After Blacksburg I headed further east. For some reason I had a feeling I needed to stop by Roanoke VA... I'm very glad I did as here is what happened.
O. Winston Link Museum
While I was in Roanoke, VA I heard that that city is home to the photographic museum dedicated to the work of O. Winston Link. Winston Link was interested in documentation of the last railroad line (Norfolk and Western) that still used steam engine trains while all others were switching to diesel. In that respect I find a lot of common ground with him as I too am interested in what some would say is a dying technology. For those of you who have never heard of this man here is the Wikipedia entry where you can find all sorts of information about his life and passions - Link. I loved the museum and thought I'd share some of the more interesting finds that one can discover while there.
First off the dedication of that man to his project was incredible. Not only did he self-finance the entire project to the tune of $125.000 (adjusted for inflation from the 1950s - back then he spent about $20.000, but a hotel room was $9 and a good dinner $3), but he devised an entire apparatus for synchronizing the flash bulbs that were needed to light up the expansive scenery that he set out to photograph. Flash bulbs are a one-time use item, so I can't imagine how many he must have gone through to create his images, which totaled over 2400 by the end of the project. Here is an image of some of his equipment.
Another thing that struck close to my heart was the fact that while not shooting his Graflex 4x5 camera he used a Rolleiflex TLR to record things that didn't need extensive set-up. In one of the displays is a Rollei and some 120 film along with one of his contact sheets. The label reads that he used a camera 'like this Rollei' making me wonder exactly what model he really did use and where might it be now... By the way, that's a model T Rolleiflex that is pictured below - a good camera, I'll pick one up for my collection next time a good opportunity arises.
And of course his images! Though they were meticulously set up and controlled, they have a very candid feeling about them and, if one didn't know about the intensely laborious task that he went through to light everything just the way he envisioned, they look like well-composed snapshots. Here is just one of over 200 images that are featured in his museum (pardon my reflection in the middle there - I am trying to get the invisibility cloak, but Harry Potter is not returning my calls... I loved the sence of scale that he achieved in this particular shot.
The museum is very well laid out and features a room housing some of Links darkroom equipment. He did some of his work in color and the Chromega enlarger that he worked with is definitely a rare beast. You'll have to go to Virginia to see it - an iPhone picture would just not do it justice...
Here is one more thing that I really liked about the museum - instead of hiding away all the images that were not currently on display they built a small dimly-lit room where the extra prints can be seen hanging salon-style on temporary walls. There are no labels next to them, so the viewer is left admiring the actual imagery without the clutter of information - that, in my view, is one of the best ways to view art. Who cares where a particular image was taken - what matters most is 'do You like it and why does it move you?'. Here is a picture of that room as a teaser.
Life in Washington D.C.
It's been two full days since I arrived in Washington D.C. and it's taken me this long to get my mind and body to switch off The-Road-Mode. Now with a little bit of peace and quiet I can tend to things that require concentration and planning.
First of all - The Universe has a wonderful way of working things out and I am a firm believer that all is for the best. For example - I talked to Allan (the man who is graciously hosting me in one of the houses he owns in this city) on the very last day of the Rainbow Gathering. It was my intention to visit a far-off camp that day and not go swimming, but I was snatched up while being on the way there by a wonderful group of fire-spinning ladies from Minnesota who spotted me on the trail. They were on the way to the lake and invited me along. Just as we were leaving the beach I spotted Allan floating gently in the water next to the shore and had a brief, but productive, conversation during which it was established that he would like to host The Bus and me in D.C..
Parking note - I was able to once again top all my previous parking jobs. When Allan and I spoke on the phone he told me to 'park in the alley next to an Avanti II'. You can learn abuout these amazingly futuristic cars by clicking here: Avanti. It's a FIBERGLASS body car from 1965! WOW. I could not believe my ears that I would be parked next to suck an American classic and it totally skipped my mind to ask how much room there is actually next to that car and how wide may this alley be.... Turn out it was a pretty darn narrow alley and the Avanti is in non-operable condition AND is parked about 8ft 3in from a rather tall curb, which used to have a garage on top of it. Gilli is 8ft wide and if that garage was there I would have had no chance of getting in, that's for sure. As it happens to be the house next door is being renovated and, to my luck, there were a couple of construction guys there one of which helped me back into that incredibly tight spot. Here is a picture of the derriere of the two beauties and he house that I am happily calling my home for this little while.
By the way - this particular Avanti is for sale, so contact me if you know someone who can restore this beauty to its original state. I am not 100% sure what is it that it needs, but the body looks good with only a few places where the paint is peeling and Allan says that with some fiddling the engine will start. The interior is definitely shot though - leather is all cracked and some plastic pieces are also in dire need of replacement.... I bet it would be a great ride if someone was to replace all the interior.
If it wasn't for the wonderful coincidence of talking to Allan on my way out of the Gathering I have no idea where I would be right now. However now I am staying in a beautiful old house right on 16th st NW and if I follow this street south for about 2.5 miles I will run straight into The White House! There is only one more roommate here named Daniel - an intelligent and interesting man from Kenya who works as a cook in Pleasant Hill neighborhood just down the road. It's nice to be able to carry on a conversation with someone after being on the road alone for a while. Allan himself is a wonderfully hospitable and well-educated man who grew up here and knows this city inside-out. I look forward to exploring it with him once he has some time off and it's not Sabbath. For now, in the spare time that I carve out from trying to keep this blog up to date and compiling advertising literature, I walk around by myself armed with a Rolleiflex or a Leica and do what I love doing best - hunt for decisive moments on busy city streets.
Though I've been to D.C before as a tourist, staying here and knowing how close I am to the boiling pot that is Capital Hill is a rather incredible experience. Also, having grown up in another National Capital, Moscow, it is a rather surreal experience to be in the heart of the nation once again and to be planning my tour from here.
D.C. is a strange place with a level of diversity and disparity rarely found anywhere else in this country. There are lawyers and politicians crossing the streets right alongside with fresh immigrants and homeless. All the windows on all the buildings have shutters and blinds that keep the wandering eye from straying inside and the light from escaping outward at night. As usual, in the suburban outcrops of the city you will rarely see a pedestrian, unless they are going to the bus stop. I must admit, this is probably one of the best American cities as far as public transportation - it's not cheap, but there's plenty of it and there are at least two bus lines that run right down my street. I prefer walking, but am thinking of buying a bike as that would make it possible to move about further and faster and to carry more cameras and art on me. Question is - how in the world will I fit into The Bus once I start moving again?... Today Allan actually lent me one of his bikes and now I'll be a lot more mobile - it's a real road bike and I have to admit that the last time I rode one of those was in Russia and only for a minute or two.... they are weird, but I'll get used to it. Tomorrow I'll try to make my way to the White House and see what imagery will come about from that.
Hope you all are having a wonderful Saturday night filled with fun and adventure.