The Eagle Has Landed

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Eagle

One of the highlights of my career was spending a week at Big Bend National Park in Texas with two of Eagle Bus company’s prized celebrity travel buses.

These buses cost right around $500,000 each. They were the mark of success for many of the top country western, and rock’n roll singers. At the time I did the photography. I owned a small regional sized ad agency. We created the theme of “Made in America” for them. What better place to show them off than the American West?!

It was a grueling week. Everyday the temperature soared to over 100 degrees. My crew and I worked from before sunup to after sundown. We photographed for the first two hours of the day and the last 3 hours in the afternoon. We spent the middle part of the day scouting locations, organizing props and talent for the next day’s photographs.

This is one of my favorite images from the shoot. It has everything: incredible light, real cowboys from a local ranch, and a gorgeous setting. I believe it does a magnificent job of portraying the heart, soul, and that MADE IN USA quality that goes into every Eagle Bus.

There is one incredibly sad note though. Only about 5 years after we did that campaign the economy began its downward spiral and even celebrities to whom money was of no object nothing quit spending. It seemed as though “quality” became an dirty word over night, unless it was attached to low cost or cheap. Eagle Bus which was the undisputed best of its kind was soon forced to close its doors.

This trend seems to have hit all businesses. Everyone is looking for the least expensive deal there is, even if that product doesn’t perform as it should. Hopefully we will soon start to claw our way out of this mindset and get back to recognizing that quality is what will carry the day and that generally you get what you pay for.

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Welcome to Boca Chica Beach

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Welcome to Boca Chica Beach

One of the main streets of Brownsville is Boca Chica Blvd. (small mouth). Going West out of town it turns into Hwy 281 or Military Hwy. If you follow it East out of town for about 25 miles you will drive right into the Gulf of Mexico. There are now barriers or warnings, so if you are asleep at the wheel into the Gulf you go.

It’s a rather melancholy drive. There’s nothing but open fields of tall grass and a lot of scrubby trees. However, at one point you do drive past Palmetto Hill. Now it’s just a huge pasture land, but in 1865 it was the site of the last battle of the Civil war, fought several months after General Lee surrendered and the war was over. The South won a solid victory killing around 20 Union soldiers, losing the war but winning the last battle.

Just before you reach the water you come across what I suspect was an old gas station and convenience store with this welcoming fellow out front. It’s just sort of out here by itself, completely isolated with nothing else around it. I guess that’s why it’s closed up now, and has been for many years.

Every time I saw it I would get curious and want to discover what it was like out here when this little outpost was in full swing. I can just envision people stopping in to fill up their gas tanks for the return trip to Brownsville, buying water and other supplies for their day at the beach.

Fliers

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Fliers

Brownsville, TX is home to a branch of the Confederate Air Force. Every year they host a wonderful airshow featuring the old fighting planes of yesteryear up to the newest of present day.

I love airplanes and the guys and gals who fly them.

I wanted to create a poster that would evoke the glory of the good ol’ days. These pilots were loved the idea. We pulled out these two old fighters and this vintage Jeep, the guys got dressed in their flight suits and voilà: an artistic poster that conjures up the glory days of military flight was born.

Joe Galvan and the B&M Bridge

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This photograph combines everything I like doing best in photography:

  • Photographing interesting people
  • Photographing historical sites

Brownsville, Texas is the second most historical city in Texas. Second only to the Alamo in San Antonio.One of the historical sites in Brownsville is this old Trestle Train Bridge. The oldest bridge in Texas, it stretches across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville to Matamoros, Mexico.

The first B&M International Bridge opened for traffic on December 12, 1910. The bridge was intended to serve all land-based international traffic, including pedestrian, animal-drawn, automobile and rail. On opening day, the Brownsville Herald published an elaborate set of tolls: five cents for a foot passenger, ten cents for equestrians, twenty cents for an automobile with driver (plus five cents additional per extra passenger), and weight- and passenger-based charges for carriages and carts. Additional charges applied to excessive luggage. Livestock and trade goods were also taxed. Children under seven who were accompanied by an adult were permitted to cross the bridge free.

