Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tall Tale

When I go out to the farmer's market on Saturday morning, it's never just about the food. I chat with the vendors whose produce I buy every week. I see friends and neighbors and catch up on the news of their lives. Many folks bring their dogs to market, so I get to meet them and their owners. Knoxville is a very friendly town. 
When I'm finished shopping, I have breakfast at an outdoor table on the square and read the newspaper. I had my picture taken a couple times yesterday by tourists - hey, it's a public space, happy to be of service. Then, three hours later, I head for home, but there's usually one last opportunity for discourse with street performers and buskers. I met this young lady who took a shine to stilt walking and decided to come out to the square to do some walking around (that's her mom in the background). 
And her appearance helps me the make the point of my overly-rambling tale: the market brings people together, which is something that has been sorely lacking in our modern lives.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Open Your Eyes

The Knoxville Museum of Art occupies a stark, modernist cube of a building, clad in Tennessee pink marble. Built in 1990 as the permanent, state-of-the-art home for the modern art collection that was established in 1961, it generated some discussion for being so plain.
I've always liked this building. It's simple lines and shape are so appropriate to house a twentieth and twenty-first century art collection. And I like it even more now that they've added eyes.  If they add a moustache too, I'll be even happier.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Orange Crush

Knoxville sits in a bowl of a valley surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains to the south, the Cumberland Mountains to the north, and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. Not much air circulates, so in times of calm weather, we're enveloped in a soupy miasma of carbon particulate pollution, kind of like Los Angeles but without the palm trees and movie stars. All those particles do create some dramatic skies, like this sunrise from last week.
Happily, rain and wind have cleared the air for our upcoming Labor Day long weekend.
More skies are available at Sky Watch Friday. They'll take your breath away (without the hinderance of carbon particles).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

I've posted a shot of these old spiral steps at the downtown YWCA before, but this is a different angle. I'm also looking at the differences between a color and a black and white image. Some discussion of this on Snapper's excellent blog got me thinking: what are the advantages of using color or black and white, and how does one choose in each situation. So I tried this experiment with the stairs. I like those tendrils of green climbing up the railing in color, but I also like the crumbling concrete in the B&W. Any opinions on the pros and cons in these photos would be most welcome.

I have had my digital camera for one year now, have been pointing and shooting with auto settings and getting comfortable with what my camera can and can't do. Maybe it's time to at least dip a little toe into the world of manual settings. Cartier-Bresson once said your first 10,000 photos are your worst. That actually gives me something to look forward to! I reckon I have about 8,000 to go.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Recording History

As I end the Voices of the Land series, I'm leaving you something that I learned, something for professional and amateur photographers to think about. What are your thoughts on how photography impacts history? Do you think your photographs will contribute to our collective history?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bridging the Centuries

Living history is about the living more than the history, I think. Here the twenty-first century looks back at the nineteenth century. The young man on the skateboard was just mesmerized by the blacksmith heating up rods of metal and pounding them, with sparks flying, into something useful (in this case, door hinges). For me, this photo shows why these history demonstrations are so important: they reach out to people today and help them see how their lives are connected to what went before.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Surgery, 1864

Here's some more interesting living history from this past weekend's Voices of the Land festival. This replica of a Civil War hospital tent includes some of the actual surgical instruments used on the battlefield in the 1860s. The good doctor is explaining why so many limbs had to be amputated: the bullets used at the time would shatter bones, and the primitive medical facilities could not mend them. Amputation was the only solution, or the soldier would risk a gangrenous infection that would most likely kill him. I won't go into the details of how the amputations were done - it doesn't make very pleasant breakfast reading. Soldiers were given laudanum, an opium-based painkiller. After the war, many Civil War veterans had what was known as the "good soldier's disease," a euphemism for opium addiction.
Tomorrow: living history with a spark.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Voices of the Land

