Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scenes from rural Oklahoma

Due to the holiday weekend (and my own laziness) I didn't update the last Thursday or Monday. To make up for it, here's a huge post of cool stuff. I got a new 35mm camera that can use all of my Canon lenses (an EOS 3), so I shot a few rolls of slide film (Provia 100f) through it.

Over the weekend, Caitlin and I went up to meet my family at the lake. Our house is near a town called Zena... the town itself consists of a church, an abandoned store and a similarly vacant gas station. There's literally nothing there. There are, however, plenty of trees.


This was just the first part of the most eventful walk I've ever had up at the lake. People pretty much just throw their trash everywhere... there's even a large pile of various random trash right next to a "No Dumping" sign.


This puppy craves attention. She belongs to a local farmer who used to raise fighting cocks before the State banned cockfighting. Now, they raise goats (I think?). Anyway. This and another dog followed Caitlin and me throughout our walk. After getting about halfway back to my house, we saw that the puppy had raw, nearly bleeding skin on its paws from the hot pavement. Seeing as this alarmed both of us, I ran back to the house and grabbed our ATV while Caitlin stayed with the dog. We eventually took them back to their house and drove off.


These were everywhere. The vibrant yellows really drive home the point that this is finally summer.


If you were ever curious what 90% of the midwest looks like, here you go. This was taken on a highway between Grove and Miami (pronounced My-am-uh). As boring as it looks, this is often my absolute favorite scenery, if only because of its familiarity.


After going down highway 59, we intersected Route 66 outside of Afton. This car was part of a huge lot of classic cars in various states of disarray and rust just on the side of 66. Some of them looked recoverable, but most looked like the typical Oklahoma classic car: outside on blocks and rusted over. Kind of a shame.


This was one of the ones in better shape.


When we got to Afton, I stumbled around the downtown area's many burnt and abandoned buildings. This place was likely some kind of school in the past. The building looked like a disaster scene, but with elements of the surreal. This random overturned desk wasn't the only odd part of the two-story wreck; in the next room over there was a huge swastika spray-painted on the wall. Scary, for a town with only 1,100 residents.


I found the single most interesting place in the town after climbing through a broken window into what used to be a TV repair shop. Old, broken TVs and electronics were scattered across the entire shop... or at least what was left of it. The ground was covered in broken glass, pieces of wood and other debris.



Apparently, a bunch of the buildings in the town burned down and were left abandoned. I can't say when or how, but the burn marks on the files here make it apparent that this TV shop was a victim of the blaze.

As we left, a man sat in front of one of the buildings downtown, smoked and played with his dog. His building was connected to the destroyed TV shop, so I would guess he lost some of his business in the fire as well. Regardless, we petted his dog for a bit then left the town, headed back home to Tulsa.

Watching The Long Shadows

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chronicles of a bored photographer, pt. 4

So, two days late. Admittedly, that's pretty much par for the course with this blog. I'm pretty sure there aren't too many people sitting there, refreshing their browsers on Mondays and Thursdays anyway.

About a month ago, I was asked to take photos of a program the National Fiddler Hall of Fame was doing in order to expose kids to western swing music. Here in Tulsa, western swing music makes up a significant part of this town's cultural history. The Cain's Ballroom (Tulsa's primary music venue and an overall really cool place) was the site of nationwide broadcasts by musician Bob Wills and his band, The Texas Playboys. In fact, this was what gained the Cain's its notoriety.

As a living demonstration of our town's musical past, local musicians Rick Morton, Shelby Eicher and Mark Bruner (left to right, below) dressed up as Bob Wills and his band and put on a show at a local elementary school similar to those broadcast from the Cain's in the 1930's.


That "Cain's: Home of Bob Wills" is a replica of the one that's currently in the actual Cain's Ballroom downtown.


Mark played the voice of KVOO, the local station which hosted the original Bob Wills broadcasts.


Whenever I've seen these guys play together, whether in an elementary school or a nice restaurant, it's apparent that they absolutely love what they're doing. It's really cool to see people who care that much about the music they make.


How To's

After the show, Shelby and Rick took some kids aside and showed them the basics of their instruments. Here, Shelby shows a few kids his violin, which is somewhere in the range of 300 years old. Needless to say, it sounds pretty nice.

It was really interesting to see so many kids being exposed to music that would have otherwise likely slipped far under their radars. Even in a town where western swing was a dominating cultural force, that force has since faded. People like Mark, Shelby and Rick remind us that this music is more than just relevant, it's a style that has major historical implications for both the development of modern music as well as our city's cultural building blocks. Plus, it's a lot of fun to listen to.