Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch!

Moesia Davis, my good friend in Birmingham, Alabama...yes, I could have typed AL but some states need to be spelled out. Having been asked to submit my fave pic of the year to a blog, I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more. No, not Moesia..not even Delilah....Every once in awhile, Pops gets up and shows them how it is done....I'm in that soul saving army beating on the big bass drum.


The Baseball Chronicles...

I find it difficult to still reverberate with the enthusiasm that I had when I started this junket around the American basepaths twenty years ago. In that twenty years, film photography has been thrown out at the plate as have darkrooms available for same. Galleries wither and eighty percent of all photographs are viewed on the web. You no longer get to say, "Nice print." It would update to "Nice photoshop technique." Kodak has morphed into Epson....As I cascade towards being sixty....I should be settling down. Nu-uh. I just haven't figured out what is next.


When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes..

A tumult of a year.My late friend, Marit, said that I have legs like tree trunks and they keep me grounded. Last week, I asked myself, "What next, my house burns down?" The antidote lies in music. "You can't resist it, when it happens to you." Lyle Lovett.


Populism vs. Pop Culture

Humphrey Bogart seems to have disappeared. As a matter of fact, all of the icons of that time frame seemed to have fallen out of the adoring public’s eye. James Dean, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie K don’t garner headlines or memorabilia sales as they once did. The only one that seems left from that bunch is Elvis and he appears to be slip sliding back into the flower arrangements at Graceland. Is this because everybody that had cherished this crew has passed on or just passed on memorabilia? Or, probably closer to the answer, nobody cares about memorabilia in this day of disposable icons? A Bogie autograph can command up to 10Ks, something that I found on Ebay, with 2 or 3Ks being the norm. A Sheryl Crow will set you back $40 or as Groucho said, for another buck and a half, you could get Minnie.

Culture seemed to evolve around the time of the cave paintings. The Hoi Polloi existed as a Greek form of derision, made popular here in the USA by the Three Stooges as a title for a 1935 film short. Pop culture seemed to spring forward at the time Warhol did and was applied to things both forward and backward in time. Roosevelt’s dog, Fella, was pop culture, FDR was not. Elmer Fudd was, Huckleberry Hound was not.

Sweetest Little Rosebud....

There is always that nice symetry that baseball has which goes far beyond the actual design of the diamond. THe American League trophy was presented to Nolan Ryan last night by jackie Autry, whose husband owned the California Angels. of course, in addition to being a baseball owner, Gene Autrey was known as the "Singing Cowboy." He recorded "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," "Frosty the Snowman, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and "The Yellow Rose of Texas." His money from his recordings gave him the do-re-mi to buy the Angels. Nolan Ryan's money came from a golden right arm and integrity. I was glad that the playoffs didn't become a "Win One For George-fest." Besides, they didn't.


Ben Mondor 1925-2010

My photographs have wound up in a lot of places. Books, galleries, museums, refrigerator magnets, kids rooms....My favorite location is the wall of Ben Mondor's office. When I was kicking and struggling to get back on my feet, the PawSox gave me a chance. I took it and ran with it but the crowning glory was to walk into Ben's office and see five of my photos framed and taking up an entire wall of his office. I had many conversations with him over the years. Sometimes seeing the twinkle in his eyes was enough and spoke innings of knowledge. He liked me and my work. I saw him for the last time about three weeks ago, sitting in his box and he flashed that smile. He did much for many.


Fame is great.....

I'm shakin' it, Boss. My comments on all of this are overdue. I pity the fool when I do finish them...


