City Color: Portland in Particulars

Published by MJR on April 23rd, 2008 in Photos | 4 Comments »

Here are some images from a recent assignment on Portland, Oregon. All shot on the re-introduced Fuji Velvia 50 in the 35mm format. They are a collection of images that one would see walking down a street in Portland or if they ducked in the local weird spots. No faces just places in this one.

All people (most folks?) are familiar with the phrase “The devil’s in the details”. Often in life, those very easily overlooked specifics will jump up and bite me in the ass, but in photography, those shots that exhibit little more than texture on a wall or small words written on a bench really give me a feel for the type of environment I’m in.

When there are no people to photograph I ask myself “why is nobody around? Is it too late? to early? lunchtime? Too hood? free candy giveaway at the Piggly Wiggly? Superbowl? So I shoot and shoot and shoot with nobody around. After doing this time and time again I realized that there is a charm to that solo situation and instead of getting frustrated about the lack of human subjects on the streets I’ll turn to the nearest wall or phone booth and photograph people’s idling artistic impressions, scribbled social commentary, and just random shit left behind.

I have been working with different on camera flash techniques that all yield pretty distinct results. This shot of a Cherry Blossom tree has a mixture of two different colored gels and an Opal diffusion, the result is almost cross-processed and interesting nonetheless.

When photographing, I am continually looking all around me not just for snipers and would-be assassins but for the irregular things on the ground or ill tags on the bus stop. In general I try to remind myself to compose my images with natural borders and elements within the frame as opposed to forcing angles that if not utilized correctly can deter the viewer’s eye from the true point of the image. This is very poignant when photographing exclusively detail or even flowers and sausages in an ornate bowl in some really nice light on a wood table with a silk runner and melted candles around it. Many times I will take a full minute or more to find the right composition before I click the shutter, why not? it ain’t moving!


Probably the largest piece of my photo-pie is color. If its bright and vibrant I’m lovin it like Mc Donald’s. Even if the color scheme is subdued but unique, or just little pockets of color…I’m game.

The Wunderland Video Adventure is an arcade where all games cost a nickel, or two is you want to play a popular game like Time Crisis 3. This place was amazing, it was an arcade/movie theater that showed daytime tv on a Big Screen for the parents who chilled while their children ran wild. I was iffy about shooting in a place with all neons/flourescents/sodium or mercury based lighting with my 50 asa film (that i definitely wasn’t going to push) but hey what can you do? Velvia is best when shot in daylight but it held up surprisingly well under the mixed lighting situations.

I always photograph the funky cars. Its difficult to tell in this image but the doors were welded shut.

…and inside was definitely no prize.

Just like the rest of crew over here at MJR, and many of you out there, I shoot with a distinct purpose of capturing the tone of the scene in front of me but I also inject a little of my own personality into my images. Just because the subject isn’t a human or is not a magnificent building doesn’t mean its void of character or personality. In fact the initial environment may not be so striking as to slap you in the face like some of the other oddball’s I’ve delt with, but those fundamental details and slivers of human expression can be just as bold all on their own.

-J

4 Responses to “City Color: Portland in Particulars”

  1. matt Says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 11:34 am

    there were some serious standouts in this post – cherry blossom’s with gel’d flash and the lolipop did it for me.

    i like this expose on the details that makes portland.. with this move away from portraiture and a stricter focus on environmental details, i’m hungry to see the overall picture.. the “lookout point/the slab” perspective on portland .. i feel like i got a taste for the streets.. but at 6ft away from the subject, i want to see some landscapes mixed into this edit and i think it would be more complete.

    velvia 50 performed really well here, but most of all i’m glad to see you shooting outside the box.

    m

  2. mustafah Says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    your use of color is–and will be–a defining characteristic of your work now and in the future. as someone who works primarily in monochrome, i find it intriguing and inspirational: your vision brings another great layer to our collective.

  3. julius Says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    matt- i dot think a landscape of the whole of Portland would have worked for this particular exercise. The focus of the post is to see how the small things can give you a vision of the overall cultural landscape of the city. The view from high would have made for a more total experience of Portland but it would have been a generality and not a detail.

    mussie- I have been trying to gear all of my work toward color because of the challenge it presents me and when done right it is very rewarding. For some bodies of work color can be too much information because color lends itself to the possibility of having the eye wandering around the image dissecting the color pallet as opposed to focusing on the moment captured. Or sometimes the color just sucks within a scene and the image is better presented in monochrome. We all know that when the moments come together before the lens there is a magical feeling and a sense of glee when you click the shutter but when the color comes together as well as the moment it is a new layer of added satisfaction for me. Check out Constantine Manos’ work to see how a big dog pisses on the color porch.

  4. Mikko Says:

    April 23rd, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Totally digging the colours. You often seem to nail them with your slidefilms. However, I can’t help missing some of those characters (like Silk and Candy!) you always seem to meet. Portland’s people next time?