Sunday, June 28, 2009

Arby's and COPS.

The sun is a cruel mistress. We traveled to the Gulf of Mexico and we all got burnt quite badly. Today, I headed out to Holy Cross to snap a few pictures. The following are the results.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Where the Sidewalk Ends

This morning, we visited a different part of Lakeview, which I had never been to. It reminded me a lot of Holy Cross in the sense that there were a number of abandoned structures, but no longer any FEMA trailers. It leaves you with a false sense of recovery. As we were roving around, I noticed chickens and roosters roaming as they pleased and a gentleman that was mowing his lawn. The only problem was that there was no grass. Just dirt.

Later on, I returned to St. Bernard to recreate some images from the last trip to record the progress that occurs over the span of 9 months. Overall, I think the trip was a success. The resulting images will be better, anyhow. I've become much more judicious in terms of which images are allowed to continue into the winner circle as it were. Images that aren't up to snuff, technically speaking, or can't be fixed using my Photoshop
expertise are gotten rid of. This has forced me to become a more technical shooter, which isn't a bad thing.

These last two houses are located in St. Bernard, where I photographed them in September.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Safety Dance

This morning, we revisited Tennessee Street. I was able to rephotograph Robert Green's trailers and new home, which should prove to be interesting when compared to the photographs of nine months ago. I was also able to rephotograph Chuck Byrne's trailer. Both areas have chanced an enormous amount since September. Lakeview, more than anything looked so much better and I was starting to wonder if I was in the same place as before. Robert's house is almost done being built and he'll be moving in within the next three weeks and Chuck's house is looking better than ever. New Orleans is definitely making progress, but the end is nowhere in sight.

This is a meter used to measure how much electricity a household is using. Following Hurricane Katrina, they were place on pieces of dimensional lumber and driven into the ground next to the trailers so that its occupants can have power. Lately, as trailer are taken away, outlets are being added to the pole to operate job site tools to refurbish houses.

These last two images are of Chuck Byrne and his house in Lakeview. I photographed him and his house last September.

These last two images are of Robert Green's trailers and his new house, which is being built with the generosity of the Make it Right Foundation. In return for 85% of your Road Home settlement, you can pick out a house. So, if your house cost $300,000 to build and your Road Home check is for $30,000, then you get a $300,000 worth of house for $25,500. Sweet deal, right? I'd say.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wash the Day

It seems like everybody around here is a little grumpy today. Everybody wants to get everywhere before we have to be whisked away to our next destination, before our pre-planned activity, followed by a critique. There's a lot of time passing by and not a whole lot of pictures being taken. For my project, specifically, I have very little problem photographing the trailers on the outside. The disconnect begins when I want to get inside the trailers. I'm not going to pound on these peoples' doors at 7:15 in the morning, demanding that they let me invade their privacy. Chances are they're at work, or if they aren't at work, they're probably planning on sleeping.

Another thing is that these peoples' lives don't stop and start at our discretion. I don't imagine they're thinking to themselves, "Those Minnesotans are coming, I better take the week off to better facilitate their shooting schedules." What would we be doing if we weren't on vacation? We'd either be at work, school, or home, taking advantage of what little time we already have with our families.

One thing I've really been struggling with most of all, though, is trying to figure out what my responsibility is to people that are taking this class for the first time. Do I fight tooth and nail to get to where I want, even though I have already recieved a grade for this class? Is it nescessarily ethical for me to edge out other people to get my shots? I woldn't feel right if somebody was short-changed because I absolutely had to take the group off the beaten path and use up all the good sunlight so that I could get a few more shots.

I'm now seriously considering shooting for my public telephones series while I'm down here, too, just so I can have a break from the trailers and all the absurdity surrounding them. At the end of the second day of shooting, I'm already feeling down about the project. This has the makings of a great week.

No pictures tonight. Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It is Tuesday, right?

After the blur of Monday, I awoke this morning much better rested. Today, we cruised down to the Lower 9th to visit the Holy Cross neighborhood. Things had certainly changed down there, but the changes that occurred were minor. The same buildings are empty as last time, though, with less FEMA trailers. The streets were empty, because nobody in their right mind would be outside at 6:15 in the morning. Disregarding the overwhelming odor of dead fish, our group, tenacious as ever, kept shooting. I shot a few pictures to get myself in the groove again. Later on, we met up with Robert Green, to sit down and talk to him about the current state of the Lower 9th and New Orleans as whole. It was really great to have time allocated to just talk to Robert, because he has a very clear idea of what is occurring in New Orleans and was able to teach more than a thing or two about the current state of New Orleans. So, even though none of even snapped a single frame while we were talking to him, the time was well-spent. Robert is supposed to move into his house "soon." Robert further explained that it depended on the final electrical inspection more than anything else, but that he would be able to make his house a home in the next two or three weeks. Yay, Robert!

