PA 43 Denbo Bridge

Where Are We? from StartPoint Media on Vimeo.

This is the final stretch of PA Turnpike Route 43 in near Brownsville, Pa. I rode my bicycle from the road terminus in Redstone Twp. to the emmense Denbo Bridge across the Monongahela River. Original construction on the highway began at California, Pa. in the mid 1970’s. With the completion of the bridge, the road will run continuously from Jefferson Hills, Pa. To the West Virginia border. A portion of the road is nearing completion in West Virginia, while the most complicated section from Jefferson Hills to Pittsburgh is in the planning stages. It is unclear when or if that portion of the road will ever be completed. But in the meantime, here is a sneak peek of the highway and bridge your toll dollars funded to build. Visit the project website for more information.

Goodbye Kodachrome

Kodakchromes
Andy at the playground.

On Dec 30, 2010 Dwayne’s Photo in Parson, KS processed the final rolls of Kodachrome bringing an end to ‘all those nice bright colors’. Throughout my career I have been only an occasional Kodakchrome shooter, mostly for fun. Earlier this year, after being inspired by Steve McCurry and his final Kodachrome project, I embarked on a personal project to document a few ‘last things’ with Kodachrome. They include Denali National Park, Washington, DC, Prague, Bratislava, a family lobster boil, an MFA exhibit for a close friend and most importantly my children playing.

Kodakchromes
A reflection of the US Capitol.

I photographed many scenes and places which I am probably the last person ever to document with the classic film. But after looking at all of the slides the images that are the most important to me, not surprisingly, are the images of my friends and family. The other places I went and documented turned out just fine, but those images simply act as a snapshot document of places I have been. The images of my friends and family the images represent something much more special. They will for ever provide a special and unique memory of 2010 and will be by far the most important things I have ever documented with Kodachrome.

Kodakchromes

Kodakchromes
Billy Ritter, MFA, Kent State University.

Dulka Pass

Battle of Dukla Pass

We continued northward to visit a Soviet-German battlefield in which the Russians and a band of Czechoslovak soldiers defeated a battalion of German Panzer tanks in what is now known as the Valley of Death. The route is marked with roadside tributes to the allied fighters who fought during the Slovak uprising that helped secure the region from Nazi influence. At the Polish -Slovak border exists a communist era monument to the battle, symbolically and poetically describing the heroism displayed by the fighters involved. We continued across the border to Poland for a quick visit to the first village a few kilometers inside the nation. It was unclear until our return if the visit would be considered trespassing by entering Poland at a land crossing without a visa. It was a legal crossing.

More images from Dulka Pass.

Slovakia Prague Presov

Ruthenian Churches

Ruthenian Wooden Church

Accompanied by Juraj, a professor of British and American studies, we headed to the Slovak version of the Andy Warhol Museum in Melizlaborce, about 80Km from Presov. Along the way he explained the Ruthenian, Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholic forms of ritual and differentiated architecture between the churches. The Ruthenian people live within the Carpathian Mountains nestled in valleys and rolling hills above the flat farmlands along the river valleys that are mostly owned by Roman Catholics. The wooden Ruthenian churches take symbols from Russian culture indicating flame or light, the cross and the crescent. Each small wooden church near a village was surrounded by generations of headstones. Members of the village and church meticulously cared each for grave. Late Sunday afternoon the churches were vacant, no villagers were present. The cool November wind rustled the naked branches. The long autumn light illuminated the pitch colored wood in stark contrast to the blue and white-clouded sky high above the towers of the Ruthenian churches. There was a spiritual silence in the village and around the church. Each visit was a metaphysical experience.

On the way to Medzilaborce

High Tatras

Slovakia Prague Presov

We embarked upon a short hike at dusk in the High Tatras Mountains to a symbolic cemetery. A colorful cross and a plaque represent each person who has fallen victim to mountains by avalanche, accident or plane crash.
We continued hiking through the dark to Popradske Pleso, one of a number of glacial lakes in the mountainous region. The lake provides an enormous vista to the sunset and moonrise over the mountains. The rich ember red following the sunset and the rainbow hue swirling around the moon tucked just behind the back-light mountains provided a truly spiritual experience.

More images from the High Tatras

High Tatras Mountains

Christ the Pontiff

Slovak Christ the Pontiff Institute

The residents are victims of communism, those who could not adjust or adapt to the new capitalist system, leaving many homeless, destitute and drug addicted. The facility, which also serves as a local catholic parish office, is completely run by the residents. To maintain their stay at the facility they must remain free of drugs and alcohol and work to care for the facilities farms, animals, fields or handicapped people. Men and women who found themselves jobless or skill less after the fall of communism begin to have purpose by constructing the facility in which they live and work. All of the building materials used at the facility are either found or donated. They are used according to their shape and size, there are no rules, except that the materials must be used for a purpose to improve the facility. Many long-term members of the commune have, over time built a strong community in which they have decide to stay and raise families and be a support network for others. The home at the foot of the Tatras Mountains provides a vital social service that the government cannot.

Slovakia Prague Presov

Bratislava

Bratislava from StartPoint Media on Vimeo.

I woke at 630 to take advantage of the early light in the old city. In between photographs I stopped in on the local Catholic Church where the daily rosary was being prayed. I stayed for a few Slovak Hail Mary’s, made a personal offering and headed for the Danube River a few blocks away down narrow cobblestone streets passageways.

