May 09, 2009

On the Dirt in Phoenix

For the first time I can recall, I took two showers in under twelve hours. It's only May. Honestly, it's not too bad. Hundred-degree heat yes. Oppressive, yes. Bright, yes. But dry, blessedly dry. So with a bottle of water stolen from my as-yet-unseen hosts' stainless steel refrigerator, I set out into Phoenix on foot.

There is a method to the madness that is the Phoenix Public Library, and should you fail to ascend the flights to the fifth floor, you will never know what it is. The roof is suspended from columns which never touch it. The building turns a blank face to the street, and opens in curtain walls of glass to the north and south. The interior will never see direct sunlight thanks to fins and louvers and the concrete cradles simple metal shelves. I liked it, even though it was not an aesthetic that appeals to me. It has a rare design integrity and a promising type of functionality.

I found a fair trade coffee shop in a trendy up-and-coming development. This area seems dotted with these, between the vacant lots, aging light industrial cum art studio, and graffiti splattered shells. They made a wonderful smoothie and frittata to give me fuel for a seven block quest down Roosevelt Street in search of disposable cameras. I got propositioned as a hooker on the corner of 7th St. I don't know what about blue jeans, a straw cowboy hat, and the New York Times spells h-o-o-k-e-r, but apparently they thought better of the question fairly quickly.

I like photographing with disposable cameras. There is no safety net. No fancy zooms or exposure corrections or auto-focus. A disposable camera can only take a picture of exactly what it is you see. It is a good challenge and I've had luck with them before, so rather than pack my nice Canon and fight with batteries which never stay charged and a bag whose strap drags at my shoulder, I just slip a little plastic camera in my pocket and away I go. I do feel guilty a bit about indulging in disposable culture, but hey, this is art! Right?

My first impressions of Phoenix: brown, mountains, heat, sun, concrete, flowers, contradictions.

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