Now, for some pictures:

This last trailer, I photographed approximately nine months ago. It's still in the same place, along with the tarp on the roof, torn to shreds. The trailers looks about the same, though. Just like all the other FEMA trailers, it constantly looks dirty, due to a poor paint job, I'm certain. If you look closely, the stains are more like rust or other oxidation than dirt.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go.

Chuck Byrne has invited us to dinner has his sister's house tomorrow night. The menu will include stuffed pork chops and seafood crepes. I'm still waiting to hear back from the leader of Team Coal to see if transportation could be facilitated. He also informed me that over by his brother's place on Wednesday night, there is a bar that offers all the crab you can eat for free. Not sure if there's a drink minimum or not, but I'll have more details later. Anybody game?

Currently in heavy rotation:

The Blend - Sunny Blue [Live, Acoustic]

Alice in Chains - The Killer is Me [Live, Acoustic]

Ben Harper - Like a King / I'll Rise [Live, Acoustic]

Saturday, June 20, 2009

lowercase letters.

I have some photos for all of you.

The Blake Road Corridor series documents the economic divide that exists in the city of Hopkins, specifically along Blake Road, between Highway 7 and Excelsior Boulevard and south of Excelsior, also on Blake Road. The community assessment can be found here (PDF, 828 KB) and the plans for the future of Blake Road is detailed here (PDF, 5.94 MB). Those documents explain the area much better than I can in writing.

North Side:South Side:
Hopkins' Commercial Districts:
The Great Reclamation:Telephone:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"As a matter of fact, I am prepared for the zombie apocalypse."

In between writing essays comparing and contrasting Sally Mann and Adrian Piper and fending off an army of invading bugs, I have managed to crank out a photograph or two. Don't get too excited, though, you probably won't see them until at least Friday night or early Saturday.

I have decided to continue my series on payphones and my investigation of Hopkins' commercial districts, while also beginning new projects documenting the ways that nature reclaims itself in urban environments and officially starting my project in the Blake Road Corridor. Overall, this process of experimentation has led me to projects that I would have likely never taken on, or I would have executed them in a different way. The thing I find most interesting is how each project has evolved so rapidly. Each progressive review has allowed each project to grow and experience its own genesis in a much shorter span of time than I could have expected.

The Rules:
01. Any project can be killed off at any time for any reason.
02. Any project that is killed off must be replaced with another project.
03. Projects can be added without killing off another project.
04. At any given time, I am not to pursue more than five projects.

As you can see, I haven't abandoned my penchant for rules, but I have become more relaxed about the ways in which the photographs are collected. My only concern is that many of the projects I have chosen to take on are more long term projects that I may not be able to complete within a reasonable amount of time. In time for, say, building a portfolio. Inevitably, I'll find a way to make it all come together.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Interpol - NYC

Matt & Kim - Daylight

TV on the Radio - Wash The Day

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obstacle I

There has been a lot of work done on the website of late. I've successfully gotten everything to display correctly in Firefox, Safari, Opera, AND Internet Explorer. Yes, even Internet Explorer, the browser that hates displaying websites correctly. Soon enough, I'll have it out in the wild and you all can try and break it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"No sir, Apple products do not cure Cancer."

So to demonstrate how valuable having your business name written into the code really is, I will inform you that by putting "Ryan McGoff Photography" into one blog post six times, I have successfully manipulated the search results that Google outputs when you search for "Ryan McGoff Photography." This blog now shows up as the second result without me really having to do much legwork. And here's you thinking this is hard. If I want to also have top results when somebody searches for a popular term like Disney, all I would have to do is insert Disney into the HTML code of the my website a number of times in order to manipulate the search results.

Before long, your images will also show up in search engines, and you'll be well on your way to taking over the world. Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? It is great, so long as you have a website that functions like a dream, which I sincerely hope I do. The mantra I've been going on is keep everything as simple as I can make it. Over-elegance causes causes confusion and frustration. We don't want that and neither do your users. If it can be said using a symbol, then why use words? That's why I have those obnoxiously large arrows flanking each side of the picture area. The arrow pointing left brings you to the previous image, while the arrow pointing to the right brings you to the next image. Could it be simpler? Perhaps, but not by much. The little button in the bottom left (don't look for it, you can't see it yet) that says "Artist Statement" will bring you to the artist statement. Who would have thought of such a thing? I don't see any need for crazy bells and whistles that only prove I can pay a web designer a lot of money.

