May 30, 2017 – Tumacacori

– – –

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

Tumacacori is the site of Mission San José de Tumacácori, an 18th Century Franciscan mission. It takes its name from an earlier mission site founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1691, which is on the east side of the Santa Cruz River south of the national park. This particular mission was founded at an extant native O’odham settlement and represents the first mission in southern Arizona.

The later Franciscan mission, now in ruins, was never rebuilt once it was abandoned after repeated Apache raids in the 19th century. Nearby Tubac was besieged in 1861.

– – –

Illustration – Nude Study


There is no genre of art older than the nude study, the bare human form. It commands our attention and often makes some of us turn away, either in modesty or – more sadly – in shame. The question of its endurance as an art-form throughout the ages is an interesting one. To my mind, the nude is deeply symbolic philosophically, and elegant in its accidental eroticism. The nude is both attractive – and to many, uncomfortably attractive – because it symbolizes true vulnerability; exposed flesh presents a form with nothing left to reveal.

The nude subject is in its most confident and vulnerable state, achieving these at the same time. This cannot be found anywhere else, and that is why nude studies are so captivating, so mesmerizing, so subtly profound. We objectify and sympathize, simultaneously, and this duality forces certain truths to snake their way into our consciousness, about how we view our own bodies and how we use them.

I am proud to be both painter and subject in this genre, to continue this great tradition. In a media landscape that barely bats an eye at extreme violence but suppresses the most natural of sexual desires, I regret only that my artwork isn’t more filled with genitalia.

– – –

February 24 – The Mule Mountains

02-24 Bisbee post“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction. As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

~Henry David Thoreau

– – –


February 19 – Liberty

02-19 Liberty postOne of the little tricks film photographers sometimes employ is known as “cross processing,” in which slide film is developed using chemicals designed to for regular color film. The results vary, but are characterized by a dramatic color shift, with punched-out contrast and deep tonal saturation. These effects can be applied to digital images with relative ease using editing software like Photoshop; the film photographer, however, is forced to accept the final result rather than having the opportunity to endlessly tweak the effect in post production.

Basically, cross processing is controlled chaos. It’s a method of embracing “happy accidents.”

This photograph was made in Jerome, Arizona, a small mining town outside of Prescott Valley in the Black Hills of Yavapai County. The copper mining operation saw a huge boom in the 1920s, pushing the population to around ten thousand. Today there are only about five hundred people, but it gets a lot of traffic from Phoenix – it’s a wonderful weekend getaway. I’ve always enjoyed walking around and looking at the old buildings, the narrow alleys, and the wrecks of brick rotting on the hillsides. It is a quiet place with a rich history. If you’re lucky, you might even bump into Tool and Puscifer front-man Maynard James Keenan, who moved to Jerome to start a winery in the early 2000s.


February 03 – Drive Thru Liquor

02-03 DriveThru Liquor post

“Film February” continues with this little gem, taken using another one of my handy-dandy vintage film cameras.

Folding cameras were a mid-century fad, dominating the post-war market. You had the style of accordion bellows, but in a handheld package for ease of use. These were imprecise cameras, to sum them up succinctly, but black and white film stocks had a lot of latitude. A poorly exposed negative could still yield a pretty decent print.

Learn more about the Sears & Roebuck Tower Series of cameras here.

Today’s photo of the day comes from Stone Avenue in downtown Tucson, across the street from the police station. I have no hard confirmation, but the rumor goes that Texas is responsible for the grand innovation known as the drive-through liquor store. The source of so many an absurd idea, Texas seems as good a candidate as any; I’m inclined to believe it. In any event, they’re scattered across the southwest like jacks.

This was the maiden voyage of my Tower ’52. I’m pretty sure that this is the very first exposure I made with the camera, which I’d purchased at an estate sale on Tucson’s east side (along with about two dozen other camera bodies). The compression plate is bent, so the film focus falls off on the left and right edges, but it’s this kind of imprecision that makes old cameras fun to work with. Unpredictable things happen, and you never know what the film is going to look like until you develop it.


The Sears And Roebuck Tower ’52

tower folding postThe 1950s saw continued expansion in casual consumer photography. Film costs were prohibitive, but newer models with ease-of-use features attracted new buyers. Bulkier, double-lens cameras (the twin-lens reflex model) were still considered the gold-standard for press photographers, but folding cameras had quickly begun to replace box cameras. Kodak’s turn-of-the-century innovations – the ‘Brownie’ and ‘Brownie No.2’ – fell out of fashion as cameras such as the 1950s Tower series arrived, manufactured and distributed by Sears, Roebuck & Company.