This weekend was the grand opening of the new Voices of the Land exhibit at the Museum of East Tennessee History, and the East Tennessee Historical Society sponsored two days chocked full of free events to celebrate.  I'll be showing you some of the fun for the next few days. The museum offered free admission to the exhibit, live music (homegrown East Tennessee bluegrass and country bands), children's activities, and my personal favorite, living history demonstrations in Krutch Park.
It was a surreal scene in the park to see people from Cherokee times through World War II mingling with park visitors. This photo gives you a taste: Governor John Sevier, the first governor of the State of Tennessee in 1796, chats up some U.S. Army Paratroopers from World War II. I'm sure they had a lot of catching up to do.
And did I mention, there was cake? Today is Davy Crockett's 222nd birthday, and anyone fortunate enough to wander down Clinch Avenue today got a piece of free birthday cake sponsored by a local grocery store.
Free cake. I love this town.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cha Cha Cha

Have you ever seen those numbered footprints that show you where to put your feet to learn how to do a dance? Well, I saw the version for your car on this sign in the 100 block of Gay Street. Back-in parking is as easy as one-two-three. Or so the city would have you believe.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I was sitting quietly at the Crown & Goose beer garden, contemplating life, the joys of summer, and whether I should have that second pint of stout, when I looked up through the mesh umbrella and saw my next Sky Watch photo opportunity.

You'll find opportunities to contemplate the joys of skywatching too, when you visit the Sky Watch Friday website.

And by the way, that second pint of stout was delicious.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


This is the only thing remaining from the old bus station that used to be on Gay Street. It was torn down decades ago. As I have acquired the habit of looking up, I only recently noticed that the demolition forgot a piece. The big gaping hole between buildings is now (wait for it...) a parking lot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This space on the 100 block of Gay Street often hosts temporary art shows. This looked like someone forgot to take part of their exhibit. Or maybe one of the neighbors has turned into bronze. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tiny Colossus

The Statue of Liberty has been lighting the way for the residents who wash up on the shore of this apartment building on Gay Street for many years.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Light in the Forest

Looks like we're in the forest primeval, doesn't it? But no, this is a close up of the decorative iron fence around the tree-shaded Regions Bank parking lot downtown on Union Avenue. The ray of light is actually coming from a street light in the alley behind the bank. The camera may not lie, but the angle of the photo sure can suggest things.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do the Math

Sunny day + Crown & Goose beer garden + fish & chips = Happiness

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Birds on a Bench

Here's one last shot from Treble Clef Park for now. These little sparrows found something to like about the park: sunshine and bread crumbs.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Who knew that the Treble Clef sculpture seen yesterday is actually an artifact created by an Ancient Extraterrestrial Civilization to record the position of the moon for Mysterious Yet Significant Seasonal Rituals that may involve Gratuitous Capitalization of Words. And here I thought it was just another piece of public art.

To see more skies with or without artifacts and public art, visit Sky Watch Friday. It's significantly fun, no mystery about that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Treble Clef

This 6,000 pound bronze treble clef sculpture by Paul Jacques has been at the corner of Summit Hill Drive and Gay Street since 1986. It's in what the city officially calls Tribute to Country Music Park, but what everyone else in town calls Treble Clef Park. Simple wins over official, you see. The "park" is just a ring of pebbled concrete benches surrounding the sculpture, with a little half-hearted landscaping thrown in. The benches are mostly used by the homeless, and by birds looking for discarded crumbs of bread. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Evil League of Pigeons

As I wander around downtown, I always look up, because some of the most interesting architectural details are to be found there. On my morning walk yesterday ( and hooray, I'm out and about again) I looked up at the Walnut Building and saw a flock of pigeons staring down at me with what I 'm sure was malevolent intent. Where's a Cooper's hawk when you need one? I retreated down Walnut Street, but not before I took a photo, like the brave photojournalist that I am.
What adventure did you have during your morning?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crepe Myrtle

The crepe myrtle trees are in full bloom on Summit Hill Drive. The blossoms look like little petticoats. I like their contrast with the minimalist lines of the Crimson Building in the background.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Renovation Continuing

Kind of looks like jail, doesn't it? But it's really a renovation project for one of the buildings on Market Square. The building was in a dangerous state - the roof had caved in, and the insides were deteriorating. Since this is an historic district, the city stepped in and told the owner to improve the building or the city would condemn it and take it from him. Looks like that worked. The photo was taken through the window on the alley at the back of the building. This is an archive shot from a few months ago - the project is now done, and looking for a new business to occupy the space. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jazz Buskers

