It’s cats, no more dogs

Prior to starting the project I looked at the book Lupus: Portrait of a Missouri River Town. Some of my favorite images from the archive were the ones I have posted below. It was obvious that dogs ruled the roost in Lupus, 40 years back. When I set my foot on Lupus I was greeted by a pack of five cats. They all are pets to Diana Denman. She moved to Lupus in 1977, two years after the book was published. She is a ceramic artist.

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All images above are courtesy Photojournalism Archive of Angus and Betty McDougall Center, captured in 1973 by students in the Photojournalism Program.

Images below were taken last weekend when I visited Lupus the first time.

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Lupus: Missouri River Small Town

The last two image show Diana Denman working in her ceramic studio in Lupus, Mo.

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Doug Elley and Lupus General Store

Lupus General Store and Doug Elley

Lupus General Store is one of the most prominent landmarks in Lupus. Other than the annual Chilli Festival, it’s the music concerts hosted at the Lupus General Store that draws people from all over.

The store building was constructed in 1890s. Glazed ceramic tiles adorn the front façade of the store. A gazebo and a seating area behind the store indicate that the building really isn’t a store anymore.

The sign on the front of the store reads “Sally Barris Nashville TN”. Flyers pertinent to past concerts and chairs placed inside the store indicate that the store is now a concert venue.

The store has hosted over 100 musicians from all over the U.S. and abroad. During weekends, in spring and summer the venue comes alive with music concerts.

Doug Elley, 72, a Lupus owns the store and manages the shows. Before the store turned into a music venue it was a general s ore that sold groceries and supplies to the residents. Outside the back door of the store is an old dilapidated chicken coop. When the store was operational, customers could walk in and buy a live chicken from the store.

In 1977, Elley a Columbia resident canoed down the Missouri to Rocheport. Elley was on his way to Easley in southern Boone County when it got dark and he made a stop in Lupus. He found Lupus surreal and mesmerizing.

Elley eventually moved to Lupus, bought the store building and turned it into his studio for making stained-glass art and eventually turned it into concert venue. Inside the store are interesting old souvenirs and posters from 1970s.

Field Notes

I interviewed Doug Elley, a long time Lupus resident and owner of Lupus General Store. He gave me a tour of the store. The building is a treasure trove of old souvenirs. The window light inside the store and the rustic objects makes it a delightful place to make still life images.

Most of the images I made that day were quick and dirty. I am hoping to take my tripod and spending some time making some still life image. Doing so would almost be therapeutic.

I made a few images of Elley while he showed me around. But he moved very quickly and talked so I did not end up making anything interesting enough other than the one shot where Elley is in the middle of the store looking through his register/book. (Image posted below)

Once I figured that Elley was interested in my project, I knew I could return to photograph him again. So I focused most of my effort towards gaining information on the town  and interviewing him.

Elley sketched a town map for me and noted the people that live in each of the houses in town. He also noted down which were the best people to interview about the towns history. He also warned me about a home in town where a man who is an alcoholic and apparently seldom wears clothes lives. Elley warned me that it would be unsafe to visit this home.

It turned out that Elley is a geologist and worked for DNR. This was delightful because we had something in common. We ended up spending over an hour or so talking about Karst topography and contemplating how the Missouri lead belt must have formed.

Before I realized I had spent three hours talking to him. Elley said I could come camp in his backyard should I decide to spend the weekend shooting in town. He also invited me to come shoot this Friday when he is hosting a concert at the store.

Following are the image series on Lupus General Store and Doug Elley.

The front facade of Lupus General Store

The front facade of Lupus General Store

Outside the back door of the Lupus General Store is an old dilapidated chicken coop. When the store was operational, customers could walk in and buy a live chicken from the store.

Outside the back door of the Lupus General Store is an old dilapidated chicken coop. When the store was operational, customers could walk in and buy a live chicken from the store.

Doug Elley, the owner of Lupus General Store looks at a book inside the store.

Doug Elley, the owner of Lupus General Store looks at a book inside the store.

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Doug Elley, the owner of Lupus General Store points out at flyers with information on music concerts held at the store.

A view of the seating area inside the Lupus General Store. The venue is only open on the days of music concerts.

A view of the seating area inside the Lupus General Store. The venue is only open on the days of music concerts.

An old poster hangs on the living area on the second floor of the store building.

An old poster hangs on the living area on the second floor of the store building.

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The living area on the second floor of the store building.

A view of the garage across the Lupus General Store.

A view of the garage across the Lupus General Store.

A box of old glass bottles sit in a box in the storage attic of the Lupus General Store.

A box of old glass bottles sit in a box in the storage attic of the Lupus General Store.

A stuffed bunny sits on a couch in the seating area of the store.

A stuffed bunny sits on a couch in the seating area of the store.

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A view of the house next to the Lupus General Store_NRS0116

An array of shoes place as a display on the top of a piano.

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A view of the piano and souvenirs inside the Lupus General Store.

Revisiting a Missouri River Town: 40 Years Later

About Lupus

Lupus is a small town located on the bank of Missouri River in Moniteau County, Missouri. According to the 2010 census, the town has a population of 33. The town was originally named Wolfe’s Point. When it was discovered that another city in Missouri was named Wolfe’s Point, the town was named Lupus. The change was made on the suggestion of a local schoolteacher. Lupus means wolf in Latin.

