TTC Morning Shoot

Well I had the chance to go down with some friends and do another TTC subway shoot. In this series I really tried to shoot very simple, basic stuff, and also leaving the editing very minimal. I don’t have much of a story, so you can see the rest of the pictures over on my facebook page here. Make sure to “like” the page!

Thanks Paul...

 Well who is Paul? I’ve never mentioned a Paul in any of my posts before, so clearly he’s no friend of mine, but for those who know me well, and know my deeper side, know that I am a huge Beatles fan. I recently purchased a book, which happened to be a biography on Paul, I also bought one for John as well, but let’s be honest we all know Paul was the better Beatle so I decided to read his first! Anyway, as I was reading this book I couldn’t help but realize how similar our personalities are. Paul is a perfectionist in everything he does, songwriting, playing music, or just being an entertainer.  I have been told by some I can be the same way on occasion, when I really put my mind to something I strive for perfection. Problem is perfection is impossible, that is the part that drives me nuts.  But what Paul has taught me through this book, it’s not necessarily about being perfect, it’s all about taking what you are doing and continually making yourself better.  By continually making yourself better, you are perfect.  If you are up to date on your Beatle history this is also what lead to the dimise of the Beatles.  Paul always wanted to improve on his songs and to have them sound perfect, but John was under the influence of Yoko and really didn’t care anymore about how good the music was, they were all about the message.

Now the other thing Paul and I have in common is holding other people to a very high standard.  I have very little patience and so does he.  Paul would have 36 hour marathon studio sessions just to bang out one song because someone wouldn’t hit one note exactly right.  Now, I’m not near this bad, but I think I hold myself to the highest standard.  I am continually looking at my work, criticizing, seeing where to improve, and only showing what I consider to be the best work.
So what the heck does this have to do with photography you are probably asking yourself by now?  Well very little!  But, while reading through the book, Paul mentioned a quote that has been stuck in my head ever since and I think it completely relates. “You don’t have to like something to be inspired by it.”  This really resonated with me, because I dislike much of my work, but I could never figure out why I kept going back to this thing we call photography.  I just needed someone to spell it out in front of me before it registered in my head.
The reason I keep coming back to this beast is because even though I might not like a lot of my work, it inspires me to continually get better and to strive for perfection.  So you say that’s great, now what?  Well that’s what brings me to this set of pictures.  In my previous sets I have went for very vibrant, very saturated looks, and so I decided why not try something different.  Maybe it will be better and maybe it will put me on a path to perfection someday.  So I tried something in a completely different direction, the grungiest, contrastiest, black and whites I could create.  Now are these pictures better than previous?  That’s up for debate, but it did give me one thing more important.  A learning opportunity, and as Paul has taught me that’s what you continually need to be on the right path.

Reflections... The Linseed Oil Factory

Well it was time for some members of the group of 7 to get another urbex fix to satisfy their cravings and hopefully carry them over the winter. We haven’t been able to enter any buildings since Detroit, as Hamilton was a bust, so to be honest I was starting to get the shakes from being in withdrawal. As you may or may not know, I had the privilege of working downtown Toronto for 2 years, and got to ride the GO train into work everyday. The first few weeks were great, meeting new people, getting lots of reading done, even a little homework from time to time! But after awhile the annoying clickety clack of the rails, and the rocking back and forth starts to wear you down. Believe or not, but one of my good seat mates has been doing it for 30 years! I soon got tired of this routine and began my endless hour and ten minute constant stares out the window in both directions, looking for new things to keep me entertained. I luckily found this graffiti laden building in the junction area of Toronto fairly close to Union Station. I spotted it way before I was ever into photography, but yet I was intrigued by it and almost wanted to pay it a visit to see its story.

