Alien photo walk

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On the evening of Sunday, Sept. 4, I went on a self-assigned photo walk with my good friend Reaz Mahmood. This was my fourth photo walk, but it was the first time that my photo buddy took the lead in picking the theme. Reaz is a musician, writer, and aspiring filmmaker, and he teaches journalism at Fresno State. He originally suggested making photos of religious iconography in and around Fresno, which seemed like a terrific idea. But we struggled, though, to come up with a suitable location for that theme that would fit the simple boundaries of a two-hour photo walk. So here was Reaz’s suggestion:

“As a backup plan in case the religion thing doesn’t work, think of a parking lot in a place that’s somewhat representative of Fresno, or at least just a large lot with lots of vehicles. It would be interesting to view the lot as ‘aliens’ who try to make meaning of the new place through bumper stickers.”

This photo walk challenged me in numerous ways. First, Reaz insisted that we make photos during the golden hour right before sunset, to get the best lighting. (As a fellow Werner Herzog loyalist, I couldn’t disagree with him.) The temperature in Fresno this day was about 97 degrees right before sunset, so I felt pretty hot and uncomfortable. Second, I knew that whatever parking lot we picked would likely involve us facing security guards, as many people are skittish about having pictures taken of their stuff. Sure enough, a security guard chased us away from our first location at the River Park shopping center and we relocated across the street to the Villagio shopping center. Finally, I knew that I had focused on location and on people in previous photo walks, but this one was focused on a theme. I was surprised, in the end, at the photos we made, as certain mini-themes — sex, fantasy, politics, music, religion, etc. — seemed to emerge.

I shot the bumperstickers with a Pentax K-1000 film camera and an Asahi 50mm f/2 manual focus lens. I exposed two rolls of Fujicolor ISO 200 film that had been sitting in my old photo bag, expired, for more than 10 years. I’m guessing that the expired film is what caused a lot of my photos to end up with such a faded, grainy feeling. Walgreens processed the film and also provided digital files. The photos appear here lightly edited with noise reduction and other modest adjustments in iPhoto.

Reaz wrote a delightful blog post about his experience with the photo walk. It’s terrific. And as always, there are more questions than answers.

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