submission: CURRENTS 2012

Hurricane Rita totally destroyed my grandparent’s house in 2005. When I moved to Louisiana 5 years later, there was nothing left. I took this series of photos in and around the village of Henry, LA to remind myself that the storm didn’t destroy everything.

I’m more nervous than usual about this submission, because I can’t help but think that my habit of using so many different cameras is going to count against me. Like the judge will look at it and go “Ugh WTF, this is all over the place”. But hey, I am the kind of photographer than I am. I’M A FREE FUCKING SPIRIT, YOU CAN’T CHAIN ME TO ONE CAMERA!!


LC-A+: Perry, LA 14, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.



rice silos 2 (B&W), originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.




cow cemetery 21, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.



landry cemetery 3, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.


granny’s property 2, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.


plant in tree, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This exhibit will be displayed during PhotoNOLA at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. It would be a personal milestone to be in a museum, and a LOT of people would see my work. Notification is October 15th!

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another show, another trip to NOLA

I decided to go to the Push Pin Show, basically because I will use any excuse to spend time in New Orleans. There are things I love about the country, but it’s also nice to recharge my batteries in a more liberal environment. Saturday evening was hot and humid, but a cold front moved in that night, making Sunday quite pleasant: temps in the low 80s, a slight breeze, and LOW HUMIDITY.

A push pin show is just what it sounds like. I didn’t want to be greedy, so I only brought 2 photos along. I had bought some pre-cut mats at Michael’s, but the sizes were wonky and I didn’t like the way they looked, so I opted to just tack ’em to the wall (which is what most other people were doing, anyway). The pins aren’t going through the actual image, since I have a white border, so if/when they’re matted it won’t show anyway. I also added one of my business cards, which has the address of my Etsy shop and my Facebook page, among other info. I have a couple of new “likes”, so clearly that was a good idea.

This dog was just cold chillin’ at the gallery.

This trip I decided I wanted to explore a little bit of the Bywater neighborhood, which is where the HomeSpace Gallery is located. I saw a bit of it last year, when we had a photo meetup in the Marigny–the 2 neighborhoods sort of bleed together–and went to a tintyping demo at the gallery. It’s a sort of working class/boho artistic neighborhood–I read an article in a NYC publication that compared it to Red Hook, which I found fitting. It reminded me of Lincoln Heights, the Los Angeles neighborhood where my sister and brother-in-law live: you get a sense that this a real place where real people actually live, and not some tourist playground.

I decided to pass up the free hotel breakfast on Sunday morning in favor of something actually worth paying for. Elizabeth’s is at the end of Gallier Street, a residential street, and it’s in a converted, 100-year-old house. I had the duck waffle: duck and sweet potato hash with a well of pepper jelly, served on a cornbread waffle. And I couldn’t resist a side of praline bacon, their specialty. (You could tell who was from Louisiana and who was there from somewhere else for the Saints season opener by listening to them order it: in Louisiana you pronounce it “prah-leen”, but everyone else says “pray-leen”.) It was all ridiculously delicious of course, in addition to being enough food for two people, and the service was fast and friendly. The ‘rents are going to NOLA this weekend for a medical convention, and I told Mom they HAVE to eat here while they’re in the city.

In my ongoing quest to photograph every cemetery in the city (I could live to be 100 and still fail at that goal), I went to St. Roch. There’s a chapel dedicated to the titular saint, who Catholic residents prayed to during the cholera and yellow fever epidemics of the 18th and 19th centuries, right in the middle of it. And I’d read there’s a strange little grotto tacked onto the side, filled with medical braces, cast-off prostheses, and even body part casts. They’ve been left by people who believe they were cured by intercession of the saint. It was (Firefly nerd alert!) morbid and creepifying, but really interesting (and photogenic!). And I literally stumbled over another photographer as I was leaving the chapel (he was lying on the ground), so clearly a popular spot.

