Below is another image from my time at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. While taking pictures, I learned a lot about the way prisons were run. How inmates and employees interacted and early influences on the current penal system. I hope to go back in a few months, but for now I’m very happy with the images and knowledge I left with.
Dim Sun, Rain, and Al Capone
Saturday marked our first trip to Philadelphia since leaving New Jersey in 2017. Each week, we come up with two plans for weekend action. Often waiting until Saturday morning to formulate a new plan and forfeit our original choices. I know, it sounds counterproductive, but somehow it works. Within minutes of jumping out of the shower we were out the door. Me, with no knowledge of our destination. Just the insistance to bring my camera and be prepared to take pictures. After a long drive we stopped at Nom Wah, in Philadelphia’s Chinatown for a satisfying dim sum breakfast before ultimately heading over to Eastern State Penitentiary to soak in the dark history of penitentiary life before stopping for dinner at a nearby Waffle House before the long trip home. Below is one of many favorite pictures taken that day. Stay out of trouble. Stay out of jail.
Refueling For a Day That May Never Come.
Over the last month and far before that. I’ve been working on putting together a new website and photo-included business cards to give out to prospective customers, friends, and whomever I might run into during my excursions to the outside world. Considering my last batch of cards read that I live in Seattle and list a website I long ago lost the password for and a no longer active email account. I’m overdue for an update. Considering I left Seattle in 2021. I can’t help but wonder, wtf was I waiting for? Ultimately, this will all cost me. A monthly fee for a website. Money for new business cards and that studio light set I’ve had my eyes on. All for what? Will people be lining up for studio time? Will I find new faces for an upgrade to my portfolio? Will I lose my often overthinking mind trying to book clients? Who knows. Choosing a few images and a suitable template sounds and probably is easy. But it hasn’t been for me. So with a self-imposed deadline looming. I wonder, will it get done? Wait. Let me overthink this.
Happy Mothers Day.
Just a few words and a ton of appreciation to my Mother for all her sacrifices, lessons and kindness she’s bestowed upon me over the years. Though there was little money and years without many male role models She made a point of never making me feel that I lacked of anything. Over the years, we’ve had our share of disagreements and arguments but any differences can never overcome our love for one another. Thanks Mom, I love you,
An Interview with ‘Grain Check’ Photographer, Taylor Pendleton
As artists of any form, we consistently find inspiration in others’ work. Through our droughts and doubts, we look to other artists to light a fire underneath us and see our motivation to move forward and create. I found inspiration in my roots as a film photographer when I found Taylor’s vlog, ‘Grain Check.’ Refueling an obsession with cameras, film, the process, technique, and everything involved. As someone whose been a digital photographer since way back. I find film photographers to be brave, creative souls who approach things differently due to the differences between film and digital photography. The cost of film, development, and the absence of instant recognition can intimidate many. I reached out to Taylor for all the reasons listed above. The following is what she had to say.
James: Can you introduce yourself? What you do and where you’re from?
Taylor: Hi! I’m Taylor. I’m a film and digital photographer and YouTuber originally from Las Vegas, Nevada.
James: Tell us a little bit about your journey as a photographer.
Taylor: I was always interested in cameras as a little girl – I’d often ask my parents if I could carry around their point and shoots for the day. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I started to take it seriously. Fast forward to my senior year of college and I’m dropping out 3 months before graduation because I was working full-time as a wedding photographer and knew my English degree would never do me any good. My dream was to be a photographer (I didn’t know which kind yet) and I was well on my way.
James: What made inspired you to host a You Tube channel? How do you feel about the feedback?
Taylor: I never ever imagined myself to be a YouTuber. But I landed a gig at Moment (a small online camera store) where they needed another YouTube personality who was already a photographer. So, my days of talking to a camera began! And now, 5 years later, I’ve got my own channel called graincheck and I’m having a blast with it. The feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive. The YouTube comment section can be a brutal place, but I can count the times I’ve gotten hate on one hand. It’s been incredibly positive!
James: What was it like adjusting to being filmed?
Taylor: Honestly, pretty fun. There were times in the beginning where I’d struggle to deliver a line over and over, which was frustrating and embarrassing. But, for the most part, it was fun to be a goof and do my thing on camera. It also made me so aware of myself – in a good way!
On Shooting film. “It forces you to be intentional with every shot and present in your environment (no checking your images after you take them). You make sure, to the best of your ability, you got the shot and then you move on. It’s a beautiful process.”
James: What are the key characteristics that draw you to photography? Is there a style or element in particular that you gravitate towards? Why?
Taylor: I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve never landed on what it is about photography that I’m specifically drawn to. There’s some x factor that I can’t put my finger on. It just feels like a part of me, an extension of me. Maybe because I’m not the greatest with words, I feel I can express myself through visuals? I don’t know, but it’s a real feeling of solace for me. When life is hard, I literally will tell myself “no one can take photography from you.” It is my peace. As far as style, I’ve been all over the map. It’s an evolution for me, which I enjoy. I never want to feel boxed in. Right now, I’m diving into colorful digital studio portraiture and black-and-white film landscapes.
James: What went into your decision to shoot film VS digital? What about the cost and the immense space that film, negatives, and prints demand? (Note, that I love and understand the meaning of “Stay broke. Shoot film.”)
Taylor: I shoot both, so I choose digital or film on a daily basis depending on how I feel. But, for my channel, I focus on film. I think people like to see and hear the experience of shooting film, since it is so sensory. Film, especially right now, is incredibly expensive to shoot. I’m lucky to get highly discounted (and sometimes free) resources to keep it going.