Nowhere to Run

That day, I was in the sub-basement of a university art art museum was a likely next target, forced the real ground zero workers there, custodians, operations museum, helping a phone guy do what he does - install telephones. The word trickled down from a security guard, a kid of maybe twenty years old. "There had been an explosion at the World Trade Towers in New York." Fair enough, cars blowing up around major buildings were not quite commonplace but self contained incidents, the most heinous being the 168 deaths at a Federal Building in Oklahoma City at the hands of Timothy McVeigh in 1995. As American tragedies pile up, a sense of sorrow but also a hardening of my spirit has crept over me. BANG! JFK! BANG MLK Jr. BANG! RFK. More news trickled from our guard wearing an uniform and pimples. The phone guy, my age and a vet of Vietnam decided he was going to dye his hair and reenlist to go after the criminals responsible for this deed. American tempers flared, Americans perished and there were new boogey-men. The entire university was dismissed at noon. The whatever his title was that week, "Most Cruel to Those He Deemed Inferior to Him" will suffice, decided that the ground zero workers at the small art museum - custodians, operations people should say in case, after the WTC attacks, a Picasso was next. I complied for an hour or so but decided to walk out. Mr. Prissy was long gone and he was no different than I. If after the attack, bathrooms at the museum weren't clean, well, I am sure that somehow, someway, America would forgive.


A Minor Key

Constantly changing marketing devices to keep attracting the same dempgraphic group has its challenges. As a given set of people, in this case, fans, grow older, younger ones arrive to fill the vacancies. What would intice people to come to a ballpark 20 or even 10 years ago, no longer sells. McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket was my training ground, my stint in the minors, as it turned out to be. it was quiet, rustic, worn around the edges and condusive to making lifelong friendships.When the new ADA standards and mimimum number of seat requirements , mandated by MILB, were set, the park got a major facelift and renovation. Still, I my voracious appetite for the American experience could still be fed and I shot probably 30-40 games a year there.Things change and I accept that, better than most. Dimples turn to wrinkles and off you go. I went to mcCoy last night to help a buddy with his book and just enjoy the game with my pal, Betsy. An HD scoreboard and a cacophony of noise are the norm now. The place was packed, everyone was in bliss. ice cream was still sold in little plastic helmets. yes, even crazy vanilla, Lulu!



I have attempted to get permission to use this from the Birmingham News photographer but I have not heard back. Not only am I one of the few still shooting film anymore, I am probably one of the only ones that cares about violating copyrights.


Only 41....

Well, Rickwood opened only 41 years before I hit the ground running...A three day tour of the city I now truly consider my second home. Lunch with Lesley Bruinton, PR Director at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a woman on top of her game for sure. A nice chat with Ahmed Ward, the curator of the same fine institution. Dinner with my great photographer pal, Moesia Davis...lunch the next day with Lamar Smith and David Brewer, Friends of Rickwood, then shooting the 100th anniversary events at Rickwood, a spectacular event and dinner at "The Fish Market" with my Rickwood pals and a smattering of wives. Thursday, a tour of the exhibit about Rickwood at the Vulcan Museum and a tour of the Birmingham Public Library. Then lunch with Lamar and David again, this time at the beloved "Rib-It-Up." A plane, then back to Cambridge.
"This is my country. These are my people.And I know them like the back of my own hand." Randy Newman


Clouds above me in a Birmingham sky.

But it is 7AM and the 100th anniversary celebration at Rickwood Field doesn't start until 3PM. A lot can happen between now in then, in the sky and on the ground. My friend, Bill Robertson remarked that I was the only guy that he knew that would get on an airplane to go and watch a baseball game. Yesterday, I did that to watch a celebration of a baseball field happening today. I don't get wistful or nostalgic but events occur in my mind on a time line..that I can move on and off from like a moving staircase at an airport.Today, I will linger in the 1910 area a bit more than usual and stop, camera in hand, at 1948 and think about a photographer that I knew.


Third Acts....

Tuesday, I will head to Birmingham for the third time this summer. Wednesday, August 18th will be the actual one hundredth anniversary of the nation's (world's, too, I guess) oldest baseball park, the often written about, Rickwood Field. Chamber of Commerce, book signings, dignitaries and a recreation of the 1910 game are promised. I was ambivalent about going but Dixie tugged the camera strap once again. Imagine! Real film being shot on a real ballfield by a real photographer! What an archaic concept!


The Great I Am...

