Sunday, January 3, 2016

City of History: Kenosha, Wisconsin

Yesterday, despite the fact that we've officially entered winter and the coldest part of the year, I ventured an hour south of Milwaukee to the lakefront city of Kenosha.  Kenosha is best known for its production of automobiles for Nash, Rambler, Hudson and AMC between 1902 and 1988, and has remained a city rooted to its past.  It even has historic, fully-operational streetcars that run throughout the city.

I have only been to Kenosha a few times, most memorably to visit the Bristol Renaissance Fair a few summers ago, but had never been to the downtown area.  I knew they had a lot of interesting museums, and I took the time to visit two of them, the Public Museum and the Civil War Museum.  But first I had to see the lakefront.

I knew from seeing other photos online and video on TV, that Kenosha has a very nice red lighthouse that jets out into Lake Michigan.  And I knew I wanted to add to my photographic collection of lighthouses with this one.  What I didn't know was that this part of the lakefront has 3 lighthouses including matching red and green striped ones, the green one close to its rocky coast and the red one further out into the lake.  I tried to get a good photo of pairs of these lighthouses, and a couple of them turned out better than I expected.  I had used my telephoto lens when I was in Port Washington because the lighthouse there was so far away from land, but since the red lighthouse was so close, I was able to use my wide-angle lens (and my polarizing filter) to get the lighthouse pairs.

The lakefront also has some cute sculptures in its Harborpark.  My favorite was this pig with a tuba:

After getting as many photos as I could at the lakefront before the sun rose too high, I headed over to the Public Museum and the Civil War Museum which, conveniently, sit side-by-side down the street. 

The Public Museum was small, but free (donations encouraged), and their main exhibit was a history of the Kenosha area which went back all the way to before the ice age, and included indigenous animals, the life of Native Americans in the area, and the bones of a mammoth that was discovered there.  They also have a second floor of rotating exhibits. 

The Civil War museum (which costs $9 in admission) was fascinating.  Every hour on the hour, they have a 15-minute 360 degree film where they show the lives of Union soldiers which feature professional reenactors and was filmed at Old World Wisconsin.  They also present a complete history of the war with makeshift buildings including stocked general stores, a train depot, and boarding houses, each with newspaper clippings of the war plastered to their walls, so you get a year-by-year account.  Like the Public Museum, they also have a second floor of rotating exhibits.

There was one more museum I wanted to visit, but I ran out of energy.  That was the Dinosaur Museum.  That will be something for another day in Kenosha. 


Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolution: I am a Photojournalist

Milwaukee River

I am not an artist.  Despite the fact that photography is considered an art form, and is my passion, I need to stop striving to consider my work as art.  My work would be considered photojournalism, and I have finally come to terms with that fact. 

You might think, that's obvious.  This is a blog after all, the hobbyist version of a news publication.  And it's a blog about tourist spots around my part of Wisconsin.  Automatically that makes it photojournalism.  But, and I think you might agree with me, all photographers want their work to be elevated to art, despite the fact that art is subjective.  In 2015, I struggled with the fact that I didn't think my photography would never be featured in a gallery or sold at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.  I struggled with the fact that my photographs were simply "snapshots".

The word "snapshot" has become a bit of a dirty word in photography.  It has come to mean a photo that anyone with a cell phone can take, even though the software on some of these phones can turn any photo taken into art.  But, what makes a picture taken with your fancy camera (or your phone) into a "photograph"?  According to David Peterson, who wrote on Digital Photo Secrets, photography "should have some quality that makes the viewer either feel an emotion or think about a concept."  And I think that's the best way to put it.  A photograph, as art, should be something not normally seen (like with street photography) and/or makes you go "Wow!" (like a great landscape). 

Community United Methodist Church, Elm Grove, Wisconsin

Great photojournalism can do this as well.  In fact, the greatest influence in my photography has been old issues of Life magazine.  When I was in middle school, my mother bought a copy of Life's 50th anniversary edition, over a thousand pages of photographs from the magazine's history that featured the greats such as Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks and Robert Capa among others.  I poured over those photographs for hours, over and over again.  But, everyday photojournalism informs more often than it inspires.  In fact, photojournalism is supposed to be just a snapshot.  Photographers who work for the Associated Press cannot manipulate or stage their photos for ethical reasons, a topic that made news last year.

I'm happy to consider myself a photojournalist.  I like informing people, through my photos, of great places, fun events, and the beautiful areas I get to visit week after week.  Are they snapshots?  A resounding "Yes!"  My goal is to see my work in magazines, both online and in print, not hung on a wall.  That makes me a photojournalist.  My resolution for 2016 is to embrace this label and stop worrying if I will ever be an artist. 

Old World Wisconsin