Virtually Rodney

April 13th, 2014

A work in progress

I’ve been unfaithful.

I’ve been cheating.

I have also — to mangle a biblical reference — been robbing Peter to pay, well, Peter.

I have a mistress and her name is RodneyCurtis.com. She has been taking all my attention and leading me astray from this Wanderer site; I’ve wandered from the Wanderer. Oh, but she looks so pretty!

For years I’ve maintained a static web presence over at RodneyCurtis dot c’mon. It just sort of sat there and maybe got updated once or twice a year when one of my books came out or I had some cool new wedding stuff to share that I’d shot months previously.

It was mostly used for photography, whereas this site was used for anything I felt like. But now, as I’m attempting to re-define myself, I thought it might be a good idea to creep out of the digital stone ages of 2006 or 2007.

The trouble is, I know enough to be dangerous — to myself. I can’t tell you how many times my site has experienced catastrophic failure over the past week. For a while I even had most everything posted at RodneyCurtis.com/RodneyCurtis.com.

My biggest problem is theoretical, philosophical even. Who am I?

It has been difficult applying for meaningful employment with three different resumes: Rodney as a photographer, Rodney as a writer, Rodney as a teacher (with subcategories — Rodney as a photography teacher/Rodney as a writing teacher).

Setting up a website to reflect those disparate professions has been tricky. I’m obviously still figuring myself out; both Rodney and RodneyCurtis are works in progress.

Eventually I’ll figure everything out and what I write here will flow nicely and professionally over there. My publisher John Hile thought that was a good idea since it’s always great to have web pages linking to each other. Google likes that and what Google likes, we all like. (Strangely, the corollary to that sentence is also true. How many times has someone sent you an email about something and you find, almost immediately, that THAT something shows up in ads all around you?)

It’s easy to get wrapped up in “me.” Though for the previous few weeks I’ve happily had a nice jolt back to reality. I’ve been teaching formerly homeless folks in Detroit how to take pictures and advocate for themselves with photography. All my silly little worries about coding my site and figuring out how to put my best foot forward seem to melt away as I chat with the fascinating residents. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more about them, maybe even share some of their photos.

Hmmm, but how should I show the pictures and what’s the best way to code them and can I  …

London: The Big Picture(s)

April 1st, 2014

Wherein once again The Spiritual Wanderer wanders around snapping photos of whatever makes him smile.

There’s nothing better than strolling around town, any town, and taking pictures. It’s called Street Photography and those of us whose hearts pump developer, stop bath and fixer love wandering with a camera. Pros like Scott Strazzante take it well past documentary photography and well into high art with blogs like Shooting from the Hip.

You’ve heard of the fantastic Humans of New York? Well today I offer up a few humans of London.

Head in bucket

A busker is someone in London who performs in the public for money. I’ve seen jugglers and singers, comedians and people who do all three. I even gave money to a kid playing a traffic cone like a bugle. But I’ve never seen anyone stand on his head in a bucket. Apparently, gauging from the reaction, it’s just another day in Notting Hill on Portobello Road.

 

The London Eye

The London Eye, built for the new millennium, is no longer the world’s tallest ferris wheel, but the views from it are still fantastic. So are the views OF it.

 

Winston Churchill and Parliament

Even in death, Winston Churchill still looks over the city and Westminster Abbey.

 

Flesh eating fish

You may remember the video I did of these fish eating the dry skin off my own feet. Here are some tanks full of Garra Rufa which tickle your feet as they give my daughter and some new friends a pedicure.

 

Big Ben and phone booth

It’s five o’clock somewhere. Big Ben is seen through a nearby phone booth, (though in truth, “Big Ben” is actually the name of the biggest bell inside the clock tower).

 

Whittlesey Street London

British television and movie producers use Whittlesey Street in London as their own personal back lot because it looks like it did hundreds of years ago — without the cars, and Marci.

 

The Eye of Skye

The Eye of Skye or The London Eye(s).

 

Bored Taylor

After a long day of sightseeing, Taylor takes a break in the bunker that housed Churchill’s war rooms during The Blitz.

 

Dirty Dicks

And finally – submitted mostly without comment – other than saying my wife made me insert this photo. Oh, that sign in the background.

London’s Colorful Past

March 26th, 2014

Finding little treasures on little Roupell Street

photo by Rodney Curtis

Homes on Roupell Street in London are going for about a million pounds these days. That’s about 1.6 million dollars. It shouldn’t be shocking that London homes are very expensive, but considering where they started out, it’s a surprising tale.

Built almost 200 years ago, the little brick “townhouses” just south of the Thames originally housed factory workers and artisans, the working poor. We took a walking tour that peeked into the city’s past and found the street situated there, just like it was way back in Victorian times. The neighborhood has been the setting for countless historical movies and TV shows. I swear Call The Midwife could’ve been shot right there along with Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper tales.

To think that houses for the poor are now going for over a million is pretty shocking. Trying to mitigate this, though, the neighborhood council set up a strict repayment schedule. If a business moves into the district, they have to keep up the appearance of the old architecture as well as put money into a pool that helps out the less affluent. Thus, if you’re lucky and wait a really long time, you can get a world class apartment — right on the Thames — for only a couple hundred pounds a month.

Jobs killer? An example of government intervention running amok? Class warfare? Hardly. Big, wealthy businesses and restaurants are clamoring to get a spot in the Waterloo district and pay the enormous fee to the community pool.

The other people on my walking tour must’ve thought I was nuts, snapping pictures of the most interesting doors and knockers. But since the street, sidewalk, porch and doors were all jammed together, just a few feet separating each other, it didn’t feel at all intrusive just lifting up my camera briefly as certain ones caught my eye.

You can knock on one of the doors above, virtually that is, and take a look if you’d like. Let’s snoop behind the red lion and see what it’s like inside.

Hugs All Around

March 17th, 2014

Smile for the camera

Hugs All Around

I’ve been messing around with some old lighting equipment lately. As a life-long photographer, it’s fun learning new tricks. This old dog can be taught. For portraits or events — situations where I have the time to prepare — I usually haul out my big, clunky White Lightning flash units, set up the stands, plug ‘em in and test fire them to get my settings right. But there are times when I’d rather be more nimble, travel lightly (read: being lazy).

Over a recent weekend, I wanted to try something different. I learned that my small camera-top flash units, that I’ve had for years, could “talk” to one and other by firing at the exact same time. I was giddy with excitement. So I tried them out, first on my family, then on some of my best friends. I even messed around at a Bar Mitzvah.

But that’s not what all of this is about. No, this isn’t about a photographer opening his eyes to what’s around him. Nor is it a technical column about the hows and whys of flash photography. It’s about what happened late at night when I looked at the photos on my computer.

During every situation where I played around with my lights, something wonderful happened. I don’t exactly remember how it occurred; at some points it was coached at others it happened organically. But each set of subjects — my friends and family — hugged for their picture. Their natural tendencies were to cluster together.

Maybe there’s a long treatise here on how we like being portrayed. Perhaps there is a deeper essay about gathering our loved ones close, both in times of joy and in every day situations. But whatever the reason, it made me happy. In just the few dozen photographs I snapped that Saturday, I captured hugs many times over.

When people say “smile for the camera,” they aren’t usually referring to the photographer.