"and now, here's something you'll really like." Rocket J. Squirrel

My friend Amy is a good photographer. She has adopted a wonderful boy, Eric, which involved traveling to Vietnam and back. The whole experience, as well as Eric's many hijinks since, have been captured in a loving way by Amy and she recently assembled a couple of Blurb books...or Shutterbug...or one of those myriad companies that dot the photo landscape. The books are remarkable.. I am not particularly fond of portraits of me...I was in art school but outgrew it. This a nice one, however. (Listen up, new photographers, you will out grow self and not so self portaits,too! If not, you will be a Nan Goldin-like footnote to photography.) There is only so much room in your belly button.


Listen Up, America

Monday, August 9th, 2010 marks the second anniversary of Bernie Mac's death. he is a favorite of mine as his grasp of the gentle and the profane is something I have a command of as well. His movies were made to reach a certain demographic and they did with varying amounts of success. His TV show ricocheted across time slots and was hard to keep track of but I found myself staying home to watch it. When he left the air, it was about the same time that I gave up watching TV shows altogether. I found the show laugh out loud funny and I don't laugh out loud at many things. I laugh inside quite a bit..but a finely tuned guffaw rarely gets heard.

While dressing to attend the wake of my dear friend, Ernest Withers, I found Bernie on Memphis TV and sat in my underwear and watched it.On my last trip to Memphis, I discovered the show was on three times a day. Recently, I was waiting to be interviewed by local TV stations in Birmingham and placed in a "ready" room of sorts. I started flipping channels and yes....there he was. I miss the Mac man...


Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore...

You won't be chasing rainbows, after all. A pal said that I would be the last photographer standing. I am now not so sure. I couldn't get batteries for my Canon EOS cameras. (Film, that is...) Fair enough. I did eventually find some. Then came the blow that knocked the wind out of me...color print film is no longer being made, or if it is, it is of weenie quality. Then while I am struggling to maintain my balance, the little camera store I have entrusted with developing my film and making scans. Ta Ta....Mom and Pop went Mom and Pap Smear. Stay tuned.....a real cliffhanger but having come back twice from the brink of real death....hey, wasn't that a Kodak slogan..Kodak brings good things to life.....



I got to thinking today that Aretha (no last name needed, just like Jesus and Elvis) is one of the finest Americans this country has produced. A forceful thrust on the keys and off she rhythms her way into a song. Don't Play That Song For Me...the keys squeaking on "I Say a Little Prayer.." You're no good heartbreaker. I am blessed it wasn't me she was after.


This Little Light of Mine...

A reception at the BCRI in Birmingham with two splendid blessed friends, Moesia Davis and former NLB player and Southern gentleman deluxe, Willie Lee. If Willie's knee holds out, he is going to be flown to Harvard in the fall as a guest of the university. A smooth character, indeed, he asked if he could pick his own escort...he grabbed Moesia. The last five days in my life have been a a culmination of passions and dreams colliding at home plate....Let's play two..


Join Me!

Join me THursday, July 1st at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for a reception for the exhibit "Rickwood - The Color of Baseball." it contains photographs from my many trips to Rickwood Field, celebrating its 100th anniversary, making it the oldest ballpark in the country. Ahmad Ward and the staff at the BCRI have done a tremendous job coordinating this event. My sincere thanks to everyone at the BCFI. My thanks go out for David Brewer, Lamar Smith and the board of directors of "The Friends of Rickwood." If you can't drop by, send me an email.


Hell yeah....

After several weeks of feverish activity, I am within shouting distance of shipping my exhibit "Rickwood-the Color of Baseball" to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Do mostly happy photographs of baseball belong in one of the most content disturbing museums in America? Rather than wrangle with that thought, I am just going to go with it and do what I have always have done...do what I do....July 1st there will be a reception. It will be fun. Just like baseball. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be able to do what I do....


Old times there....

His image became a homing device for me.....the safety razor ad at Rickwood Field had been there since to movie "Cobb" was shot in 1991. Painted from "movie paints" that weren't meant to last very long, the old beared Ansel Adams of a figured endured for almost twenty years until a newer ad, a paying ad took its place.....I was mesmerized by the old guy and took many pictures of him. Maybe I will do an exhibit of every single one of them so I can fit in with the mostly spineless photographers of today. He was replaced with the image that you see here....Vulcan, a symbol of old Birminghamm emerging from a baseball.