It stood out like a sore thumb, in a neighbour hood of houses that can’t be more than 5 years old, and beside this beautiful park with a soccer field and an off leash dog area. Yet, I got more and more attracted to this building every time we passed it. One day on the GO train, it would seem as if fate was in my corner, I was reading a photo magazine, when a guy in the quad next to me noticed it and started a conversation. Turns out he is huge into photography, and he even introduced me to this strange concept of going into abandoned buildings just to take pictures! Brian is his name, and he has become a great mentor to me as he has been on pretty near every photo shoot I have done to date. We started chatting nearly everyday on the train, and I think I mentioned how I want to get into the Linseed building nearly everyday. I think after about a year he was getting pretty tired of it!
After we finally got some free time as a group, I arranged for a visit to this building so that we could see what it was all about. Let me tell you, this did not dissapoint at all! I think it will carry my urbex high over for a long time! A building that is 101 years old, is something different in its own right, the architecture, the materials used to build it, and the surroundings were all things that had to be taken in and experienced. To me, it was just nice to visit a part of Toronto history. This building was key to the development of the Junction, as it was one of the first buildings there. Linseed Oil was a key commodity back in the early 1900’s before oil and polymers were developed. Linseed was used in paints, varnishes, and was a weather proofer for canvas. It was truly a unique ingredient, that now is virtually unobtainable now a days.
The building represented some closure for me though. As I no longer take the train to work, except for the odd day here and there. I have lost my ‘seat’ on the train, but still hold onto some great friendships developed over those two years, but this building was the last thing I was holding onto from the GO train that I wanted to derive some benefit from before I moved on. It was a glorious building in side, and I’m so happy I was able to go there with the guys and experience it!

The above photos are my favorites from that day, but I will post some additional photo’s over on my facebook page so you can experience the whole building! You can check them out here and make sure to click the ‘Like’ button at the top of the page to keep up to date!

Outside the Pack

This is the third post in a series of images from the Packard Automotive plant in Detroit.  If you missed the first you can read it here, if you missed the second you can read it here. As I have said in the previous posts, the pack is an amazing sight! The outside is definitely no different. Surprisingly though, I think there is less graffiti on the outside of the building than there is on the inside. Possibly because people are afraid of getting busted tagging, but I highly doubt that’s a valid reason in this area of Detroit. There are a lot of interesting things around the pack. First, and probably the worst, was the office of the Wild Cats Motorcycle Club where a few people were murdered a few months previous in December 2010. Let me tell you how re-assuring that feeling is when we are walking in an empty building right across the street from the Wild Cats where no one would find us for weeks!

Another interesting feature outside the pack is this little rinky-dink two story Motel rightly named the Packard Motel. I Google’d this motel after we got back from Detroit, and surprisingly it has some pretty good reviews. Am I brave enough to spend a night there, heck no! But at least its satisfying to know there is a gem amongst all that decay.
The outside of the building was about the only place where scrappers have yet to take most of the metal off the walls. Some sections of the building are completely made out of steel so it does surprise me that this has still remained. It could be either extremely dangerous to try and chop this all down, or the scrappers just can’t find a way to haul it out of there. I am doubting it has to be that dangerous, because they seemed to have no problem cutting out all the electrical wiring on the inside of the building.
I really enjoyed looking at the outside of this building with all the unique graffiti and what not. It had a completely different feel than what was on the inside. I will leave you with two more pictures and stay tuned for the last series of pictures from the inside of the plant.

Oh Father, Where Art Thou? Part 2

This is the second part of this series on St. Agnes Church.  If you missed the first you can read it here.I had been walking around the church for a while now, still not feeling 100% but marvelling in this beauty that was before me. I was wondering, how could such a rich piece of history go to waste like this? litterally as we were standing there, little crumblings from the ceiling were falling down on top of us. Dust was building on the camera lens from debris and all the dirt being kicked up off the floor from all of us walking around. The basement which was completely empty except a few chairs, looked like it had been flooded at some point, probably from pipes freezing in the winter, which had spawned a whole culture of mold and other interesting plants.

I managed to make my way up to the balcony which looked like it once held the choir and the organ. This is where I really started to fear for safety, as much of the balcony had been stripped away. There were nails poking out in every direction. Some of the floor boards had been pryed away and you could see the floor below. As I ventured out on the balcony, there were three of us standing and just looking straight out into where the congregation would have once been. The view was absolutley spectacular from that point of view (picture at very top of this post). The morning light was shinning in from all the windows and it was just gorgeous in there. When we got back home to the GTA, I was doing some research and came across one Urban Exploration website that listed over 20 abandon churches in Detroit. I don’t know how many churches there are within Detroit, but 20 seemed like a lot to be empty! So, is this a wide spread issue across the US, or even Canada? I’m not really sure, but they certainly make for great subject matter.
I haven’t really been religious for a number of years, but recently my family has started to get back into the faith. My sister and father are both active members in their congregation, and I fully support that. I have been with them a few times to their service, and seeing the sense of community their church has, is probably why it hit me the hardest to see that building in such disaray. I always picture a church congregation fighting and doing what it takes to keep that community together and doing whatever it takes to help another person out. Seeing that missing here was truly a sad scene. In one way I am happy and fortunate I could document this building before it’s gone, but hopefully in the future there will not be so many empty churches with this kind of beauty left to sit.

