Archive for photo

Clothes Line vs Dryer

My clothes have been dried on a clothes line very few times in my life. For the first few months living in Tijuana (2004-2005), we didn’t have a drier. We pinned our wet clothes on orange and yellow plastic ropes, strung across the patio. Here, you can see our neighbors clothes line, including socks hung on the chain-linked fence:

Los Vecinos

My American patience level got the best of me and I bought a dryer. I’ve used dryers before. I grew up with a dryer. You press a button and clothes come out dry a few minutes later. Dry and wrinkled, that is. No matter what settings I use, I end up with wrinkled clothes. To this day, I haven’t mastered the magic combination of heat, load size and timing. Note the ironing board tucked next to the stacked washer/dryer (2007):

Goodbye Laundromat

On the surface, it may look like an upgrade, but I’m back to the drawing board with all new settings. It’s like microwaving popcorn without a popcorn button. Inconceivable. I’ve flirted with the idea of taking everything to the cleaners, but that seems like one step too far across the yuppie line. Maybe I’ll string up a clothes line across the new patio

Just imagine. You’re beaten silly in soapy water only to be tortured for another half-hour in a tumbling inferno. Or, you’re gently draped in the open air, kissed by the sun, the breeze whispering sweet nothings in your ear.

Line Dry

[ view more clothes line photos | slideshow ]

Hooked on Phonics

“Are you ready to order?” My eyes come down off the menu above her. “Yeah.”

Two fish tacos, no combo, no drink. To go, please. “What’s your name?” she asks with her finger hovering above the keypad. “Nathan.” She leans forward and raises an eyebrow. “Nathan,” I say a little louder. She hesitates and enters the name to finish my order.

NĂ©iton = Nathan

Public Art at Tijuana Border Crossing

During 2004/2005, I spent my mornings waiting in line at the border. The commute from Tijuana to San Diego gave me plenty of time to watch, listen and think. For several weeks, I watched a group of men working behind a shroud of old vinyl banners and recycled plastic sheets. I couldn’t see what it was, but they were building something. Every day, I’d catch a glimpse of color or a peculiar shape. On days when traffic moved quickly, I felt a little disappointed that I hadn’t been able to see more. Day by day, the anticipation grew.

Finally, it was revealed.

The structure stands around 40-feet-tall. The base holds an imprisoned hand; the top, a tile mosaic cityscape with two spires reaching upward. Four engraved Mayan hoops face north, south, east and west. A south-facing plaque reads:

ESCULTURA
“ENTRE VENTANA Y PUERTA”
DEL ARTISTA VISUAL
OSCAR ORTEGA

Sculpture “Between a Window and a Door” By Visual Artist Oscar Ortega

At the time, I was the technical director for KPBS Radio’s The Lounge, a daily talk show covering the arts in San Diego. The show’s producer, Angela Carone, and host, Dirk Sutro, were interested in Tijuana artists as well, so I made contact with Oscar Ortega. We started an email conversation, but unfortunately, there was turnover at work and I was reassigned to a different program. After not receiving Oscar’s reply to a set of questions — and with the changes at work — the story faded into that quiet place where memories go to gather dust.

Oscar Ortega has several public pieces in Tijuana, including a mural just a short distance from the sculpture. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have an online portfolio that I can find. Searching “entre ventana y puerta” returns an image of mine on Flickr as the top result (I’m curious if this blog post will take it’s spot after it gets crawled). So after two years waiting to read someone else’s review of the piece, I figure it’s about time to share my own.

He explained the title as a description of Tijuana’s physical (and perhaps psychological) situation. It’s an incredibly transited city, but has no seaport, making its coastline only a “window.” The “door” refers to the U.S. border — a door locked for many. The piece, like the city, is rich with layered symbols: the hand of Mexican labor, cars circle the base endlessly, the round indigenous blocks carved with the men’s bathroom figure, the jumbled mosaic like the residential architecture covering Tijuana’s hillsides.

Certain patterns line up at particular angles, allowing you to discover each scene as you move around it. For me, Ortega’s sculpture stands as a monument to the culture of Tijuana: a mix of indigenous and modern symbols, a city of travelers, glimpses of family struggle, international labor and commerce, and all of it trapped in a corner at the edge of the world. And I’m curious if the people who pass “between a window and a door” daily manage to see themselves in it.

Photos Included in Exhibition in New Zealand

About nine months ago, Geoff Budd commented on a set of photos I have on Flickr called Shoe Dump, a collection of shoes hanging from powerlines:

Primo set Nathan! I’m a photographer based in New Zealand putting together an exhibition on the topic. If you’d like to have some of your images included please check my website & let me know…

A few months after submitting some photos, the project started coming to life. Here are a few images from Geoff as the collage was coming together.

Mosaic V1!
For the Santos Cafe ‘mini-exhib’ I’ve been producing the shots onto various thickness PVC blocks at 100mm square. With the limited wall space at this venue I am only able to produce a mosaic of around 50 images though the main exhib will feature the rest of the group. There’s been a few late nights as it’s quite labour intensive but it’s looking sweet!

