Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Mississippi Delta 23: Morgan City

Morgan City is a small farming town in Leflore County on Hwy. 7 southwest of Greenwood. (Note, this is a small town in Mississippi, not the much larger city of the same name on the Atchafalaya River in southern Louisiana.)
The main road through town, Hwy. 7, has an agricultural complex, but I could not tell if it was in operation.
The local dudes were hanging around near the Morgan store and having a good old time with plenty of beer. Note how this early 20th century brick building has a 45° corner to provide access from both streets.
Across Hwy. 7, Diggs Street is a community of mobile homes with a couple of ranch-style houses.
There is not much to the town. Several houses look like this.
The Mount Zion Church is north of Morgan City, at the junction of Hwy. 7 and 511 in Sheppardtown.
South of Morgan city, in Swiftown, the Sunflower River was in flood and coursing through the woods. It was fun to stand on the bridge and watch the water flow and bubble beneath me.

Photographs taken with a Fuji GW690II 6×9 camera (medium format) with 90mm f/3.5 Fujinon lens on the classic Kodak Panatomic-X film (long discontinued). I wrote about Panatomic-X in an earlier post (click the link).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ugly buildings in Seoul

[Guest post by morangm]

Kodachromeguy asked me to contribute a post to his urban decay blog after my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea. Seoul isn't decaying. Very much not so!  But it's a very ugly city with a lot of very ugly buildings. Hopefully readers of this blog will enjoy my photos (which undoubtedly don't match Kodachromeguy's usual quality standards) and my descriptions of Seoul.

Today, the Seoul metropolitan area is home to about 25 million people, which is about half the population of South Korea.  (For comparison, the greater Los Angeles region, a geographic area far, far larger than Seoul, has only about 15 million.)  The Korean people picked themselves up by their bootstraps after the Korean War (1950-1953) and went from being one of the world's poorest countries to being one of the richest in just 50 years or so, a world leader in technology and culture with a very high standard of living.

Despite this impressive development record, Seoul is a very ugly city.  The city is densely packed with nearly-identical high-rise apartment blocks and a mish-mash of other concrete rectangles, very few of which seemed to have benefited from the services of an architect.  The city seems to function very, very well, and efficiently, but it's certainly not inspiring to look upon.
View of Seoul from Inwangsan
View from the historic Seoul City Wall on Inwangsan mountain showing vast swaths of identical high-rise apartments.

Modern Seoul was built in a hurry. Some 1.2 million people died in the Korean War, a conflict which obliterated a great deal of infrastructure and left the country divided.  After the war, massive amounts of housing and other basic infrastructure were the top priority.  The following decades also saw large amounts of rural-to-urban migration, spurning on the need for still more rapid building.  It's no wonder there was little room for aesthetic considerations.

These quickly-built, now-older areas of the city have some really awful beat-up buildings, all still in use. (There's no room in Seoul for empty buildings or vacant lots.  Every inch of space is used.)
Ugly building in Myeongdong, central Seoul
Possibly the ugliest building I've ever seen (Myeongdong, central Seoul)

Ugly building near Dongdaemun
A wholesale market building down the street from the Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Older neighborhood near Digital Media City
An older neighborhood "ripe" for gentrification, across the tracks from the brand new Digital Media City development
Ugly triangle-shaped building
From the same neighborhood

Ugly apartments overlooking the Han River
Believe it or not, these lovely apartments have a gorgeous view of the Han River!
Gentrification is definitely ongoing. It's not unusual to see a new glass-and-steel skyscraper dwarfing a clump of older buildings.
Juxtaposition of old and new buildings in central Seoul
Old and new buildings, downtown Seoul
However, even now, aesthetics doesn't seem to be a priority.  I read through a summary of Seoul's master plan for a class I was taking, and there was nothing at all about aesthetics, design, or beautification.  Contrast this to, say, Toronto, another city I studied for a class.  In Toronto, a complex and very specific zoning code controls the height and setbacks of buildings to make sure that streets don't feel like crevices and to ensure that people have nice viewsheds from the upper floors of buildings.  There appear to be no such codes in Seoul.

