The summer of 2011 marked a newly productive era for me in generating multimedia content. As I began the transition away from being a community college writing instructor to being a freelance radio reporter and student photographer, I produced a series of photo walk self-assignments to get into the spirit. In the past six months or so, I’ve done photo walks on the Fulton Mall, at the Big Fresno Flea Market, in search of aliens via bumperstickers, at the Fresno Urban Sound Experience festival, and at the Big Fresno Fair. These photo walks have made for good starter content here on the blog, but they have also re-energized my interest in photographing Fresno.
I went on my first self-assigned photo walk in Fresno’s historic Chinatown on Friday, July 17, 2011. My good friend and colleague Kelley Campos McCoy joined me. I didn’t quite have my website set up yet, so at the time I posted the results to Facebook. With this post, I’ve finally made the time to transfer over the results. I decided to re-post here all 65 photos that I first chose, to preserve the original edit of the shoot. I’ve since learned, of course, that fewer is almost always better. The captions are lightly edited from the originals, mostly for length.
The photo walk was my first with a cobbled together digital SLR outfit, a completely borrowed kit of random parts. Thanks to the generosity of friends and collaborators Adam Marler and Sasha Khokha, I shot Fresno’s Chinatown with a Canon EOS Rebel XT and an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Most of the photos were made with auto settings, with the flashed turned off. The photos appear here mostly unedited.
Several memorable moments came out of this photo walk. First, I met Agustín Pérez outside the Buddhist temple, eating a pork burrito that he’d bought at the nearby Chris Meat Market. Agustín seemed lonely and eager to talk. We muddled through in his broken English and my broken Spanish. Agustín asked me to take some photos of him outside the temple and send it to his father and mother in Guatemala. He also asked me to send them ten dollars. I wrote down his family’s address and agreed to do it. My letter to Guatemala may or may not have made it to its destination. I’ll probably never know.
Also, at several points during the walk, people stopped to chat with Kelley and me about what they remembered in the neighborhood. Near the Chinatown Youth Center, an old woman parked in a nearby pickup saw me taking pictures while she was waiting for her daughter at the bank. She shouted from her window to say that the CYC building used to be a movie theater, and she remembered going there as a kid. Kelley also remembered the movie theater, and she said the restaurant next door used to belong to her Filipino grandparents. Kelley said while she was inside the restaurant, which is now a Mexican joint, she tried to make a few photographs but her camera kept jamming and would not work. As soon as she got outside, her camera worked fine. We both chalked it up to the spirits that were clearly still alive in the neighborhood, radiating from every person, every building, and every crack in the sidewalk.