During communism the quaint town center was paved with asphalt and car traffic in the city center was allowed. What remains of Bratislava’s city center was once part of a much larger medieval city that was once the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the conclusion of World War II, the Soviet dictators ordered the demolition of a larger part of the city to make room for new communist style developments. During the communist period, the shops were not as diverse as they are now, ordinary and limited. The buildings were not colorful or well maintained. The economic system sucked the life out of the medieval town. I arrived at the main road adjacent to the Danube during rush hour. The good looking and hard working citizens of Bratislava were on their way to work on the unseasonably warm November day, just one day before the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

After breakfast, I met with Rastislav we headed to his attorneys office to put the finishing touches on a contract for a new photography studio venture. He is creating an atelier to rent to working photographers in the city. The attorney was a young and slender but pretty woman. She engaged Rastislav in a detailed conversation, just the same as an American attorney would. At natural pauses she would glance over and acknowledge me as if It were novel that I would even remotely be interested in the Slovak legal system. We left the attorney and headed to the campaign party headquarters to volunteer with more campaign work, stuffing envelopes. With the election less than two weeks away and the party needed to get there candidates elected. Frantic calls went out and minutes later several volunteers showed up.

Finally we gathered in a kayak shop to listen to a former representative from the Slovak embassy present videos, photographs and stories from his mountain climbing journey up Mt. Elbrus in the neighboring nation the Ukraine. There is debate as to whether the mountain is in Asia or Europe. If it is, in fact, in Europe it is the tallest mountain. From a transportation perspective it is much easier for Slovaks to travel west to Austria and Germany. So few Slovaks from the western half of the country travel to the Ukraine. Many consider it a backwards and exotic place. It is not connected to Slovakia like a neighboring state should be in terms of the broader culture and transportation. The purpose of the presentation was to promote interaction and travel between the two nations and to celebrate the goodwill trip to the top of Mt. Elbrus.

During the presentation Kvas was served, a traditional Russian soft drink, made from fermented bread. It is not alcoholic and is considered an essential part of the diet as it promotes smooth digestion. It is said to prevent bad alcoholic interactions, giving the Ukrainians the ability to drink copious amounts of vodka and a reputation for being heavy drinkers. In addition a traditional Ukrainian soup, solyanka, was served. The hearty soup consisted of beef broth; several smoked meats, fermented (pickled) cucumbers, mushrooms, cabbage, olives, spices and served with bread. The stories, food and beverage were designed to inspire curiosity and good favor between these two unfamiliar neighbors.

Rastislav took me to the dark and dingy communist era train station to catch a sleeper train back to Prague in time for the Velvet Revolution anniversary. He said that the poor economy stymied plans to modernize the train station. In its current condition, he says the depressing relic does nothing to promote the good will, good cheer and good economy that Bratislava offers to visitors.

Prague #2

Prague Protest

No celebrations of the Velvet Revolution are scheduled this year. It was the twenty- first anniversary; larger celebrations marking the fall of communism were made the previous year. Rather than celebrations, there was a protest. Two fringe parties worked together to form a parliamentary city government while the citizens found it unconscionable that the two extreme parties have reached this impossible agreement. A crowd of nearly 1000 citizens joined in Wenceslas Square engaging in debate and free political expression. The media was there also exercising it’s right. It is an ironic coincidence that this democratic protest occured on the anniversary of the fall of communism. During communism, these acts would have been met with heavy-handed government action.

More from the Prague Protest

Prague #1

Prague

Day 1- Praha
A short walk, a moderate bus ride and then three Metro stops and we found ourselves in the middle of the center city and old town Prague. The cobble stone streets, many of which are closed to traffic, form a complex maze around the Charles Bridge, old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. The square was the site of the 1989 velvet revolution, a ten-day period that marked the transit from communism to capitalism. The city was alive; people were out and about enjoying the unseasonably warm, about 60F, November evening.

Prague

Looking for wedding photography on a budget? Email me or don’t.

Palm Treo Photos

I am growing tired of receiving emails that ask me, a professor of photojournalism, for referral to a student for wedding photography. I am not afraid to give a referral, I have many great students who would love the opportunity. What bugs me is the approach. Most inquiries go more or less like this:

Hello Professor Rolinson,

My name is Bride-To-Be. I am getting married in just a few months. My fiance and I are on a tight budget, but photography is really important to me. I love the photojournalism style….catching the little things. I am wondering if you could recommend a few talented students with wedding photography experience.

Thanks!

Bride-To-Be


My problems begin with the fact that you love photography, but you aren’t interested in paying what it really costs to make it happen. Photojournalism is a highly developed photographic skill…catching the little things. It is demanding and the equipment is expensive. You want it cheap (without saying it) and you want the opportunity to cherry-pick the best talent and experience to go with it rather than pay market prices for wedding photography. If you valued it so much you should consider making concessions somewhere else in the budget.

I get inquiries like this almost weekly. What do these emailers think that I am teaching my students? In my Business of Photography course I am certainly teaching them realistic methods to determine what it actually costs to produce quality images. The numbers often floor the students. I am not interested in producing the caliber of student who wants to see how cheaply they can work. That is ridiculous and unsustainable both for them and for me.

Student (soon to be professional) work has enormous value. The price must start out in a realistic place to be sustainable long term. The price has to be ON PAR from the beginning with the other professionals working in the current market.

Inquiries like this also reflect on what people really think about photography in the first place. It isn’t easy or cheap when it is done well, even by students. I wonder if accounting professors receive the same types of emails inquiring if there is an accounting student available to keep their books and file taxes on the cheap….I seriously doubt it.