These days, Market Square has all kinds of buskers, especially on weekends. Usually it's not very elaborate - a lone saxophone player, or a guy strumming a guitar, or the girl that brings her cello out occasionally to play Beatles tunes. So when this trio casually set up, I didn't pay much attention - until they started playing. They were the most astonishing jazz trio I've ever heard on the square, playing standards like Take the A Train. They attracted quite a crowd, too (and made a great photo opportunity). I hope they come back again.
I've been a bit under the weather for the past few days, so I haven't been able to visit too many of you recently, but once I get feeling better, I'll be coming 'round again!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Duke is a Great Dane who is as big as a pony. I think I could saddle him up and ride off into the sunset. He's even too big to fit in the photo. Duke and his owner visit the farmer's market every Saturday. All the little kids look up to him, and so do I.

Friday, August 8, 2008

London Calling

It wasn't so much London calling, it was mostly that pint of stout calling to me. "Meet me at the Crown & Goose beer garden," it said, "The sky is a perfect blue with a single plume of contrail, and London is all crowded onto a brick wall. Oh, and bring your camera. This will be perfect for Sky Watch Friday. And be sure to swing by and visit the other participants."
That was one chatty pint of stout. Cheers, y'all. 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Under the White-Hot Sun

This is actually an archive shot from this past June, when I was experimenting with the metering on my camera. I liked the effect created on this photo. The sun has just gone supernova, a blinding white flash where all you can see is the man on the bike and the two police officers in the background. Do not adjust your screens, you have entered the twilight zone.
Which is all my indirect way of saying it's too hot to go out and look for photo opportunities.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

In the Night Library

Ever wonder what goes on at night after the library closes? Here's the main library downtown: a blend of lights, books, and silence.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Street preachers frequently set up shop at the corner of Union Avenue and Market Street downtown. Lunchtime or Saturday mornings are especially popular because lots of folks will be passing by. This preacher was broadcasting his visions of hellfire and brimstone to office workers on their lunch breaks yesterday. I heard him mention Knoxville and Sodom and Gommorah more than once in the same sentence. It was certainly hot as hellfire and brimstone yesterday 'round here.
And you know, I really don't agree with his philosophy, but I'm ok with him bellowing his message, free speech and all, as long as he doesn't follow me down the sidewalk or shove literature into my unwilling hand. 

Monday, August 4, 2008


Here we are backstage at the Globe Theater. No, we're not on the South Bank of London, but on the Market Square stage in downtown Knoxville. As you can see, with some plywood, draperies, and ingenuity, you can create a Shakespearean experience anywhere.  

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bridge and Tunnel Bard

You might not recognize this as a play from Shakespeare - they're not in traditional 16th century dress, after all. But this is indeed a scene from Tennessee Stage Company's version of The Merchant of Venice. This tale of greed, racism, and the quality of mercy is being performed 1950s mob style, with gangsters, big hair, and New Jersey accents. I'm not sure I like it as well as the 'traditional" renderings of Shakespeare, but I'll give them points for creativity.  

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Wrath of Grapes

I was in the downtown wine store to find a nice bottle of red to have with my eggplant and pepper stir fry, when I saw this sign for Luchador shiraz. I was undecided whether a body slam to my tongue would really be a pleasant experience. And really, I don't think you should put the word "malo" near any product that you have hopes of selling, even if you are referencing a luchador's name. But then I looked at the price and decided that I didn't want a body slam to my wallet either. So in the end, I chose an Italian primitivo with a nice calm line drawing of a farm scene on the label.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Neither Heavy Nor Metal

Perhaps I'm being a misanthropic curmudgeon about joining in on theme day this month, but I just couldn't get inspired by Metal. Instead, I give you Rosie, who is the opposite of metal. I met her and her owner at the farmer's market, and she was quite eager to greet me, since I still smelled like bacon from breakfast. 
And I know, I didn't sign up for Sky Watch this week either. But if you enlarge the photo, you can see the sky reflected in Rosie's big brown eyes.