(I’ve been thinking NOLA cemeteries or Louisiana cemeteries or maybe just rural cemeteries would be a good photobook idea, but I also feel like it’s been done. Opinions?)

A note: St. Roch is supposedly a bad neighborhood, but it seemed quiet and peaceful while I was there. It was a Sunday morning, I imagine not much crime goes down on Sunday mornings. As in any allegedly “bad” neighborhood, use basic common sense (be aware of your surroundings, don’t flash your equipment or carry lots of cash or wear loud clothing) and you’ll be fine.

I had wanted to go to Conrad’s Store, a funky thrift store on St. Claude’s (down the street from Island of Salvation Botanica, where I’ve been a couple of times), but they never opened. I suspect Conrad preferred to stay home and watch the Saints game. Maybe I’ll try again next month when I pick up the photos.

So instead I went to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (which is on Camp Street downtown and not in the Bywater). I had an ulterior motive: the next NOPA show will be displayed there during PhotoNOLA, and I’m probably going to make a submission. They have a couple of great photo exhibits right now, and I recognized the names (and work) of some of my fellow NOPA members: Sesthasak Boonchai’s Broken Flowers and a Heidi Kirkpatrick piece that was donated by Peter Buck.

I came across this painting on the 5th floor, and it was a deeply surreal moment because I know exactly where that is: it’s the corner of St. Mary and Sophie Wright, and it’s a few doors down from the NOPA gallery. I went into that bar the night the member’s exhibit opened–the first time I ever had a photo in an exhibit, unless you count school exhibits (and I don’t)–and ordered a whiskey sour. Is there a word for the feeling of unreality you get when you see a location that you know first-hand portrayed in art? The Germans probably have some 7-syllable word for it.

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I spent part of this weekend in New Orleans, and I can report that it’s all still there

A lot of residences still don’t have power, some streetlights were still out, and in the residential sections I saw lots of branches waiting to be hauled away, but they appear to have escaped any major destruction. They didn’t cancel Southern Decadence (a huuuge gay pride event), and my hotel was full of FABULOUS men. Which I will take over the usual gaggle of douchey fratboys any day of the week.

I went for the opening of the Odd Works photo exhibit at the New Orleans Photo Alliance gallery, which features 2 photos taken by yours truly. (It was curated by this dude. I should send him a thank you card.) It was a “soft opening”, because about 1/3 of the art is still stuck in transit. So essentially it was just an excuse to get together and drink booze and swap storm stories. I actually know some of the NOPA members now, so I spoke to people and had fun and didn’t feel like my high school’s biggest nerd at the prom. There were lofty Art-based conversations, and also conversations that involved topics like snake-handling and making fun of iPhone users. (Apparently they complained so bitterly about not being to “like” comments on photographs that Apple built a new Facebook app from the ground up. When you’ve been living without electricity for the better part of a week, this kind of technophile whining is a little grating.)

While thinking of things to do, I realized it’s been a long time since I went to a cemetery in New Orleans. When I dropped the photos off the previous weekend, the director had me leave them at his house with his wife; they live in the Garden District literally across the street from Lafayette Cemetery #1. Unlike St. Louis Cemetery, it’s in a neighborhood where you’re unlikely to get mugged–St. Louis is behind the Iberville Projects, and the city does not recommend people wander around it alone with several hundred dollars of camera equipment. And it’s only a city block square, so it’s small enough to see most of it. I went right after I checked out of my hotel and I had it mostly to myself. I shot a roll of B&W in the Lomo LC-A+ and finished the cartridge in the Rollei A110.

Then I drove up to the French Quarter because there were a couple of things I wanted to do on Royal Street. Royal is probably my favorite street in the Quarter, it’s a lot of galleries and small specialty stores and lacks the depressingly mediocre and tourist-oriented sleaze of Bourbon Street. (Other nice parts of the Quarter are Chartres, St. Ann, and Pirate’s Alley.)