Lights, Camera,..... Action? Part 2

This is the second blog series on the Eastown Theater. If you happened to miss the first you can read it here. The Eastown Theater was the second building we entered on our trip, but we were still packed for time.  We only had about 30 minutes to spend inside, and very little to spend outside as we had to move on to other buildings, and also avoid being caught or interupted by the locals.  It was a bit unfortunate that we didn’t get to spend to long outside, because that is where I seen some of the saddest things on the whole trip.  Cars up on cynder blocks, every other house was abandoned, and so many people living on the streets.  The neighbourhood, simply put, was rough!
Inside, what could I really say about it? It was a dump, literally. People desperate for money had ripped all of the chairs out to sell the metal for scrap and left the cushions in a huge pile.  People dumped a whack load of tires, and other garbage inside this place.  I’m not really sure why this building was picked to dump tires over any other building, maybe there was an auto garage around that couldnt afford to take the tires to a real dump?

Eastown showed a variety of classic films up until the 60’s when it closed down due to lack of attendance and the development of multi-screen theaters. In 1969, Eastown opened up again, but as a rock venue hosting some of the biggest and most influential rockers of all time. Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Bob Seeger, The Doors, and the Grateful Dead are among the biggest names that graced the stage at Eastown.
The sounds of rock and roll only lasted 4 years when, again in 1973 the theater closed down. The theater seen numerous changes between then and the 90’s including a church, an adult theatre, a rave house, a jazz theatre, and a performing arts theatre.
Taking pictures was very difficult in this building. The stage had a very large hole that was covered by a piece of plywood. The roof between the main floor and the balcony was falling apart and was basically supported by just re-bar. This, all while dodging all the garbage that was all over the floors.

The lighting in this building was absolutely terrible as well. There was only 2 sources of light really, some coming in through a hole in the wall above the balcony on the second floor, and some coming in from behind the stage where the fire had ripped through. I can only imagine what this place was like in its hay days, playing old black and white movies. The amount of popcorn that was spilt on those floors, and the number of first dates this place probably entertained. So many people have passed through this building, but the shape it currently is in, I have a feeling we will probably some of the last people that got to enjoy this magnificent place.

I tried to edit this whole series and give the photos a classic film feel, by converting them to black and white and adding some grain. I hope you enjoy the series on the Eastown Theater.

Lights, Camera,..... Action? Part 1

There was a group of photogs I ventured down to Detroit with this past July, and one of our stops was the Eastown Theater.  This building was absolutely majestic in the day, at least from the pictures I have seen, but now the building lies in utter ruins in a pretty rough area of Detroit.  In the first part, of this two part series, I really wanted to talk about the history of this building.  In the second part I will show some more of my pictures and discuss the current state of this building.  The theater was built in 1931 as a movie house due to the vast expansion and fascination with cinema during that era.

There have been numerous changes to the building over the years which I really wanted to show you.  The very top picture is opening day at the Eastown, with all the hustle and bustle.  The first movie was an early Clark Gable called Sporting Blood.  It is amazing what can change over time though, when we arrived there was no longer buildings on either side of the theatre, all of the signs have been completely removed and there isn’t a car or person to be found.  In August of 2010 a fire struck the Eastown and burnt down a significant portion of building.  From what I understand the part that burnt was an apartment building which housed a number of people, and while on our trip a few photog’s found a lot of personal belongings mixed in the rubble.

Here are a few of the pictures I was able to take from the inside of the theater.  The picture below is from the stage looking out and up at the balcony.  You can see the rough condition this building is in.  I don’t expect it to be standing much longer, since most of the walls were falling apart down to just the re-bar.

Check out the next part in a few days to see more of my pictures and to get a little more of the history around the Eastown Theatre.