Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Too old to rock 'n roll, too young too die

On a Friday night in April of '68 I can still remember the anxious excitement  I felt as a teenager sitting about 15 feet from the stack of speakers while awaiting the the first rock concert I had come to see with a bunch of friends. That night Cream performed with such magnificent raw energy that I thought I was having a spiritual moment. Hooked, I came back to see Jefferson Airplane, The Who, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Steppenwolf and The Doors - all bands I saw while in high school. To support my habit I took a camera along.

Grace Slick onstage at The Philadelphia Spectrum and backstage after the concert. Jorma Kaukonen playing "Embryonic Journey" 

Rock Photography was easier then, I would by the cheapest tickets available( I saw Hendrix and Led Zepplin for five dollars) and show up with my Nikon ( a camera my father had given me) and a guard would escort me to the stage and allow me time to shoot. Today they confiscate your camera.

The original band members of "The Who"

I would soup the E6 I shot in the basement in the wee hours of the morning, go to bed while it dried and then mount the transparencies in slide holders before I left for school. After school I would hop on a bus to go to the "Evening Bulletin" and sell my shots.

Steppenwolf at the Electric Factory.

John Bonham of Led Zepplin

The Doors at the Roxy in LA

During the late 60’s bands sang of peace and love while acid was passed out and Jim Morrison and The Doors were very much associated with that scene. His Oedipal nightmare of ‘The End’, the doom of ‘Hyacinth House’, the ecstasy of ‘Light My Fire’ invoked his potent passions. The one thing he shared with Jimi Hendrix and so many others was that in the end, his body was too worn down, his heart too weak, he had already seen and done and drunk too much.

If you can just get your mind together
Then come on across to me
We'll hold hands and then we'll watch the sunrise
From the bottom of the sea 

Jimi was never part of any movement. Not the peace and love Airplane – Dead – Quicksilver acid rock movement of San Francisco, or the English Invasion nor the folk-rock peerage of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. His journey was driven by a unique vision to push the envelope of poetry, spirituality and psycho-sexual exploration in music as far as possible. Seeing Jimi in concert was like putting my mind in a wind tunnel and turning on a blender to make a mind-wind shake. I’d never heard sounds like he made on his guitar. Hendrix sang that he was a voodoo child, and indeed, he created mesmerizing magic when he delved into song. 
Back in Philly after a stint in the military and four years of college after that, I get a call asking me to shoot Live Aid at JFK Stadium. The films are better, the asa's higher and I have press credentials!

During their duet on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Mick Jagger ripped away part of Tina Turner's dress, leaving her to finish the song in what was, effectively, a leotard.

When Bob Dylan broke a guitar string, Ronnie Wood took off his own guitar and gave it to Dylan. Wood was left standing on stage guitarless. After shrugging to the audience, he played air guitar, even mimicking The Who's Pete Townshend by swinging his arm in wide circles, until a stagehand brought him a replacement. 

Concert after concert, at a non stop pace, rang out as a catalytic galvanizing force for American youth. Transistor radios carried across the vast nation’s airwaves the surreptitiously subversive music of The Byrds, Bob Dylan, and, guess what, the vastly talented and overlooked black performers from Motown and Philadelphia started to capture the public imagination, integrating even the airwaves.

Eric Clapton at The Wachovia

Mott the Hoople's last concert at The Spectrum
I remember the smell of pot, heavy in the air combined with the sweat of 15,000 rock fans, the sounds, deafening all night long. I remember fights breaking out after a concert where John Lennon sang "give peace a chance"and I remember Frank Rizzo, vowing to turn the Electric Factory into a parking lot. I'm sure that todays concerts are just as meaningful to the younger generation but it's kind of sad though, the music today, and I feel sorry for the fans. Sorry that they never got to see Blind Faith!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Capilla de Santa Rita

