Saturday, May 24, 2014


Two subjects that I find myself returning to are scenes of decrepitude and recognizable abstracts, and sometimes I am able to combine the two, as in the following.

The first is of an ancient grain elevator on the old Pabst Brewery campus northwest of downtown Milwaukee.  The elevators are built out of individual ceramic tiles, each perhaps a foot and a half square and slightly curved.  What caught my eye was the fact that the tiles were different colors and exhibited different levels of deterioration.  I also liked the silvery patina covering some of the tiles.

Here is another photo from the same area, which shows a foundational crack at the base of those grain elevators.

Across a narrow alley from the grain elevators was a small building exhibiting a good deal of paint failure, as illustrated in the following shots.

This area is undergoing extensive renovation and I probably should have not been there.  But I visited after work hours and wasn't getting in anyone's way.  There was not a lot of light in the alley and I took these with the help of a tripod.  Because paint failure occurs in a more or less random fashion, one of my choices was the image's composition.  In the first shot I wanted to be sure I included all four coats of paint.  In the second I wanted to position the darkest area toward the upper right corner of the image.

Below is a shot from the interior of one of my other favorite locations, the Solvay Coke Plant on the south side of Milwaukee.  This is a shot of a plastered wall.  The one recognizable item in the shot is the light switch in the lower right corner.  Again, there was little light, and I was using a tripod to ensure adequate exposure time without worrying about camera shake.  This was taken at f/5.6 for 1/10 second at a 200 ISO.

I'm confident that the switch has not been operational for at least 25 years.

Another case of paint failure was actually a graffiti site in Milwaukee's Walker's Point area on the former grounds of the Sprecher brewery (before it moved to Glendale).  Here are a couple of the shots that I took at that location.

Again, I was most concerned with color and overall composition.  The primary warehouse for the former brewery is pretty much totally derelict.  The large (locked) double-entry doors to the building were in a serious failing state, and I chose to take a shot of the bases of doors, which were in particularly poor condition.

The upper portions of the doors had been painted a brilliant blue, and I liked the overall look of the graffitied doors, handles, and lock.

When I returned to this area a few days later, I found that the doors had been painted black to cover up the blue paint.  Perhaps a subsequent graffiti artist had painted something that the property's overseers objected to.  In any event, while I was busy shooting some of the graffiti, I was approached by a young man with the word "Security" on his shirt.  Nice guy who had been watching me on surveillance cameras and had mistaken my camera equipment for a graffiti spray gun.

© 2014 John M. Phillips

1 comment:

  1. John, you can a picture that appears to be trash and turn it into an interesting photo. Great talent!!