That said, some of the newer areas do look a little nicer.  For example, Digital Media City, a government development project to put media and entertainment companies in a sparkling new neighborhood, had some buildings that looked like they had actually been designed and some top-notch public art.
Public art in Digital Media City
Public art in Digital Media City: "Square-M, Communication" by Yoo Young-ho
The Seoul government has also put a lot of effort into a couple of showcase projects, such as the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon Stream.  The stream was important in the early days of Seoul, but after the Korean War, it became very polluted and the site of lots of homeless encampments, so they covered it over with a highway.  In the early 2000s, they removed the highway and restored the stream into a very pleasant public park that spans much of the heart of the city.

The stream begins with a fountain and a little artificial waterfall right in the city center and then travels in a nicely-landscaped concrete channel for several miles before emptying into the Han River. Either the historic water source of the stream was always intermittent, or else it's been too disrupted by other construction (of the metro and such) to provide adequate water for the stream now, so Han River water is actually pumped to supply the stream water.  It's fantastic as a park, and it's beautiful, but its ecological value is debatable.  It's certainly not "natural", but it's also probably a lot better than a highway.
Cheonggyecheon Stream near Dongdaemun
The restored Cheonggyecheon Stream near Dongdaemun
Because Kodachromeguy always does this: All photos were taken with a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact smartphone with a lens cover that is a little messed up.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Mysterious Moving Gasoline Station, Adrian, Texas

Adrian, Texas, is the midpoint of Route 66, meaning it is equidistant to Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles or to Lake Michigan in Chicago.
There is not much to Adrian, just some old gasoline stations, junk yards, and the Midpoint Cafe (now closed). But I saw this adorable little gasoline station with a Phillips 66 sign. This was a Phillips 66 station, but a similar architecture with a peaked roof was used by Cities Services stations in various southern states. One of Thomas Rosell's articles in Preservation Mississippi, describes the architecture of early 20th century Cities Services gasoline stations.
Just to the left (east) of the little station is a more modern Phillips 66 station, but also not in operation.

I checked the locations of these buildings on Google Maps and was perplexed. Look at the Google Street View from 2011: The little station is not present. Someone trucked in this the little building from somewhere else and placed it next to the tree. Did the aliens move it?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Mississippi Delta 22: Sunflower

Sunflower playground - where are the children?
Sunflower is another small town in the west central Mississippi Delta. According to the 2000 census (as cited in Wikipedia), it had only 669 residents. I have driven through only twice and saw only a few photographic opportunities.
Delta Ave. was the former commercial block, consisting of brick shops similar to those in other Delta towns.
Russell Grocery on Quiver Street was open. The proprietor generously let me take a couple of photographs. He said he was doing his best to keep the store in operation. It was immaculately clean. I noticed that most of the food was in the form of fast food and soft drinks - the curse of the Mississippi diet.
Other grocery stores had occupied the building in the past.
At Haley's Floral Center, also on Quiver Street, the ladies invited me in and showed me some of the floral arrangements. They were very gracious. Such kind people, but it must be a difficult life in a small town. What can they do professionally other than move away? But that inevitably would mean mean leaving family behind.

The first two photographs were taken with a Fuji GW690II camera on Kodak Panatomic-X film. The remaining photographs are from a Fuji X-E1 digital camera.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Mississippi Delta 21: Drew


Drew is a small agricultural town in Sunflower County. It is just off US 49W, between Tutwiler and Ruleville. I have to Drew twice and both times was impressed by the grain elevators and symbols of its agricultural prosperity (or former prosperity), and unimpressed by the general state of decay and impoverishment.
Front Street parallels the former Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad (Y&MV) line. Many of the elevators were built next to the tracks.
During my 2017 visit, there was a heavy but brief rain, after which the light was sublime.
The corrugated steel lends a lot of shape and texture to photographs. These old elevators were impressive scale, and now they sit unused. The buildings were closed and I did not want to try to get in as I was alone.
On Union Avenue, I came across an abandoned store with one of the 45° entryways that you often see at corner shops. There was a Teddy Bear nailed to the power pole out front. I stopped and set up my tripod. Two young ladies with extreme cleavage stopped their car and seemed amazed to see me photographing. When I said I was drawn by the Teddy Bear, they said it was a memorial because a guy was shot there a few days before. It's pretty grim that violence is such a defining characteristic of life in many communities.

