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Small town America: Port Orford, OR by Nigel Rumsey

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I have a great fondness for small town America. That eclectic mix of industry, commerce and residence rarely fails to entrance me. One of my longest-held ambitions is to take a few months out and complete a long-term documentary photography project in a small American town. I rather ambitiously see it as a scaled-down version of W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh project, with maybe slightly fewer than his 17,000 images. We spent our holiday in Oregon last year and in a small echo of that ambition while there I tried to document the buildings along US Route 101 in the town of Port Orford.

documentary photography shot of unmarked building, Port Orford, OR

For those who are in a hurry to get somewhere, and who are not flying, US Route 101 has been superseded by Interstate 5, but at one time it was the route along America's West coast. For 1,550 miles it runs near the mighty Pacific ocean.

..... a scaled-down version of W. Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh project .... slightly fewer than his 17,000 images

Even despite its inter-state scope when it runs through hundreds of small towns it becomes Main Street, the strip onto which stores open their doors. Onto its sidewalks churches open and schools empty, thousands of small General Stores, fast food restaurants and industry trades along its length. When you pull out of Coos Curry Supply in Port Orford it's easy to forget you're on ribbon of blacktop stretching from Port Angeles at the very top of Washington state, a wet two miles from the Canadian border, to Los Angeles in sunny Southern California.

documentary photography shot of Coos Curry Supply a hardware store in Port Orford, OR

On this trip I ran out of time in Port Orford, route 101 was pulling me ever northward, but I'm sure I'll be back to both to Port Orford and hopefully for even longer to some, as yet, unknown small town at which I can point my lens.

documentary photography shot of Chevron gas station, Port Orford, OR

documentary photography shot of gas filling rig, Port Orford, OR

Riding the San Francisco streetcar by Nigel Rumsey

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This guy was in quite a bad way. He'd lost more than the skin off of one of his knees at some point and was wearing the sort of ground in dirt you don't get in a few days - he'd been sleeping rough, as we euphemistically call sleeping on the cold, unforgiving ground, for some time. Coming from London I suppose I've got used to seeing people sleeping rough on the streets, maybe I don't always notice them. To a degree they've become part of the fabric of the city. I was far from prepared, however, for the sheer number of those inhabiting every public space in San Francisco.

Coming from London I suppose I've got used to seeing people sleeping rough on the streets, maybe I don't always notice them.

Our friend here was in better health than many, he was drinking, yes, but he was lucid, he was aware of what was happening around him. So many seemed to occupy a world of their own. In some way with us and yet somewhere else at the same time. I'm sure drugs have a lot to do with it. But it seems far too easy to dismiss it as something they brought on themselves.

I had to remind myself I was on vacation in one of the wealthiest cities, in the wealthiest country in the world. This is California in the United States of America. The home of the dot com billionaire, California alone has the world's eighth-largest economy.

Surely it can do more to help him and the hundreds like him.

Randy: typing NYC by Nigel Rumsey

Randy sitting typing on New York street Randy, strangely enough, was sitting on the kerb in Chelsea (NYC) typing a letter. We had a great chat he explained that he ran a business selling used records from outside of a disused shop. Apparently the landlord is gradually trying to close down the businesses on the block so it can be redeveloped, so Randy has set up his stall outside one of the vacant stores selling his records.

He told me about the changes in the area and that the majority of the creative folks had been driven out by the increasing rents. Rather a sad story and something echoed in London.

Randy was a really nice guy but I left our encounter with the sad feeling that we'll see fewer of the eccentric real New Yorkers on the street in the future.

New York City, USA

Saul Leiter: The Art of Photography by Nigel Rumsey

I finally got around to watching Tomas Leach's documentary about Saul Leiter I mentioned last week. He's such an inspiring photographer, I love his use of minimalist composition and those amazing flashes of colour. I also watched the Art of Photography episode about Saul. Ted Forbes gives a great introduction to Saul's work, he explains what inspires him in the images. If you haven't seen the documentary this is a great introduction to the work.

New York City photo book by Nigel Rumsey

I'm very pleased with the results my first self-published photo book, shot on the not so mean streets of New York City. I don't mean that to sound immodest but, not having designed and published a photo book before, it's something of a voyage into the unknown. This is one my favourite shots taken in the fabulous New York City library building on Bryant Square. NYC Public Library

If you know New York and you've not looked around the library it's certainly worth a visit. This shot is taken in the Periodicals Reading Room (I think it was called) on the ground floor, left of the entrance. You can see a full preview of the book here.