I wanted to see the “Something Old, Something New” exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection. The whole thing was interesting, but that painting was fascinating. It’s telling that the pose deliberately doesn’t show the chest, where the presence or absence of breasts would have been a strong hint. I looked at for a long time and concluded that the subject is a man. There’s a hint of a shadow on the upper lip, although by itself that isn’t proof (see: Frida Kahlo, me when I get lazy about plucking, etc.). No, it’s something about the eyes. That painting was done in 1837, and it really makes you think. What would it have been like to be transgendered in a time where most people didn’t know even that existed?

Then I went to Papier Plume, my favorite pen shop and just a few blocks up the street. I needed some sealing wax and fresh dip pen nibs; I can get them on the website but I like going into the store. The owners are really friendly, and REALLY passionate about pens and inks and stuff. When I gave the woman (it’s run by a husband and wife) my Visa, she recognized my name from all the times I’ve bought online and even remembered what town I live in, and she covered the sales tax since I’m a repeat customer. (You call that “lagniappe” in Louisiana, “a little something extra”.)

Then I had lunch, then I decided that I had sweat enough for one day and came home. I might go back next weekend, which is kind of crazy, but NOPA is having a “push pin show” at the HomeSpace Gallery–that’s where Hope and I saw the tintyping demo last year. You just show up with a couple of your photos, they don’t have to be framed or anything, and you stick them on the wall any old way–literally with push pins if you want. It’s a fun and informal way to show work and meet with other photographers.

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I got first world problems, but a reliable framer ain’t one

I delivered my photos for the exhibit on Saturday, which was convenient as I’d planned to be in New Orleans anyway, for the Lomographers of Acadiana meetup (at the Audubon Insectarium). The director was out of town and he couldn’t arrange for anyone to meet me at the gallery, so he had me leave them with his wife at their house, only about a mile from the gallery. They live literally across the street from one of those great old, crumbling New Orleans cemeteries, all moss-encrusted aboveground tombs. If I lived on that street, I would be in that cemetery more often than I was in my house. (I Googled the cross streets and it looks like it’s Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.)
I had some really frustrating drama getting the damn prints done on time. To start with, the notification was 4 days late, which left me with no margin of error. So I paid extra for expedited printing and second day air… and Adoramapix delivered a bent photo. OF COURSE THEY DID. I order from them all the time, and I’ve never had a problem, but the one order that’s crucial, THAT’S the one they fuck up. And it didn’t happen during the shipping, because Adoramapix sandwiches each individual print between 2 pieces of cardboard. Those weren’t bent, and neither was the other photo in the order.
So I called them the next morning and there was a lot of screaming and begging, and I’m pretty sure that a couple of employees made fun of me in the break room that day, but it got me a re-print overnighted to me the same day, so I don’t care. Express Frames in Lafayette did a wonderful, fast job as usual—they are consistently the only part of the process that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out. They even tried dry-mounting the bent print, in case the other one didn’t arrive on time, and it did minimize but didn’t eliminate the crease.
Maybe this is normal for getting ready for an exhibit? Like everyone’s all laid back, disorganized artists, and I’m the only tightass wondering why no one has their shit together. Although I have to give it to Adoramapix: they fucked up, but they also made it right.
The ironic part, of course, is that thanks to Tropical Storm (soon to be Hurricane) Isaac, this may all be moot. The exhibit was supposed get hung this week and open on Saturday; if the city is recovering from a cat 2 landing on their head, I’m thinking the opening may be delayed.
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Odd Works exhibit


New Orleans Photo Alliance: bookmaking workshop with Frank Hamrick

Getting up at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday is seriously Not Fun, but this workshop was totally worth it. It was $30 for NOPA members, which included all the material needed to make 2 books, and some tools (bone folder, bookbinder’s awl, heavy gauge needle) we were allowed to keep. It was hosted by Frank Hamrick, who teaches at Louisiana Tech University up in Ruston. He’s not only a talented artist, but a very good teacher: I never felt lost when he was demonstrating technique, and he kept the atmosphere lively–whenever he was gluing something and it would get quiet, he would ask people to tell funny or embarrassing stories. (My embarrassing story: when I had a receptionist job about 10-12 years ago, I was supposed to answer the phone: “Thanks for calling [name of business], this is Sarah”. Once I said “Thanks for calling [name of business], this is stupid”. Yeah. One of my co-workers overheard me and never let me live it down. I was almost glad when the business went under and we all got laid off.)