A folding camera is precisely that – a camera with bellows that can be folded down so that it occupies less space when not in use. The self-erecting bed camera has a fixed viewfinder, a simple pre-set lens aperture, and a synchronized shutter. Without having to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, or focal length of the lens, the user literally only has to “point and shoot.” Using medium format 120 film – the most common film size before the transition to 35mm – the Sears & Roebuck Tower produces negatives measuring 6×8 centimeters.

Most folding cameras I come into contact with are metal-construction models, although I’ve read that Bakelite models were also used. Metal models are durable and almost always function (so long as they haven’t rusted). Bakelite models, on the other hand, are infinitely less common (most likely because Bakelite plastics become brittle with age). Folding cameras in circulation today usually require some rudimentary maintenance if they’re to be used – torn bellows will leak light into the camera and fog your film. This is easily remedied with a bellows repair kit, or even black gaffers tape or shoe-repair liquid rubber.

The beauty of old cameras – of old technology in general – is that they can pretty much be held  together with rubber cement & tape and still produce interesting images.

Images produced using my personal 1952 model are quite good, especially when you consider how rudimentary this series of cameras is. Images made with these cameras weren’t intended to be enlarged, but rather contact-printed, yielding prints the exact same size as the negative. Because of the fixed lens and lack of adjustable focus, enlarged prints will reveal a lack of sharp focus. The only other downside is the frame-count – you can only get eight exposures from a standard roll of 120 film. Large negatives make for fewer exposures, and there’s just no way around it.

In my experience, a limited frame-count usually means that the photographer has an incentive to make every picture count. In the age of digital cameras and smart phones, where we can just delete whatever doesn’t turn out, we wind up making a lot of junk that we have to sift through later on. If nothing else is to be celebrated about the era of film, it forced the camera operator to actually think before they pressed the button.


February 01 – San Pedro Chapel

02-01 San Pedro post

Film is not dead! It’s only kinda, sorta, half-way, a little bit, almost dead.

February over here at LenseBender Design is going to be the month of film. Every single day I’ll be contributing a new film-based photograph made exclusively with one of my vintage film cameras. I have an extensive collection of old cameras – and even some vintage film stock – so this should be a pretty fun ride.

The first photograph of the month was made using a little-known camera known as the Fujica Half. For more information on this nifty little hand-held miracle machine, you can read about it here.

The San Pedro Chapel (pictured above) is located in the historic Fort Lowell neighborhood near the Rillito River north of Tucson. The neighborhood is named after the military outpost that once stood nearby. Fort Lowell was an Army outpost active from 1873 to 1891 and was intentionally placed on the outskirts of Tucson at the confluence of the Tanque Verde and Pantano Creeks. Year-round water at the mouth of the Rillito River made this area prime real-estate for a camp.

Once the fort was decommissioned, the Department of the Interior put the fort’s lumber, windows, doors, and other salvageable items up for sale; the fort was quickly dismantled and hauled off. The old adobe structures were already disintegrating back into the desert by the turn of the Twentieth Century, when immigrant families from Sonora, Mexico began to settle into the territory.

The migrants occupied the remaining fort structures and replaced the missing windows, roofs, and doors. The enclave eventually became known as El Fuerte. The community mainly raised livestock and sold lumber to residents in the town of Tucson.

The community developed strong roots. They built new houses in the Sonora Ranch style, dug wells (finding water at less than thirty feet), built a school house, and established a cemetery and built a church. The first church on this site was just large enough for the Carmelite Fathers to stand in while serving mass; the congregation would gather under the mesquite trees outside.

A more permanent structure was built in either 1915 or 1917 (the records are not clear on this), but was destroyed by a tornado in 1929. The San Pedro Chapel that survives today was built directly over the ruins of the previous chapel in the Mission Revival Style and dedicated in 1932.

In the 1940s, as Tucson was growing, the Church and general store of the El Fuerte community made this area a de facto town center. Mexicans living in the east of the territory would travel to El Fuerte to attend mass & school as well as  enjoy family parties, baptisms, and other social events. The Chapel is still in use today, as it was then, for baptisms and weddings. At its height, the community was only about three-hundred people, and this building is one of the few reminders of what once existed here.

And I just happened to stumble across San Pedro Chapel on a bike ride.
Pretty darn neat.