James: With your experience, what would you consider the biggest pros and cons of being a film
Taylor: Pro: It forces you to be intentional with every shot and present in your environment (no checking your images after you take them). You make sure, to the best of your ability, you got the shot and then you move on. It’s a beautiful process.
Con: Expense, for sure. And the wait time to get scans back…it can be painful.
James: You embarked on a yearlong project to exclusively shoot black and white film. What has the
project taught you and how have the results informed you?
Taylor: I’m officially halfway through the year (crazy!) and I’ve benefited from it so much already. I have better learned what each hue looks like on the grayscale and I’ve become SO much more aware of light.
James: With all the different variations of film you’ve shot. Have you found one that best suits your
Taylor: My go-to black-and-white stock is Cinestill XX. While it’s a slower speed film, I never need to touch my scans. It is absolutely delicious.
James: A list of the film cameras you own? Is there one that you consider your preferred every day or
Taylor: Oh man. I have a lot, but many aren’t functioning. The ones I frequently use right now are the Pentax 645, Contax T3, Contax G2, Yashica T4, Ricoh Mirai, and the Fujifilm Instax 210. My every day camera is the Contax T3, since it’s compact and an absolute superstar of a point-and-shoot (fast & sharp lens, built in flash, and it’s cute as hell).
James: On your vlog you’ve featured many of the photographers and team you work with. How did that meeting come about and what is it like to be around so many like-minded, creative people?
Taylor: Because of my job at Moment, I’ve become connected to so many photographers and creatives. It’s such an awesome community to be a part of. Sometimes, it can feel like an echo chamber where all you think about and see is photography, so I make sure to fill my brain with other things when I can!
See more of Pendleton’s work by clinking the links below.
Personal Website https://taylorpendletonphoto.com/
You Tube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-FnGaXQfgXFbEiq28uEEng
Growing up in New York City, the closest I ever came to a cow was eating a cheeseburger at a local my Dad frequented. In my late teens, I was introduced to vegetarianism through some close friends. Since then, I’ve developed a love and admiration so strong that the mere sight of cows grazing in the distance brings me a childish joy that would be hard to describe. I found myself within a few feet of a group of cows feeding just outside a nearby farm. I patiently watched, hoping they’d come within a distance of my newish 100 -400 mm lens. Some of the cows came so close that I could reach out to pet a couple and communicate with a few moos’ despite the overwhelming midday sun. I managed to capture a few shots without reaching for my flash.
Each day, I exit the condo’s gym and head for the mailbox. A young boy races down the hallway to excitably greet me as “Mr. James” hijacks my keys, unlocks, and attempts to reach high enough to grab hold of whatever has been left in the box that day. It’s become a ritual. One I look forward to and highly anticipate. Being only three years old. His attempts to unlock and reach in far enough to seize whatever resides within is tricky, to say the least because he moves quicker than a puma. It’s even harder to catch him with my lens. Still, I love the space and shading of the area, which often has me thinking of setting up my tripod and taking some long exposures. Until then, I just brought my camera and fish eye lens to see what would develop. Below is an image I captured. Enjoy.
With about a half hour to kill before my haircut appointment, I took a trip down the escalator to check out the subway stop to fuel my newest obsession with photographing trains and the stations they frequent daily. I’ve lived in Virginia for over two years and have just started exploring its complex interiors. Having toured and ridden the subways of London, Paris, Tokyo, and others. I’ve come to appreciate the architecture and designs incorporated by many. Inspiring my respect and appreciation for what comes from the minds of true artists and respected methods that often convey the visions of gifted minds. It’s easy to take things of this nature for granted, as we are so focused on our daily travels and mindsets. Please think of the countless times I’ve focused on my phone screen or kept my head down to avoid unsolicited contact. There was a moment when I focused on the moment at hand, fixated on this colossal and timeless gift to creativity.
Achieving Motion Blur.
Since purchasing the Canon R6 Mirrorless camera, I’ve explored many aspects of photography that, until recently, have been somewhat foreign to me, as of lately. I’ve set my camera settings to capture some motion blur—another aspect of photography I’ve wanted to explore. In contrast, waiting for my train to DC the other night. I caught this train heading in the opposite direction, slowing my shutter speed to 1/4 of a second. I could adequately capture the train car’s motion while capturing the building in the foreground. Somewhat neat. There I was, proving that an old dog can learn new tricks. A wise man named Albert Einstein once said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” I will keep that in mind and the many quotes regarding the subject
Overcoming Your Expectations
There I was, taking pictures and having the time of my life at a newly discovered skate park. Then, I finally made my way up to the platform of the locally elevated train. Doing what I love. With no interruptions and an open-ended timeline. All was well. I had kicked my early morning anxiety to the curb and spent the day enjoying the sun and the warm weather. All was well until I uploaded the day’s pictures and began to scroll. Suddenly, despite having a high number of excellent shots. I decided to focus on the images that failed to resonate with me. Despite being non-commissioned, just for fun excursions to places foreign to me. I harped on my misdoings. “You’ve been a photographer since! XYZ How could you not notice that branch?” and other self-deprecating judgments. It reminded me of how hard I can be on myself. Wondering, who was that person who put, “You have to be %!00 perfect %110 of the time?” “Why am I always afraid to make mistakes?” Whatever it is or was going on. I must change, adapt, and accept my mistakes while learning from them.