I’d never thought of photo books as anything other than vanity projects–like personal coffee table books–but actually they have lots of applications. As promotional material, as a way to present a portfolio, in limited editions to be sold like a you would a painting or a single framed photograph. Frank even displays his works in books, although sometimes it’s hard to get galleries to accept a book as a legitimate way to exhibit photographs. They’re so invested in the idea that the only way you display photographs is in a frame on the wall; plus they get nervous about artwork that patrons are allowed to handle.

books 3, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We made 2 different types of books. We made them totally from scratch; every board, piece of paper or fabric started out as a separate piece.

The one in the front is called a pamphlet, and is probably what you think of when you think of the word “book”: big pages folded in half and sewn through the middle, then glued between hard covers that have an adjoining spine.

The one in back is called a Japanese bound book: it’s single sheets of paper sandwiched between separate covers that have an exposed spine. We sewed ours together, but sometimes they’re bolted.

books 2, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

books 4, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

There are a few small errors: a couple of places where I used a little too much glue, the middle stitch in my Japanese book didn’t get pulled as tight as it should have, the pages of my pamphlet are a hair off center. But for a first effort, I can honestly say I’m pleased with myself. I’m especially proud of the fact that the pages are nicely lined up, and when the end sheets lay over the white paper, you can’t see any of them–they’re slightly larger than the white paper, because you don’t want the edges of the white showing. (As Frank explained it, like a well-made hamburger, where the patty is right in the center of the bun.)

When you make a photo book, obviously all the photos should follow a theme. On the drive home I was thinking about that. I kind of cheated on the portfolio I’m working on now; I picked a theme and chose existing photographs that fit that theme. I want to do a project where I think of a theme, and shoot new photos for it. I started thinking about my “newest” camera, the Rollei A110, and all the vintage cameras that I use, and the fact that film itself is sort of technically obsolete, although lots of people still use it. And I want to do something exploring the subject of “obsolescence”, and how when things no longer perform their original function they can still have or attain artistic value. Old barns, old sugar mills, old boats pulled onto dry land and allowed to rust.

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New Orleans Photo Alliance: Odd Works 2

The last juried show of 2012 is titled Odd Works. Submissions must be limited to 5-10 photos; my comment to this was “Are you sure you only want 5-10? Because I have hundreds of weird photos”.

I use a lot of multi-lensed, plastic cameras which would be fair to classify as “toy” cameras. I sometimes get slide film processed in negative chemistry. I sometimes use redscale film–35mm rolled into the canister backwards, so you’re shooting through the wrong side of the emulsion. This gives photos a red/orange tone, hence the name.

I purposely didn’t include any of these photos in my last submission, because part of me is afraid they won’t be taken seriously. That judges and galleries would turn up their collective noses and sniff that it’s nor Art, with a capital A. So I’m seeing this submission as a chance to submit some work that I otherwise probably wouldn’t.

This is open to anyone, not just NOPA members, so the chances they’ll choose something of mine aren’t as high as they were for the Members Only exhibit. But that’s not a good reason not to try!

675748-R1-10-27 cropped, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Normally I don’t submit photos of people, either. It’s not like I get their permission, and I just feel weird about exhibiting them or offering them for sale. However, if you’re marching in a Mardi Gras parade, I figure you know photos are gonna be taken, and you’re cool with it. I don’t know if this is really “odd”, but I like the grain (it was high speed film, so I wouldn’t have to use a flash), and the way the sequins on her outfit kind of flash out of the surrounding darkness.