  I was driving thru Espanola, New Mexico when I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local café. The waitress was friendly and seeing my backpack on the floor next to me, asked me where I was headed. “El Santuario in Chimayo” I replied while looking over my map. “Have you ever heard of Santa Rita Capilla?” she asked. I’m not an authority on pueblo churches but I did do enough background reading before my trip to know that I never heard of this place. I told the waitress that I never heard of Santa Rita and asked her where it is. “It’s on Route 64, high on a hill top, it’ll be on your left hand side” she said. I was curious, my mother was named after Saint Rita, the patron saint of the impossible, so I finished my coffee and went to look for this chapel. It didn’t take long to find it; it was just like the waitress said, high up on a hill on route 64, just one problem, to gain access I had to enter private property.
I stopped in front of the house that seemed to front the property and knocked on the door. An older woman, trim and gracious, answered the door. She was obliging and gave me her permission and a key to a gate that separated the flat ground behind her house and the start to a very high hill. The climb was quite an experience.
  The skies were electric blue and a crystal breeze carried the cool scent of autumn and the smell of pinion pines and sage. As I trudged up the slope out of breath, I crossed my fingers and hoped for a clear view, with the chapel visible in the distance. I was lucky! Finally at the top, I took my time and allowed myself to rest long enough to shoot without my heart pounding. Red desert rock, golden cottonwoods and white-barked aspens were in the distance. As I contemplated the image on the ground glass, I was thinking about light, filtration, and development, at the same time I was also seeing line, form, and color. I chose to use medium format for my work - the larger image area and the requirement to use a tripod requires a pace that I feel make stronger and more interesting photographs.
  After about an hour I felt that I was ready to take a look inside. A  front door of rotted wood let me into a tiny room guarded by statues of St. Rita and the Blessed Mother. Among the votive candles and rosaries there was some old newspapers, sitting on the small bench. I sat down and read them. What I was reading in these old yellowed newspapers is the story of how the chapel of Santa Rita came to be. Here is that story.
Shortly before World War 1, Pedro Fresquez was engaged to a woman in Chimayo. He had to leave her to serve in the infantry in Italy and during a deadly tank assault he took refuge in a chapel named Santa Rita. He prayed fervently to the patron Saint of the Impossible and promised if he survived he would construct a chapel in Her honor. He survived the war and true to his promise he built the chapel on the hilltop and was married to his fiancée shortly after. He and his family led a good long life protected by Santa Rita, the patron Saint of the Impossible.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cadillac Ranch

Standing along Route 66 west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were buried, nose-down, in the dirt, supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza. They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.

That was in 1974. People would stop along the highway, walk out to view the cars -- then deface them or rip off pieces as souvenirs. Stanley Marsh 3 and The Ant Farm were tolerant of this public deconstruction of their art -- although it doomed the tail fins -- and eventually came to encourage it.
Decades have passed. The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars. They are stripped to their battered frames, splattered in day-glo paint splooge, barely recognizable as automobiles. Yet standing in front of the cars you can’t deny that this is art in one form or another. It is a feat in itself to bury one car like this up to its windshield at such a weird angle. But to put down ten in a row at precisely the same angle is impressive and shows that the artist put a lot of time and effort into it. The piece is also something of a satirical comment on modern day consumer and automotive society. These cars are not cheap and burying ten of them like this sends a pretty strong message about how our society is built around disposable items and how the automobile for all its usefulness is reduced to a massive hunk of steel and rubber once it’s rendered useless. Today, Cadillac Ranch is more popular than ever. It's become a ritual site for those who travel The Mother Road. The smell of spray paint hits you from a hundred yards away; the sound of voices chattering in French, German, and UK English makes this place all the more interesting. I was here just after a downpour, and yet a steady procession of acolytes trudged through the ankle-deep mud to make their oblations. Many were barefoot, cheerfully slogging through the muck of livestock droppings and spray can trash, happy to be there.

Tourists are always welcome at Cadillac Ranch. If you bring spray paint, make sure to also bring a camera. Because whatever you create at Cadillac Ranch will probably only last a few hours before it's created over by someone else.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I grew up in Philadelphia and have spent years photographing the areas monuments and buildings as well as overlooked and unexpected places. This part of the state has evidence of a richness and grace that separates it from other cities and rewards even the casual viewer with a blending of history and architecture.

The Swann Memorial Fountain was designed by sculptor Alexander Calder and was completed in 1924 as the centerpiece of Logan Square and the Parkway. Logan Circle is surrounded by a number of important institutions: the Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Academy of Natural Science, Moore College of Art and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

Located on the banks of the Schuylkill River near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fairmount Water Works was once the sole source of the City of Philadelphia’s water. Almost from the day the waterwheels began turning, its classic Greek and Roman architecture and cutting-edge engineering made it an international 19th century tourist attraction renowned for melding nature and technology. A technological wonder in its time, the Water Works began operation in 1815 and soon attracted international visitors. During the greater part of the 19th century, it was the second most popular tourist site in the United States after Niagara Falls.