Despite construction that expanded the bridge: it was widened in 1953 and 1992 to accommodate larger commercial trucks, increasing traffic demands made the combined usage of the bridge problematic. Automobile traffic on both sides of the US and Mexican border had to be halted to allow trains to cross. In 1997, a new concrete, four-lane toll bridge was opened adjacent to the original bridge to handle automobile traffic. The old bridge today serves primarily railway traffic, though it was also used for truck traffic before the opening of the Veteran’s International Bridge in East Brownsville. The new bridge features a central concrete divider and a separate pedestrian sidewalk.

Today, the B&M bridge is one of three crossing points between the US and Mexico.

Joe Galvan manages the bridge and all the traffic that crosses it.

Check out my Architectural Photography Portfolio to see more photos.

 

Best Friends

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Bunny

I want everyone to meet Bunny. He lives at the studio and he and I happen to be best friends.

I have a huge soft spot in my heart for kitties. Altogether I take care of and give shelter to 16. I rescued every single one from the streets of Brownsville, and certain death. Six live in my heated and air-conditioned garage, three come and go as they please, and five are prevalently outdoor kitties who live on my back porch. That leaves my mother-in-law’s cat that is 22 years old, and Bunny who lives at the studio.

About 5 years ago my wife and I were coming home from an evening out and she saw this tiny ball of fur out in the middle of the street. It was a cold and rainy night and the little fur ball just terrified. I stopped the car and raced out to get him. He was so happy to be taken in, he immediately melted into my arms . He lived at our house until he was about a year old, then he moved to his own house at the studio (I guess he felt he was all grown up).

I don’t know what it is about kittens, and cats in general,  but when I look at them I feel compelled to help them. I can’t believe the cruelty of humans who just throw them away to fend for themselves. Their life expectancy on the streets is about two months, that is if they aren’t hit by a car it’s disease or some other predator before then.

Bruce Aiken

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Bruce Aiken Color

A few years ago I completed a project dedicated to the old timers of Brownsville, Texas. Bruce was one of the most fascinating. Over the years he had become the city’s official-unofficial historian. If you wanted to know something about the city’s history Bruce knew it.

One of oldest structures in the city is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were the first priests to celebrate Mass in the area of Brownsville in 1849. The present Gothic Revival style building was designed by Peter Yves Keralum. The Oblates operated a seminary in the rectory, which also was a haven for priests who fled the revolutions in Mexico. The first Catholic bishop to reside at Immaculate Conception was Dominic Manucy, the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville. The Vicariate became the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1912. On July 10, 1965 Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Brownsville from Corpus Christ and Immaculate Conception became the cathedral for the new diocese.

I asked Bruce how He became interested in the city’s history. He told that when he first moved to Brownsville he was working for Pan American Airlines as a ticket agent and one of his customers struck up a conversation with him about the city’s history: “Here was they guy not even from Texas who knew more about my city than I did. Well, I couldn’t have that so from that day on I started packing my brain with everything I could about the city’s history. My first self-imposed project was the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It just kept going from there.”

This is why the Cathedral is a fitting location for his portrait.

Brick Wall

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Brick Wall

People ask me: “Why do you take a certain photograph?”

The answer to that question determines the difference between what makes one an artist as opposed to just someone with a camera.

When I choose a subject it means that I am mentally or spiritually moved by the scene or object in front of me; enough so to want to capture it, and then further enhance in order for it to be reminiscent of the feelings it conjured.

The real art in photography lies in what happens after the image has been captured. You see, very little can be accomplished with the camera alone. The true skill of the artist is brought out in the remaking of the image: making the image you see in your own mind come to life on paper, thus, enabling you to share your feelings and vision with others.

In the case of this image there were a couple of elements that drove me to want to capture it.

This is a wall of an old grain processing company in the small town of Ithaca, MI, where I grew up. I remember that when I was a boy this company always being teeming with activity: farmers bringing their grain at harvesting to be processed before shipping to the buyer. A huge contrast to today as it now sits mostly empty and uncared for. There is a certain nostalgia of a bygone era.

I love the texture of the bricks and the tin roof. You can clearly make out two completely different types of brick work. I find this construction to be very interesting.

Check out my Nostalgia Collection to see more photos.