S. Rubber Reclaiming, Inc. recycles and reclaims scrap rubbers in the United States. The company focuses on butyl rubber reclaiming; and supplies butyl rubber to the tire industry in the United States. The company manufactures high quality rubber mulch for playground surfacing, landscaping and other uses. Its customers include tire companies, inner tube manufacturers, and the vendors of tape used for gas/oil pipe line wrap. The company was founded in 1959 and is based in Vicksburg, Mississippi. U.S. Rubber Reclaiming, Inc. is a former subsidiary of Genstar Ltd.
The company may have ceased most of its operations around 2010. An article in Rubber and Plastics News states:
VICKSBURG, Miss. (March 26, 2010)—U.S. Rubber Reclaiming Inc., the oldest rubber recycling company in the U.S., has left the butyl reclaim business and is seeking a buyer for its rubber mulch operation.
A number of internet business sites still show the company as active at 2000 Rubber Way, but clearly this is not the case. As usual with the internet, be suspicious of information pages that use software/robots to consolidate data from various unfiltered sources.

This is not the only former rubber facility in Vicksburg. Another company somewhere south of town had a troubled history. Rouse Polymerics International had a fire that belched black smoke many years ago. At a later date, the factory suffered an explosion that killed five workers. I do not know where that site was located.
US Rubber Reclaiming, Dec. 2018, Fuji X-E1 digital file
US Rubber Reclaiming, Jan. 2019, Ektar 100 film, Voigtländer Vito BL camera
There are still piles of rubber debris and scrap on the site. Mosquito habitat after any rainstorm?
I saw a belted kingfisher land on a pole next to the pond. I suppose he eats fish that lives in that water. Yummy....
A big concrete-anchored rubber shredding machine is sitting out in the weather. This is impressive mid-20th century industrial equipment. I am surprised that this could not be sold when the company closed, but possibly dismounting and shipping would cost more than anyone else would pay for it. When some companies close, the managers simply walk away, leaving the former employees to close the doors and figure out how to feed their families. Then the creditors must decide what to do with the junk left behind.
Water is ponding in many areas on the site. OK, plenty of mosquito habitat in summer.
The steel sheds seem reasonably intact and the floors were mostly dry. But who would buy this place and deal with the rubber debris?
The company posted signs about safety issues. I like the logo in the last picture, "Any fool can be careless. "How about you". That definitely applies to many drivers I see regularly.

The 2018 digital images are from a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera. I set the camera on the Asta film emulation. The day was sunny and too cheerful - not right. Therefore, when January 19, 2019, was gloomy and drizzly, I returned with Ektar 100 film loaded in my little Voigtländer Vito BL camera.  I wrote a review of the BL for the 35MMC blog. This camera has a fixed 50mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar lens. Having one lens makes you carefully consider how you can fit your subject into the frame. I mounted the camera on a tripod and took most exposures at f/5.6 or f/8. I scanned the negatives on a Plustek 7600i film scanner. I also took black and white film; material for a future article.