HTML. It's a wonderful thing. It's been around since the dinosaurs and everything, including phones, can take advantage of it. Phones? Yes, phones. There are 275 million cellphone users in the United States, including 50 million that are internet capable. It's a growing market that, before long, will be as relevant as browsing the internet from a computer. The continuing problem with phones? They don't much like flash websites. Not to mention netbooks, which are also catching on and are increasingly internet cable everywhere in the US with the advent of USB dongles from major wireless telecoms. Do not get caught not catering to this market.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Refused - Tannhauser/Derive

Nirvana - Marigold

Tsunami Bomb - Jigsaw

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I know a couple of you are in the same boat as me just building your professional website. Once you build it, though, how do you get it to show up as the first result in Google searches? There are a few ways to do it without the viewer of the website even knowing you're doing it.

Alternate text is worth its weight in gold. In building my website, I have inserted "Ryan McGoff Photography" somewhere into the alternate text of every single image on every single page. That way, on any given page, "Ryan McGoff Photography" is written into the code no less than 35 times. Why is this? Web crawlers are very dumb. They're computers, after all. They don't understand the difference between good phot
os and bad, but what they do understand very well is analyzing HTML code. That alternate text is written write into it. So, if the web crawlers stumble upon your website, they'll think, "Wow, it says Ryan McGoff Photography an awful lot. This should show up as the first result when somebody types in 'Ryan McGoff Photography.'" So, I've got a web page that looks like this:

How many times would you say it says "Ryan McGoff Photography" in the alternate text? If you answered "44 times", then you should probably get a prize of some sort. Here's how it tooks if you look at the HTML code alone. As you can see, it's riddled with "Ryan McGoff Photography."

Another way you can increase the ranking of your website is to connect it to other websites. If your friend posts a link to your website on their blog, that increases your ranking even if nobody visits your site. Hopefully you will get some visits from it, which will further increase your page ranking.

Also, if you have a blog of some sort, that's a great way to increase the size of your scope, which will, you guessed it, increase your ranking, especially if you post pictures from it, which can also harbor your metadata, including your name and your website. Some of the smarter browsers can take advantage of this, so don't discount it.

So, let's review:
- Alternate text is pretty sweet.
- Talk about your friends and have your friends talk about you.
- Have a professional blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Winning Days

I meant to talk about this earlier, but I kept putting it off. FEMA has recently decided to let people buy the trailers they're living in. After removing tens of thousands of trailers already, why the change of heart? It seems odd, but Formaldehyde poisoning finally has a new, low price, ladies and gentlemen. You no longer have to be a chain smoker to enjoy all the benefits of Formaldehyde. What is that new, low price? Are you ready for this? Five bucks or less, ladies and gentlemen, and that's a screamin' deal, let me tell you!

Do you like:
- Nosebleeds?
- Difficulty breathing?
- Peristent headaches?

If you said yes to one or all of those, then I suggest you move on down to New Orleans and buy yourself a genuine FEMA trailer for the bargain price of five dollars...or less! That also happens to be the price of your neighbor's happiness. Imagine how happy your neighbors will be when they find out that trailer is not going to be leaving any time soon. If they didn't love that trailer of your before, they will surely consider it the centerpiece of your fine neighborhood.

Civic officials agree, trailers are a good investment.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Social Distortion - Prison Bound

Dan Deacon - Trippy Green Skull

Ludachrist - How Does It Feel?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dreaming of the Pretty Things

One thing I have always wondered is why music is not taught as a part of art history. Is visual art somehow more important than performance art? It should come as no surprise that I think music is an important part of any culture, but I often wonder why very few others share this same view. I'll admit, I consider myself somewhat of a music connoisseur, but I have always felt that way. Also, admittedly, I have committed musical transgressions over the years, for which I am not ashamed. I was young, and not as versed in music as I am now. Nonetheless, why does music get a bad rap?

It seems that every school year, there's always a debate whether or not to keep music programs alive in grade schools, despite the educational benefits that music provides. Is it because quality music has become the domain of the counter-culture? Do we have to take part in an alternative style of living to break free from the blunders of top 40 radio? And that's not to put down top 40 radio, either. I have my fair share of guilty pleasures that fall well within that realm. Justin Timberlake? Yes, please. Be that as it may, I don't think we're going to be looking back at Eminem's Crack a Bottle in 50 years and think, "That was a fine example of popular music that has withstood the test of time."

So, I think that begs the question. Is the reason that music is not as highly honored as an art the result of the rather lackluster art (if that's what I must call it for the sake of argument) that is created in its name? Has too much of a good thing really become too much of a good thing? Have musicians decided that its better to release everything than to focus on the few gems that manifest themselves every now and again? Or is the industry at fault? I'll blame the both of them.