9712neg0012, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This was taken with a Brownie Hawkeye that had a “flipped” lens: I took it out and put it back in backwards. That’s why you get that center focus, with edges that get progressively more distorted. This model camera is very popular for that particular modification, because it’s very simple to perform.

672501-R1-17-18, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is an example of “cross processing”: slide film that’s been developed in color negative chemistry. I took this last November at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

670067-R1-19-20A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I took this at the Alligator Festival last year. It’s also cross processed, but I think the subject matter is what really makes it odd. The way literally every person in the photo has classic WTF faces cracks me up. It’s going to take all my restraint not to title this something sarcastic, like “Support Your Local Sheriff”.

I took this at the aquarium in New Orleans last year, and it’s always been one of my favorites. It’s for sale in my Etsy shop, and it’s part of my portfolio. I love the colors and the way the big orange fish appears to be “leading” the little silver fish. But I especially enjoy the split aspect of above and below the water. I think it’s odd enough to qualify.

camera and books 2, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This a “through the viewfinder” shot: you connect a digital camera with the viewfinder of an old TLR camera. I use a Pringles can and electrical tape, which looks damn silly but works. The TLR I use for TTV shots is my Kodak Duaflex, which I think has the best viewfinder: crystal clear, but with enough grit to make it interesting. (Probably not a coincidence that it’s my oldest TLR.) This was a long exposure lit only with a desk lamp, which is why it looks like the room was on fire.

I took this at the Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden in Chauvin. That whole place is weird, but I thought that this was the oddest photo, probably because it’s an isolated detail taken out of context.

I think this is my best example of tilt shift. The graves really look like toys; and because the out of focus part is just greenery, your mind kind of fills in the blanks and doesn’t really require it to be in focus.

It’s a chihuahua in a sweater. ‘Nuff said. This was also taken in California, I think it was just a few weeks before I moved.

Also taken back in Fremont. I walked past this house on my way to the bus stop, and this lawn never had even one flamingo until the morning I took this. This is why you should never leave home without a camera! I think it was some kind of prank; if so, I applaud the prankster. It’s both creative and kind-spirited–no toilet paper or rotten eggs to clean up.

armless jesus diana, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is one of the first Lomography shots I ever took: the second roll in my Diana F+, which was my first Lomo camera. (The first roll was taken at my sister’s wedding a couple months before, and so underexposed I never bothered to get any of them printed.) It’s creepy, right?

Okay, so if you’ve been keeping count, you know that there are 11 photos here, one over the limit. This is where I need your help. I narrowed it down thus far from an original selection of about 25, and I’m just totally stuck. Which one do y’all think I should eliminate, and why? And don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings!

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New Orleans Photo Alliance: the Clarence John Laughlin Award

The deadline for this award is coming up, but I don’t think I’m going to try for it right now. It requires an entire portfolio of work, and I’m still putting mine together. Plus a lot of the emphasis is on the written statements–process and intent, as well explanations of all the images–and that’s also something I’m still working on. So I think I’m going to stick a pin in it for now and apply next year, when I am further along in my work.

But I am definitely going to try for it eventually, because I’m really intrigued by Laughlin’s decision to include lengthy explanatory captions with his images, something the photographic community was very slow to accept. With a visual medium, “show don’t tell” can become a rigid mantra. And obviously a photo should be meaningful on its own; but I like the idea of being able to discuss what something means on a personal level to the photographer. Take as an example:

granny’s property 2, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

If I may flatter myself, this is an interesting photo purely on visual merit alone. The color is almost shocking, like something from a Dr. Seuss illustration. And the way the dark foreground tree overhangs it gives the viewer the feeling of approaching lightness and brightness from somewhere dark and gloomy.

