Small Tools | Big Looks

Barbed Ball,  Knoxville TN 2016 © jwl

I have gone back to shooting 35mm for the past couple of months. It began because I wanted to use my smaller Pocket 35s (Olympus 35RC or Rollei 35, etc), but then the feeling of the cameras took hold and the Way Of Seeing began to show through as I got the film back. IE, what I look at and how I present it varies a little with each camera I use. I always tend to be drawn to certain aspects of my environment, that won't change, it is who I am. Depending on where I am going or how long I will spend making photographs I choose different tools for the job.

Keep in mind that I have been primarily been using either medium format film cameras or a digital camera for my work for the last few years. After seeing the sharpness of the images I have made, I more or less left 35mm film alone. It didn't have the punch that I was used to. However, now that I have been only using 35mm for a few rolls of film, I am beginning to remember the power of the format. It has a compact and personal nature (at least with the cameras I use) that lends itself to the composition and stance from which the photograph is made. For me it is a bit more personal work.

Fence Cup, Knoxville TN 2016 © jwl

These two images were made in the last month or so with my new favorite little camera, the Nikon FM. I have owned 3 or 4 of these cameras in my life and I always sell them or put them down and leave them alone after a while. After a while there's an the occasion when I want to feel that shutter/mirror slap and go back to the basics. It has been a good way to take short walks and look at things. I am pretty happy with some of the new work that I am making. So much so that I bought some more 35mm film!!

These images in particular have been coming into my mind in the last few days. I can't articulate exactly why other than they are very satisfying to me. I enjoy seeing them and I hope to make more like them. I feel good things in the works...

I am working on assembling a new book for Late Summer or Fall, I am getting really excited to get this work out there on some walls and into people's hands.


Get Right

Church, Harlan County, Kentucky 2015 © jwl

I think I'd be hard presses to find a better example of Southern Vernacular than this church. Maybe a ramshackle clapboard house, but Walker Evans did that already. Not that I am reinventing the wheel here, but it's a pretty photograph of a simple and probably well loved church.

What struck me when I arrived here (other than the Wild Turkey running past the church into the hills) was the materials. Corrugated steel, no windows, a simple window unit AC built into the wall. They like their God a little warmer in KY!


Small Cameras | Big Power

Umbrella, Knoxville, Tennessee 2016 © jwl w/ Nikon FM

I have a decent collection of small 35mm cameras. I enjoy using them when I go on walks or when I just feel like 'playing' with a camera. I believe that I make different images depending on how the camera works or how it feels to use. I'm also sentimental and a little geeky about my own personal history with the medium, so the cameras mean a lot to me.

I do, however, have the occasional disappointment with 35mm images. Since I have been using Medium Format as well as Digital cameras, the image quality of the 35mm negative just doesn't have the sharpness that I have grown to love. So for a time, I began selling off some of the 35mm machines and decided to stop using that sized film once I was done with what I had in stock. Kind of a shame really, because now I want those cameras back in my life.

 Zebra, Knoxville, Tennessee 2015 © jwl w/ Olympus 35RC

While I have been using the 35mm cameras a lot this past year, I haven't really been processing too much of the film. It has taken a while to finish off a roll and get it processed, so I haven't spent time with the negs.

Lately, I have been scanning and showing some of this 35mm work on instagram exclusively. Since all I have been looking at has been smaller negs, I have begun to See how good the quality is. Sure, it isn't as sharp as a 120 neg or a 24mp raw file, but it is as sharp as it needs to be. More importantly, it has an inherent beauty of it's own.

I have decided to stop being a technical nerd about what I am doing and just DO what I DO, no matter which camera is in my hand. 


More From Hell Drive II

 Untitled, Louisville, KY 2015 © jwl

Here are a couple more images that were taken back in May during my trip to Louisville, KY with Matt Hall. Lovingly referred to as HELL DRIVE II.  The common thread with these photos is that we are two photographers in an alley looking at the same subject. How we deal with that subject is up to us and obviously different. While we both have minimal ideas at what to do, the end results have varying degrees of subjective information.

I don't wanna have a class here and analyze what we have created, I simply wanna promote my creative friendship and hopefully show others that Photography isn't always a solo venture. It can be social as well.

Trash Cans © Matt Hall

I wanna take a minute and talk about how this post took so long to be seen.

First off, I don't blog as much as I should. It seems that instagram has taken some of the punch away from this means of communication. If I feel that there is more to say about the images I make, that's when we come here...

Secondly (and more what I need to share), I have several rolls of film moving through cameras at once. Especially in the 35mm cameras. I have cameras loaded and I pick one off the shelf and go to work. Sometimes, it takes years to complete a roll, mostly with 35mm. I just don't shoot it as much with small cameras & I save that format for what I feel are more Pedestrian Moments or better yet Walking Pictures.

Matt was using a digital camera and gave me the files back in May. I got this film developed 2 weeks ago.

I have been considering my format/process choices lately, so I will have more to share on this subject in the next few posts.


Heart Machine

She said to me
She didn’t like
Listening to hearts beat

‘It reminds me
of the machine in there,’
She said,
‘Someday it will stop
and you will die.’

I told her
‘You are beautiful’.


Cairo 2015 | Rivertowns

 Abandoned Building, Cairo IL 2015

Back in March, I made a visit to Cairo, Illinois. I left Memphis and followed the river up to a town I had seen before. I had photographed there in 2006 while traveling the Delta with a poet friend. He had gone to school nearby and thought it was a perfect place for me to see.

This was once a prominent Rivertown at the Southern tip of Illinois that had been plagued by race riots and flooding and emigration to other cities to the point that it had become a shell of what it used to be. Shamefully so, seeing as how most of the rivers I follow are full of towns that are the same age and size, yet have become artist or antique enclaves for suburban wealth to visit or retire to. Nothing like the economic and architectural devastation in Cairo.

The images I made in 2006 are part of the Delta Work series, since then I have lumped that work in with a broader body of work about Rivertowns.

Empty Storefront, Cairo IL 2015

In returning to Cairo the things that caught my attention the most were how much less was there and how differently I saw it. My first visit was pure awe, I photographed most things that caught my eye. My most recent trip was more surprise at what was gone since the last visit and more casual in my stance, like I had seen it all before. I still found some great images but my eyes were tuned to different things this round.

I am looking forward to a third trip and a more concentrated effort to tackle the idea of the Rivertown.


Subversive Vernacular On View In September

 Danger!, Apalachicola, Florida 2015 © jwl

I am excited to shake off the cobwebs and get some art on the walls for this upcoming First Friday event in Knoxville, Tennessee. I will be showing new prints in 2 locations on the 4th of September.

Pulling from mostly new work, I am creating a body of images I call Subversive Vernacular. I feel these newer photographs speak to me in the way that short story fiction often does. As though the viewer can sense that something has gone down in the space or has shown up just after the action stopped and is wondering 'what happened?' or 'what's next...' I'd like to think that the photographs have a quality of mystery to them. The subject matter keeping true to my wanderlust of the American Vernacular Landscape, especially in the Southeastern States.

I am compiling images for a book later in the year and I am considering including some poems or stories to go along with the work. I believe it will enhance the work quite well.

Shed, Highway 25W, Tennessee 2015 ©jwl

For now, you can see some of these pieces on the evening of Sept 4th at

128 S. Gay St.
Knoxville TN

You can also stroll on up and see more work throughout September at

937 N. Central St.
Knoxville TN

 I look forward to seeing you on First Friday or sometime soon!!