March, 2014 Archives

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.

He Got In!

March 13th, 2014

Next stop, The Oscars

Accepted

Good news, folks!

You may remember a blog I wrote a little while ago where I shared the letter of recommendation I wrote for a former student trying to get into film school. I wrote the reference letter like a movie script:

CUT TO: INT. OFFICE

RODNEY sits hunched over his computer.

CLOSEUP ON SCREEN

“Jason would be an ideal candidate …”

Well, this note just arrived in my In Box:

Rodney, I was just informed today that I’ve been accepted! I can’t thank you enough for your letter. Now I’m able to go chase my dream. I’m one huge step closer! Thank you so much!

Goodbye Old “Friend”

March 7th, 2014

A quick note about the nearly departed

The tracks of a small, furry, winter stalwart meet those of an equally hardy meter reader.

The tracks of a small, furry, winter stalwart meet those of an equally hardy meter reader in our front yard.

It is with gleeful heart that I report our longtime neighbor, Mr. Winter, has taken a turn for the worse. He moved in a long, long while ago and has spent his time here howling at night, scattering debris all over our yard and generally giving us the cold shoulder whenever we venture out into the neighborhood.

We knew something was amiss when over the past few weeks, we began to hear chirping outside our morning window. Even the suburban collection of birds seemed to take joy in his ill health. We’ve noticed that he’s coughing up disgusting frozen breaths recently. We don’t expect him to go quietly though.

His bad manners will surely follow him to the grave, haunting us long after his daughter, Vernal, moves back in. We like her; she plants flowers everywhere and spruces up the trees.

I won’t say our neighbor has been all bad. He allowed us to spend a little time slowed down, reflecting, looking inward.

Yeah, we got over that by early January.

Winter's last gasp 2

Looking like a scene from Ice Station Zebra, one of our solar lights pokes back up through the arctic tundra.