But what if I was able to include an explanation of why I took this photo? That it’s a tree that grows on my grandparent’s property; that since Hurricane Rita destroyed their house, the trees are all that’s left. That the only thing that even tells you there was once a house there are a few oyster shells that was once the driveway, and a small concrete slab that a storage trailer rested on. (The house itself, like so many in rural south Louisiana, was raised and didn’t have a foundation.) That looking at this photo gives me conflicting feelings of loss and comfort–so much is gone, yet something of beauty remains.

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New Orleans Photo Alliance members exhibit (round 2)

The notification day for the exhibit was May 18th. At the end of the day I hadn’t gotten an email, so I shrugged, told myself the important thing was that I’d tried, and moved on.

Four days later I got an email informing me that they’d accepted this photo–I’d had a feeling that it would be either this one, or the alligator one, if they accepted any. I guess they were behind schedule.

I ordered the print from, which I’ve used before. I don’t like Snapfish, the photo service allied with Flickr. For Christmas of 2010, I wanted to give Phil a framed photo I’d taken at Jamie’s wedding, of him walking her down the aisle. (Figuratively, since she got married in the courtyard of a hotel and not in a church.) I used Snapfish, and the photo looked awful. It was grainy–even though it was shot with a digital and was only a 5×7 print–and the colors were way more drab than they should have been.

I’ve bought film and equipment from Adorama for years, so I ordered the same print from them, and it was a hundred times better.

My first instinct was to get it printed on metallic paper, but then I started second-guessing myself. Like, oh probably all the first-timers get metallic paper, because they confuse price and flashiness with quality. But then I thought no, it really would be the best option, because of how dark it is. And I’m really glad I went with my first instinct, because it does look amazing. I did an 11×14 print.

I found a framing place in Lafayette that has a short turnaround, if you choose mats and frames they have in stock. I dropped it off today, it will be ready Monday, and Tuesday I’m driving it to the gallery in New Orleans. The exhibit opens June 9th.

I have to price the photo, because it’s going to be for sale. I priced it at $500, which seems insane, but it cost $120 to frame, and the gallery gets 30% if it sells. I want to make a profit, right? It feels too high, though. Maybe I should put it more around $350?

I also have to write an artist’s bio. It’s not like I have an impressive list of credentials and past exhibits to cite, so I mostly talked about my work and my “vision”.


Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Fremont, Sarah [last name omitted because I don’t like this blog to show up when people Google my name] studied photography in high school and at Chabot Community College. She spent many summers with her grandparents in south Louisiana, before making it her permanent residence in 2010. She still sees it with the eyes of childhood, and this is reflected in her work, which tends toward a fairy tale feeling.

Having learned her craft before the advent of digital cameras, Sarah still prefers film. Many of her photos are taken with vintage cameras. Her work demonstrates a lo-fi aesthetic which provides a nostalgic alternative to the cold, sterile perfection of digital.

Her work can be viewed and purchased online at


The 2 questions I’m still pondering are:

1. Should I sign the photo? Will that (plus the edition marking of 1/100) raise or lower the value?


2. What is the dress code for an exhibit opening, when you’re one of the featured artists?

new orleans photo alliance members only exhibit

NOPA is having a members only photo exhibit, and I decided to submit 5 photos for consideration. I spent 2 days going through my entire flickr photostream, and these are what I came up with:


This is a good example of the kinds of photos I like to take. It’s not focused or brightly lit, but would a clear photo of a stingray be more interesting? Chances are you already know what they look like.


For the most part I tried to pick more dynamic–as opposed to static–photos. Shots in motion that are unlikely to be repeated. This is one is static, but I’ve always really like the composition and the colors.


674633-R1-05-19, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I like the sky and the sun on the water and that weird light leak.


670068-R1-05-3, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I love this shot, I even had it made into postcards. It says so much about Louisiana to me, some good, some bad. I like how you can’t see the man’s head or anything of the kid handing the ticket except the hands, so you focus on the alligator.


bolts with cobwebs, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

I took this back in California, during my macro period.

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