Rickwood Field - The Color of Baseball

It is time to put personal tragedy away and concentrate on my upcoming exhibit, "Rickwood Field - The Color of Baseball" which will be presented at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute this summer from July 1st until August 31st. As the world of photography becomes more trivial and regrettable, this will be if not my last stand, an endpaper to a forty year career.


A Place in the Sun,,,,,

I have met and endless supply of people on my travels. The character trait that most stands out for all of them is pride. If you remove the face painted yahoos,the faux trendy latest pink hat bunch as well as the upper echelon of business people - who frankly, I never see anyway because I inhabit the field and the grandstands - and what remains is a group of America. Arthur Rhodes is as proud and confident and loving as a person can be.


The Green, Green Grass of Home..

The guy is pushing 59, still shoots film, loves his country and goes to baseball games whenever he can. Twenty years I have been going to McCoy Stadium. I learned the grace of human interaction and the ability to photograph there. Yesterday, I watched as photographers swarmed Dice-K, with his lackey trying to herd everyone around. Good luck with that one. "Dice-K doesn't like his picture taken." Poor guy. Like everything else, an industry has formed around instant news and photos of baseball. One guy was pissing and moaning because wi-fi didn't work in the dugout...another guy was lamenting that the only money to be made in baseball photography was in Little League photos. God done shed his grace on thee..


Good Intentions...

My mother used to tell me the road to Hell was paved with good intentions....walk in my footsteps as I trundle down those smokey, hot steps. I meant to stay on this blog at least every day but have been caught up in the maelstrom of creating an exhibit at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute this summer. Today is the first "breather" I have had from that and I am hoping it can continue through the weekend. Media Day is in Pawtucket April 6th at 3PM...all is right here in "Bill Chapman Nation.."


Charles Moore, Courage....

"Powerful Days" is a book I keep by my elbow. It is the the collected group of photographs that Charles Moore shot during the Civil Rights Movement era. Children being swept of their feet by powerful fire hoses, bitten by German Shepherds, Ku Klux Klan rallies, a somber George Wallace. burning crosses, peace marches through the South. Chances are that you have seen many of these and not associated with Moore, who passed away the other day at age 79. With the exception of James Nachtwey and a few others, no person working today has the courage or the sense that new reporting is a duty to disseminate information in a hope that the ills of society may be exposed for thwe greater good. His obit mentioned that his images help usher in a national awareness of racial injustices. He worked out of Birmingham, the most ruthless and cruel of American cites at the time. Photography today, for the most part, has sunk to a level of nonsense. Herds of picture takers running amok with plastic cameras, making pretty, only interesting to each other. I often wish that I could be dropped into a war zone to participate in the type of work that motivated Moore but I am afraid that is never going to happen. His images will never be silenced but sadly, now is he.


It goes something like this.....

All of the rituals intact and performed. This including splitting up season Red Sox tickets and watching "Bull Durham." Next, testing cameras, etc. Every year I say that I am going to get to more games but never seem to pull it off. My heart does belong to Dixie and I have several trips planned where old times are not forgotten.This summer, I will be in Birmingham at least three times and possibly four. Seeing the Asheville Tourists park, McCormick Field in North Carolina made me want to go back there. A single A park surrounded by a forest, which in turn is surrounded by the Smokey Mountains is just a great place to see a game and enjoy what I am there for in the first place.


Rickwood...the magic ballpark

If you know me (and why the hell would you be reading this if you didn't..) you know of my adoration of Rickwood Field. This summer, as "the old girl" as we call it, turns 100, The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will be exhibiting up to 40 of my photographs taken at the park over the past eight years..or is it nine..its baseball..you can look it up. Beside myself? you betcha...Expensive and a pantload of work? That too. I know it will be from July 1st until August 31st with a reception on July 2nd. I even get to pick the caterer. More details as they become available....