Also on the list of people to blame is Rolling Stone, who hasn't been in touch with reality in years. While Rolling Stone is, admittedly, the most opportunistic victim of the blame game, there are plenty of well-funded publications that I've read over the years and thought, "Do these people really know what the hell they're talking about?" That's not to say that smaller publications shouldn't be on the chopping block, either. Pitchfork, I'm looking at you.

I've never been a particular fan of musicians becoming creative brood mares. If it takes ten years to create your next body of work, then that's how long it takes. Take, for example, Portishead's Third. After eleven years in the making, Portishead created perhaps their best collection of work to date. I appreciate that more than churning out three lackluster albums in the same amount of time. The point is that art takes time and that art shouldn't be confined to arbitrary release schedules.

It is art, though, with its own unique cultural history and historical context. Perhaps I need to wait for recorded music to mature more before it can be considered part of a historical context. Then again, if the Bush administration is already being added to the history books, then I'm not sure what we're waiting for. Maybe I'm just crazy.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Straylight Run - Hands in the Sky [Big Shot]

Baxter - Out of Reach

Helmet - Unsung

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Fat of the Land

So it's time to spill the beans about the Blake Road Corridor. Before I begin with the statistical information and such, I'd like to take some time to explain the project in a bit more detail.

I first became involved with the Blake Road Corridor when I started working in Hopkins three years ago. The company I work for currently has partnered with civic organizations and the police department. I would always hear sirens going down Excelsior Boulevard toward the corridor. Eventually, I asked the police commissioner why the police cars only went one direction down Excelsior. He explained that the corridor had its share of problems. Just this past April, a Somali man was murdered at the White Castle in Hopkins, located on the North side of the corridor. This was the second murder in a year, the other being a 90-year-old woman murdered in her house. Before that, the city hadn't experienced any homicides in almost a decade.

The Blake Road corridor exists south of Highway 7 and north of Excelsior Boulevard on Blake road. This corridor, about a mile long, makes its home to 1,350 families. These families are mixed in with industrial complexes and retail spaces, which further divide the neighborhoods and further increase the population density. For all these families, there is only one park. On the same road, south of Excelsior Boulevard, are some of the most expensive homes in Minnesota. The houses are more reminiscent of castles than the quaint, single family homes found on the north side of Hopkins or the densely-packed apartments of the corridor.

This document will attempt to investigate what role social and economic class plays on the corridor.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Placebo - Running Up That Hill [Kate Bush cover]

Editors - An End Has A Start

VAUX - Celibate Good Times

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


First of all, I need to give big props to Canon's warranty service. I sent in my 5D on Friday and it's already on its way back to me. I can dig that, especially after they told me it would take ten business days. Not only that, they're sending it back to me via next day air service. Good customer service is pretty neato.

Now, I don't want everybody thinking I'm all about name-dropping. In fact, the only dropping around these parts is trees on my house. That's neither here nor there, however. Recently, I've talked about how I've become hyper-critical of my own work. Part of this has to do with me being too eager. I've been accused, on a number of occasions, that I want to accomplish too much too fast. I've never tried to dispute that point, because, quite simply, it's absolutely true. Some projects, I take on without having the proper level of maturity. I've always thought that with age comes understanding. That's not to say that I am unintelligent, it simply means that need to live more of my life before I can fully understand the scope of some of the projects that are floating around in my head. I understand that not everything is like fine wine, though, if the idea bears deep roots, then it will only get better with age. Now, I'm not looking to recreate Uncommon Places or The New West. Those have stood up to history, because the photographic community has acknowledged that they are important documents. So important, in fact, that the photographic community, myself included, has decided that they should become a basis for comparison. A standard, if you will. Of course, I am not so naive that I think photographers, or any artist, for that matter, set out to create a new standard. That new standard, just like the old, is made by acknowledging it as the new standard.

I digress.

The point is that I acknowledge that my best work may not be in the near future. I'm fine with that. The question is: what do we do in the meantime? More importantly, what do we do when our work is rendered obsolete by our own means? Eventually, a day is going to come where we all create something so beautiful that all things before it pale in comparison. Will we know it when it comes or will we be reminded whenever we create new work that it doesn't live up to the previous standard set by ourselves? For the record, I am not asking this because it is a fear that I am harboring, but because I am curious as to how people deal with that. Does anybody remember the Verve before or after they created Bittersweet Symphony? I didn't think so.

I digress.

I've decided to take Becky up on her advice to expand my documentation of the Blake Road Corridor to include areas south of Excelsior Boulevard. I will explain that in further detail in my next post, which will include include an artist of statement of sorts and more of an explanation of where the project is, where I see it going, and how I plan to get there.

Currently in heavy rotation:

Eyedea & Abilities - Exhausted Love

Metric - Collect Call

Bush - Letting the Cables Sleep