The horizontal photographs were taken with a Fuji GW690II camera, the square with a Rolleiflex 3.5E with Xenotar lens. The film was the long-discontinued Kodak Panatomic-X. All negatives scanned on a Minolts Scan Multi medium format scanner.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Mississippi Delta 20: Webb and the Webb Depot

Webb is a small town on the Little Tallahatchee River southeast of Clarksdale and northwest of Grenada. You reach it by driving on US 49E and turning east on Hwy. 32, which is also Main Street in town. 
What initially interested me in Webb was a note in Preservation Mississippi that the historic railroad depot had been listed on the 2015 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in Mississippi list. According to the nomination:
Significance 
The Webb Depot was built in 1909 by the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad as a combination passenger and freight depot. A central part of life in this small Delta town for decades, the station was the junction of two different railroads coming from three directions.
Threat
Privately owner, the Webb Depot is in stable condition but will require an extensive restoration to bring it back to life. Community activists in Webb would like to restore the building for use as a civic space, such as the Oxford Depot or the Martin and Sue King Railroad Heritage Museum, located in the historic depot in Celeveland.
No trains come here now. But once, trains once carried freight, agricultural products, and passengers, and connected these little towns with the rest of the world.
Main Street is also Mississippi 32. Many or most of the brick stores are empty; little commerce happens in Webb today.
This substantial brick building probably had a store on the ground floor and a residence on the second. The bare side wall shows that once another building was attached.
This magnificent ceramic mosaic floor was on a lot where the building had been demolished. Imagine the wealth and pride once existed here to install a floor like this. I have read that Italian immigrants did much of the ceramic and tile work in the Delta in the early 20th century.
Early advertising, painted on the brick rather than a metal signboard.
At the local Mini-Mart, the dudes where hanging out and seemed thrilled to have a tourist take their picture.
Across the street from the Mini-Mart was an old Art Deco filling station. The steel section to the left is newer or is a sheathing over older plaster/stucco. According to Preservation Mississippi, this was the architectural style of Lion brand service stations.
The alleys are pretty bleak.
The tree and lighting across the tracks from the depot was too nice to resist.
On Rte 32 west of Webb on the way to Drew, flat farm fields and another magnificent tree. 135mm SMC Takumar lens.

Color photographs are from a Fuji X-E1 digital camera. I took the black and white frames with a Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic camera, in the family since 1971 and recently restored and overhauled. I used Kodak BW400CN film, a black and white C-41-type of film (in other words, color print film but with monochrome dye only).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Country Stores 17: The Tomato Place, Vicksburg

The Tomato Place, at 3229 Highway 61 S, is a combination restaurant, fruit stand, local products place (such as honey), and just plain fun spot to visit. I took these pictures in winter, so there was not much local produce available.
Many of these family-owned stores in Mississippi have folk art, hand-painted signs, and souvenirs (stuff) for your viewing pleasure. European travelers love these local institutions.
Mallory (who is my neighbor) generously let me take pictures inside. This was a 1-sec exposure.
The honey is local - use it to develop resistance to pollen. The bread and cookies are excellent. My recommendation: visit and sit awhile. Patronize these local vendors.

Photographs taken on Kodak Tri-X 400 film with a 1971-vintage Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic camera and 35mm f/3.5 Super-Takumar lens. I developed the film in Kodak HC-110 developer. This 35mm lens flares at the bare light bulbs, but I rather like the effect. A thin emulsion film may exhibit less of this flare. Scanned on a Plustek 7600Ai film scanner.