Amtrak I - 22 Texas Eagle by a zugunruhe

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I have a love for the slow travel experience of trains. The way one is lead through small towns and fields to urban centers. Seeing how big and varied this country is, is a long-term romance of mine. 

Since I’m familiar with Amtrak at this point, I want to share these beautiful views for each line I take.
 
The first is the 22 Texas Eagle. The 22 denoting that it’s the north bound of the line, and 21 being the south. The 22 starts in San Antonio and ends in Chicago, IL. The passenger goes though Austin, Dallas, Little Rock, St Louis, and numerous small towns along the way.

The beauty of Amtrak is the little things you see along the way. Snaking highways appear as rivers, watching small towns slowly build up to its Main Street then quickly dissipate, and the endless fields that pass by the train windows hypnotically. 

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During the day, I aimed to use the window's reflections and people as muses.

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At night I turned to black and white while still using the constrictions of windows. The less active train and the desolate lighting of long stops gave the feel of film noir.  

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Before long, I was solely shooting through windows. Being constrained to the framing was an incredibly fun challenge, considering the speed of the train. 

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And then I found the portholes at the end of the cars.  

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This presented an even greater obstacle. I had very little warning before something appeared, and often having a second or less to get a shot.

I attempted to time shots in order to peace them together as fictionalized scenes set across the entire line rather than linear scenarios.  

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Wharton by a zugunruhe

Hurricane Harvey first struck Texas near the city of Rockport on August 24th. Harvey then pulled out and entered Texas again on the other side of Houston. Almost directly in the middle of each landfall is the town of Wharton, Texas.

Most of the city of Wharton was covered in water during the historic flood that Harvey brought. I grew up in El Campo, 10 miles down the road from Wharton. Fortunately, my family escaped any major disaster, but the majority of the homes along the Colorado river did not.  

I wasn't able to visit the area until late September. By then, waters had receded, but Harvey's physical toll was clear. In a few low-laying areas were scenes of lost possessions, furniture, and gutted walls on the side of the road. Heaps that had been there for an extended period since city trash collectors couldn't stop by. 

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Driving by heap after heap, I began noticing the possessions making up these mounds. Things that I can't imagine anyone had planned to throw away.

Parts of lives had to be thrown out because of a massive tragedy that no one could have ever expected. 

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I noticed small pieces that stood out while looking around at the damage.

So I began shooting portraits.

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Then I started seeing these collections as sculpture. Sculpture made with the most intimate of materials, shaped by tragedy. 

The materials were instruments of daily living. Stuffed animals that brought comfort, appliances and furniture, even sheet rock and entire walls torn up and stacked. The people shaping the forms were acting with little caution, going through the emotional toll of removing them from meaning.

When you think of sculpture, you think of certain materials, for the most part devoid of context, chosen for their attributes. The sculptor with intent uses the materials to give them meaning. Here, the formations I saw were the inverse.

From sandbags and mattresses, to toys and photo albums. These collections were people's lives, on display during their most vulnerable moments. 

Its not a nice thing to think about, but these are the most honest portrayals of possessions you will ever see. Damaged items, no longer of practical use, thrown to the side of the street. And how they were arranged displayed how they were being thought of in that moment. Some placed carefully to honor the memories connected, others haphazardly tossed and stacked.

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As bad as the damage was from Harvey, neighbors helped neighbors, communities came together, and workers came from nearby states to help clean up efforts. 

With every natural disaster and the havoc they bring, the humanity it brings out in people offers us a perspective that helps healing from the emotional toll. 


Wharton
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I’m absolutely floored by the way this flood has wiped out people’s homes. I don’t intend to benefit from this tragedy.

I’ll be selling prints and 100% of profits will be donated to local organizations and churches helping people heal and build their lives again. Each print sold will also come with an extra print from my last gallery show for free. Requests will be honored if available.

If you do not wish for a print but want to donate, please reach out and I can give you a list of places to send donations. 

Baltimore by a zugunruhe

Baltimore is a city I've been wanting to visit for a long time.

I can't say that I knew anything about the area until I became obsessed with Dan Deacon, Death Set, and anything connected to the Wham City collective over a decade ago. I realized that this place was fostering a scene that clicked with me for some reason. 

The first time it hit me that the fascination was real was in 2009 when I flew to Chicago to see the Wham City Round Robin tour with my friend, Miranda. Split over two nights in a reclaimed church, the event consisted of 8-10 bands in a near circle, trading sets every few songs. The idea was that there was no front row and it was pure party. The two nights, Eyes night for slower and visual music and Feet for the dance and punk acts, were my first introduction to Showbeast, Future Islands, Beach House, and many others including my re-intro to Jana Hunter, the Houstonian-turned-Baltimorean that had left for greener pastures. The bands were driven from city to city in retired school busses that were fitted with engines that could run on discarded vegetable oil. There were frequent posts on multiple bands' Myspace page asking for oil donations to keep tour costs low.

Whenever this city is mentioned in the news, it carries the Rust Belt narrative of a former industrial city, ravaged by crime and unemployment. Straying more than six blocks from the harbor in Inner Harbor or Fell's Point could affirm those views. I can't speak from a deep pocket of knowledge but I can speak from what I've seen here and in other cities in the area.

I usually find a strong community of people that pulled together after the bottom fell out of the only industry in town. During boom years, poor commercial planning led cities to lean on one prosperous industry (cars, steel, etc) and once it started to wain, companies cut their losses. This left a void where well-paying jobs and futures existed and is now being filled with anti-capitalist sentiment and a lack of faith in a system that failed them by individual narrow vision.

What this does is create a community that is detached enough from current prosperous industries that there's a lack of influx from Young Urban Professionals to skew the cost of living or cultural landscape. This leaves a city that's large enough to have a scene while leaving artists to have the luxuries of low rent and strong community. 

There's something about cities that lost their charm that breeds these new cultures. New York City in the 70's and 80's gave us inventive punk, Seattle gave us grunge, Omaha set the course for indie bands in the early 00's, and Baltimore produced some of the most amazing and weird content I've seen in years. The infrastructure is there, there's a surge of young spirits from colleges, and all that's missing in some cases is the right confluence of minds.

Having that isolation can be key to creating something wonderful.

Baltimore is wonderful.

Framing by a zugunruhe

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Living in NYC has given me an appreciation for how the surface of a city evolves.

How structures decay, how paint cracks, how advertisements fade, how posters are torn, how the proximity of salt water affects discoloration, how taggers write over others' tags.

Everything comes together in such a beautiful symphony of color and texture, caused by both time and human intervention, that I wanted to capture it in some way other than an iPhone photo here and there (although you can find many on my personal IG: @adamziegenhals).

I will admit that introducing the frame to these photos feels kitschy and hokey. My aim wasn't to make a bunch of Instagram shots and postcards, but to focus the view where I felt a confluence of the project's aim. In the process of shooting—hours spent wandering neighborhoods—I found the frame useful in highlighting what I wanted to capture. It sometimes became the subject itself, leading to some of my favorite shots.

I had the idea of lugging around a frame to do this project for a while, but finding these amazing, albeit beat up, gold frames in a SoHo trash heap kicked things off. How better to frame instances of disregarded beauty, than with an actual discarded frame?
 


Gallery

Dreamscapes by a zugunruhe

Dreamscapes concentrates on the lucid views created by the midnight sunlight. While these photos don't capture full light during normal night, they represent the ominous daylight that lingers waiting for the summer solstice to arrive.