In 1975, the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri published a book of photos along with the history and essay about the diminishing population of the town titled Lupus: Portrait of a Missouri River Town.

Field Notes

On Saturday, I visited Lupus and began photographing the town. I started by walking around town and taking photographs of the landscape. I was carrying a small mirrorless camera for the shoot. I thought that it would appear low key and informal.

I talked to two residents who were working in their yard. Both the residents were aware of the book that was published in 1975 by the Photojournalism Department at MU. They seemed exited about the idea of me wanting to document their town 40 years later. They spent extensive time talking about the 38 years they have lived in town. Both the residents moved to Lupus two years after the book was published. One of them was Doug Elley who owns Lupus General Store.

I had visited Lupus during the 2013 Chilli Festival. The feel of the town was so different during the festival as opposed to the two visits I made over this past weekend. It almost seemed like a ghost town. During my Saturday visit I mostly captured the landscape and buildings around town. It helped me ease out a bit before beginning to photograph people.

After editing my first take, I feel glad that I had an opportunity to photograph the buildings around town before spring because currently there is no foliage on the trees. This gives an unobstructed view of the old and run down buildings in town. The town is declining and the lack of leaves serves as a symbolic of the decline of the town. I plan on taking pictures of the town from the same vantage points after the leaves are back. It would be interesting to see how these images stack up against each other.

After taking to Elley, I found out that none of the residents photographed in 1973 by the students in the MU Photojournalism program live in Lupus now. The town currently has a population of 29. There is no school or post office in the town. Most of the town’s people are either artists or hold jobs out of town.  In recent years, the town is know for its chili festival, held every fall, which draws over a thousand people from the surrounding area.

Lupus: Missouri River Small Town

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Lupus: Missouri River Small Town

Lupus: Missouri River Small Town

About Portraiture

Last week, I attended a seminar in Saint Louis that was presented by photographer Joyce Tenneson. Tenneson is an American fine art photographer known for portraiture work. In the beginning of her career she focused on the self-portrait, but from the early 1980s she concentrated on photographing others. Tenneson’s work has been shown in over 150 exhibitions worldwide, Her work has been widely curated by museums and galleries. Her photographs have appeared on covers of Time, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Premiere, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine.

According to Tenneson, a portrait is a moment shared by a photographer and the subject, connecting with the viewer. She says, “Through a persons face we can potentially see everything – the history and depth of that person’s life, as well as their connection to an even deeper universal presence.” Tenneson said that she finds the process of making portraits deeply psychological.

I find her work beautiful and enigmatic. Translucent gauze, veils and fabrics drape her models. At other times it’s unexpected props such as a shark jaw or a snake skeleton. At the first glance, the surreal beauty of her work will likely have one dismiss her work as pretty portraiture. As you delve deeper into the images and examine the props she uses, you realize that through her work she is expressing her opinion or observations about the society. Tenneson says, “I think of my work as very polarizing; either people really do like it and are touched by it or they really don’t get it at all. It’s not accessible to all people at the same level.”

Tenneson interview’s her subjects before she photographs them. She also mentioned that she tend to touch her subjects because she thinks that’s a good way to connect with her subjects and put them at ease. I had an opportunity to talk to Tenneson during the two breaks. I found her very kind, calm and observant. I think that this trait helps her gain access and connect with people she photographs.

Some of Tenneson’s projects that I viewed:

Transformations
Wise Women
Amazing Men

It is obvious that Tenneson’s portraiture of women is far more superior than men.

After attending Joyce Tennson’s seminar, I went home a pulled up a notebook where I had noted remarks on portraiture made by Alec Soth. I had an opportunity to listen to him during a gallery talk. I thought it would be interesting to compare their work and their process.

Soth is an American photographer whose work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and around the world.

According to Soth, portraits are a reflection of the distance between the subject and the photographer. Soth believes what a photographer captures in a portrait is the energy that cycles between him/her and the subject.

I have heard photographers say that putting your subject at ease is of paramount importance in order to be able to capture their personality. However, I believe that it is not possible to capture every facet of a person’s personality in a portrait.

Hearing Soth’s and Tenneson’s perspective reinforces my thought. A portrait encompasses the shared moment between the subject and the photographer. If you share a positive energy in that moment it would be visible in your images. If your subject were at discomfort; it would be apparent in the portrait.

Soth said that people have different facets to them. Sometimes they can be soft and at other times outgoing, confrontational or bold. A photographer can apply these facets of their personality to that image making process. When one applies his or her soft side to an image, the outcome is soft images. Over the years Soth has moved from applying his soft persona to applying a more confrontational side of him to the process of image making.

For Soth the process helped him evolve as a photographer and find his voice. Soth quoted Wegge during his talk, “Photography is not for the nellebelle. You have to be tough”. This quote summarized Soth’s philosophy of using confrontation to make strong images.

Soth said that a photographer is the protagonist in his images. He shows the world his view or his perspective. The arc of a narrative is what the photographer is trying to say or the photographer’s voice.

I thought Soth provided a very unique perspective on capturing portraits and drove home the point that it is important to be emotionally present on the scene with the person one is photographing. You have to hear, smell, sense, and feel. In Soth’s case he confronts, and that is visible in his portraits that look edgy.

Some of Soth’s work I viewed:
Sleeping by the Mississippi
Dog Days, Bagota