Will update more pics as it progresses…

Thanks again for all your shots & stories!

Originally uploaded by sole intentions.

Mosaic V1 contd…
Originally uploaded by sole intentions.

Mosaic V1 contd…
Originally uploaded by sole intentions.

See if you can spot this one of mine nestled in there. It’s one of my personal favorites, and ranks as #4 for interestingness (800 views, 11 favorites, 6 comments) of my photos on Flickr (also see #1, #2, #3). It also is holding steady at around #235 on Flickr’s Explore for the most interesting photos uploaded on December 5, 2006 (see all photos of mine that made Explore pages)

Shoes On The Line #6

Read more about the exhibition and Geoff Budd in the article Exhibition with plenty of sole, check out the exhibition flyer (PDF), and if you’re near Auckland, New Zealand, the opening is this Tuesday Jan. 30 at Satellite Gallery from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

SoleIntentions.com

Holiday Border Traffic

Leaving the Tijuana airport as Sunday became Monday, Rosario and I stood in the cold air, waiting for the taxi. After a delayed return flight from Guanajuato, we prepared ourselves for what border traffic we might encounter. On a typical Sunday night at this hour, you can expect to cross in an hour or less. But this was the Sunday end to Thanksgiving weekend. And anytime there’s a U.S. holiday, border traffic is exponential.

The taxi drops us at Rosario’s sister’s home, where the trusty Nissan Frontier waits. We transfer luggage to the truck and head like zombies for the Otay crossing. When we arrive at 1:30 a.m., there are only two short, thin lines. “Mira, it’s not so bad,” I say to a reclined Rosario. I undo my seatbelt and make myself comfortable for what should take 30 to 40 minutes. At this hour, the customs agents typically work slower than normal, but after 45 minutes and only advancing 10 cars, I start having my doubts. Cars continue to gather in other rows, to the point that I no longer have an exit option. After asking a passing window washer, and seeing cars turn and head back, my half-conscious mind realizes the lanes are closed. No one is getting through.

I see a brief opening between cars and shove my way into the outside lane, making an overdue escape. Too tired to be outwardly angry, I take my grumpiness to San Ysidro to give it another shot. Otay is supposed to be open 24 hours, but because it’s a secondary entry point, it can be less consistent. We arrive at San Ysidro to much longer lines full of sleeping cars, lights and engines off. “Let’s just go to a hotel to sleep,” Rosario offers. But I’m not in the mood. I want to sleep in my bed tonight even if it’s just for a few hours. “Let’s just sleep in the SENTRI lane. It opens in a couple hours,” I decide.

It’s now 3 a.m. as we pull alongside one other car already waiting in the lane. I put it in park, turn off the engine, and pull out the laptop to play solitaire. I hit a second wind, now unable to sleep. After a half-hour losing repeatedly at the Vegas-style three-card game, I take out the camera.

Waiting for the SENTRI lanes to open

Lanes Closed

At 4 a.m., the lane opens and we cross the line. The final leg of the drowsy marathon came to a close another half-hour later, and sleep came soon thereafter. As a privileged member of the SENTRI program, my heart goes out to all of my compas who were already beginning their workweek as I recoup a few hours sleep under the high thread-count sheets and synthetic down comforter of my king-sized bed.

Street Ball

La tiramos afuera, tio? Wanna play catch, Uncle?” My nephew Benjamin tossed the ragged tennis ball a few inches in the air. “Sure.”

Bored

Benjamin is 12 years old and lives with his father and grandmother in Tijuana. His mother died when he was two. He knows her mostly from pictures. His father moved them to California a few years after; Benjamin went to school and learned to speak English. After several hard years working multiple kitchen jobs, they returned to Guadalajara. Some years later, they came back to Tijuana to live on the same street they lived together as a young family almost 10 years earlier. My wife Rosario had told me about her sister and the child she left behind. And I met my new nephew less than a year before becoming his uncle.

La tiramos afuera, tio?” “Sure,” I say following him outside to play catch at 9 o’clock at night. The brisk air becomes more and more bearable as I warm up, throwing fast and fly balls, sprinting to chase the green grounders that get by. Between breaks for passing cars, Benjamin’s cousin, Roberto (another nephew I neglected to mention who lives in California but had to come back and enroll in school to renew his visa), comes outside to join the game. Benjamin scoops up a broken two by four, hands it to Roberto and takes the mound. I pull a chunk of particleboard out of the neighbor’s construction scrap and place it at home plate. The rules quickly come together, hits and runs measured by speed bumps and telephone poles. In this moment, Tijuana blooms. Streetlights become stadium floodlights and the uneven pavement becomes a world-class ballpark.

The moment never lasts long enough. I didn’t hit the hero’s home run I had hoped for. But it doesn’t matter to them. Who says you need a baseball or a bat to play baseball. They can turn the contents of your pocket into ninja stars. And they have no idea how much they inspire me.