Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stepping back from an earlier observation...

With the photographs of Wazee Street now developed and digitized, I am seeing something different in Lodo, particularly in Sam's images. His are playful, with people at the edges of frames, moving. People appear in 1937, but rarely in 1978. I'm thinking of his images of the Wazee Lounge. Mine, with the Retina I bought 40 years ago (!)--the camera that took the 1978 pictures--are static but fairly exact. His encompass the Lounge, part of 15th St., the pavement of the street itself, the Acme Building off in the distance (hello, Guy Noir), an African-American teenager moving quickly out of the left of the frame, and finally some cars moving quickly and a little randomly through the intersection. Bravo, Sam, for the vibrancy!

I always wait for people to get the heck out of the frame, but Sam includes them--like the elderly white couple moving into the intersection at 16th and Wazee.

OK, there are a lot of cars down there now, a lot of people walking around, some looking pretty rich. Lots of trees. To beat a dead horse, though, this is not the Denver I knew. Yet why doom a downtown to be a skid row neighborhood? Sometimes I think I liked it not just because of the Brooklyn memories, but because it was quiet, filled with isolated people if at all, and the same with the railroad yards. I'm pretty focused on the built environment and want that to stand out, but, like Sam, maybe now it's OK to let some people into my own pictures...let's see.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Earlier this week...

On 9/9/09, I walked Larimer, Arapahoe, Lawrence, Market and Wynkoop without the camera. Just wanted to see what was what. I started at 2:45 and ended at 4:45. After two hours my feet were exhausted from pounding the pavement.

Lots of traffic and new construction downtown and the air was icky. Surprised at the number of buildings pulled down on Market Street since '78-'79.

This time around we will photograph every street corner, whether photographed or not in 1937 or 1978.

The D&F Tower used to be a good landmark, but you can barely see it anymore.

Park Central still stands between Lawrence and Arapahoe, 15th and 16th. That used to be the headquarters of the Rio Grande Railroad. In 1977 I went to Park Central to apply for a job as a brakeman. I had to pass through airport-style security to get to the railroad. The building had been bombed during the Vietnam War years.

The railroad turned me down for a job, as did the Union Pacific. D&RG's reason was that my back "wasn't straight." (I had to go through a lower back x-ray). I do have a mild case of scoliosis. My father blamed my poor posture (in his opinion), but in reality one is born with scoliosis.

The real reason for the turndown was a letter from the Metro personnel office recommending me for a brakeman's job. The sender stated that the railroad would never discriminate against a woman, of course. So my fate was sealed: I was a potential troublemaker.

I did get a job on the Rio Grande later, though--in Pueblo. The various terminals--Denver, Pueblo, Salt Lake, Grand Junction--were independent, and hired as they liked.

A day of shooting

Today, Sam and I went down to Denver to rephotograph a few streets. We decided to do Wazee Street, starting at the intersection with Cherry Creek and moving up to 19th Street, just a block or two from Coors Field. A nice day, a beautiful day. We had lunch at the Wazee Lounge, where I used to hang out with my Metro friends in the late 70's. Looks different inside, but brighter because the 15th Street viaduct no longer darkens the street.

Impressions compared to '78-'79: Lodo is a busy place. Not having walked the neighborhood much over the last 25 years, I didn't expect so many cars, so many pedestrians on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps Arapahoe and Curtis aren't that busy on the weekend; we'll find out toward the end of the project.

There is a lot more visual "junk" on the streets, i.e., parked cars, signs, parking meters, traffic light poles, new/old streetlamps, viaducts, people people people. These tend to obscure the field of the image! And have I gotten shorter? I'm using the same camera from 30 years ago and couldn't seem to back up enough. Luckily Sam had the wide-angle Canon.

One view was especially galling. The old Union Pacific building, 19th and Wynkoop, used to be very close to the tracks and the railroad yards. Now that the yards have basically been obliterated, a bus viaduct rises near the building and has made it impossible to get the same view as 19371978. Ah well. We were tired by then, and decided to call it a day.

A little kvetch: Denver is not my city anymore. I lived there from 1974-78 and three of those years were quite wonderful. Good memories.