Boathouse Row is home to Philadelphia’s rowing community, and is a leading epicenter of the nation’s championship aspirations for the sport. The boathouses are also home away from home for more high school competitors than any other U.S. city and a foundation for the nation’s first and largest community of master’s athletes. Each year, Philadelphia hosts nearly twice as many regattas as the closest competitor city Boston. 

If you would like to see full size versions of these and others from my “Philadelphia Area” portfolio please contact me at: 

Or call me at
(610) 998-9505

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Black and White Photography?

Black and white photography has enjoyed a richly-deserved renaissance in recent years, and it allows us to look at the subject matter in a more direct and elemental manner. In fact, some people believe that black and white adds credibility by offering a less commercial point of view than color photography.

Quality black and white photography is a true art, given the high degree of subjective judgment involved with the process. However, it need not be a lost art, particularly if photographers and their clients are clearly communicating their expectation and work together.

Every good print begins with a quality photograph and no amount of fine-tuning in photoshop can compensate for a poor photo. A professional photographer experienced in his craft has planned each shot by determining lighting, composition and film selection (although digital far outpaces film today it doesn’t mean film is any less viable)

The final outcome of the work hinges on a diverse combination of factors starting with a superior photograph; making a quality image of the proper size and determining the best conversion to final output, to name a few. Below are a few of my recent assignments where black and white photography was a request.

If you know anyone who is looking for fine black and white photography please feel free to share this link.


Jams Evangelista


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Penitente morada, Abiquiu. NM

Three crosses stand silhouetted against the sky on a cliff in the village of Abiquiu, New Mexico. Nestled on the ridge of the cliff stands a small adobe building that appears to be a chapel. The Morada is a meeting place of the Brothers of Light, known as the Penitentes. Built, by best estimations, in the late 1700's, it is a symbol of both spiritual independence and spiritual conformity. The Hermanos Penitentes — Brotherhood of the Penitent — were once comprised, in part, by some of the lowest strata of their society, former Native American slaves called "genizaros."

The Brothers' pious observances are centered around the Passion of Jesus and the spirit of penance.. Many Brotherhood rites formerly involved expressions of a penitential spirit through self-flagellation, cross bearing, and other forms of mortification. Sometimes, in the past, a Brother was tied to a large cross during a short simulation of the Crucifixion on Good Friday. Unfortunately, these practices attracted undue attention from uncomprehending outsiders, and the Brothers were forced to alter their devotional patterns, becoming more secretive in order to protect their right to worship according to tradition.

If you choose to seek out this place of prayer be sure to observe all No Parking and No Trespassing signs: the residents of Abiquiú are very protective of their village.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why I Photograph

                                     A family of four generations from the Tiwa Pueblo

Photographers are often asked why they do what they do. Often by themselves, as they sit wondering why they didn't become corporate lawyers or baseball players or race car drivers. I can't speak for my colleagues, but as far as I am concerned, I photograph because I really have no other choice. This is what I do. This is what I am.

I am in the business of storytelling. I always have been, always will be. It is what I've been doing since I was a kid. Telling stories, bringing life to characters, devising plots, visualizing scenes and staging sequences of events, images that tell a story. All in exchange for a penny, a smile or a tear, and a little of your time and attention. 

I photograph for a living. I’ve been shooting to make ends meet since I left school. It is my way of surviving, of earning a living and of navigating this world. It is my way of bringing something to the table, contributing what I believe is the best thing I have to offer for others to enjoy. 

I have shot for major corporations and backyard graduation parties, for advertising agencies, medical establishments and architects. Richard Avedon said “And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.” I couldn't agree more. 

As I said, I am in the business of storytelling. This is an art, a craft and a business, and I thank the Gods of Light for that. I believe that when you look at something I've shot and pay for it, both in terms of your money and something much more valuable, your time, you are entitled to get the best I can produce. This is not a hobby, it is a profession. 

I am happy I survived in this business, and I am happy we met along the way. I plan to keep on doing this until they shoot me down (pun intended). Till then, I'm always working on something new.