Photo Excursion Awesomeness: Bolivar, TN

04.04.2009 Location: Bolivar, TN. Equipment: Hasselblad 500 C/M, Holga 120N, Nikon D300

One afternoon in April, Gabe and I decided to take a little photographic excursion to Bolivar, TN. We’d been told by Gabe’s dad about a super creepy, abandoned mental instutition that we were stoked to photograph. Before we left, Gabe found out that the band Giant Cloud was going to be meeting us in Bolivar and that we’d be taking their pictures as well. This was GREAT news because I’d shot them before and they’re awesome to take pictures of (as well as really cool people to be around.)

After we’d met up with Giant Cloud, we headed to the mental institution to check things out. The building we were looking to shoot WAS just as crazy-looking as we’d been told it was. However, it was much less imposing in the middle of the afternoon than we would have liked. More of a “shoot this on a foggy, moon-lit night” sort of place. Not only that, but they’re using the building as a post office for the newer facilities they have on the grounds,  so it’s not EVEN  abandoned. Translation: we thought the whole thing was kinda bogus.  We felt let down and thought all may have been lost. Then, we spied an actual abandoned building on the mental facility’s grounds.  Gabe, Giant Cloud, and I decided to take a look around that one.  While its design wasn’t gothic like the building we’d intended to shoot, the abandoned building was amazingly creepy inside (from what we could see through the windows.) It reminded me of an old school building –  desks and chair stacked up, ceiling tiles hanging down. The whole shebang.

At this point, the band was kinda walking around, seeing what this strange building had to offer, as were Gabe and I. No sooner had Gabe set up the tripod with the Hassy on it, when a couple of security guards pulled up and told us we had to 23-skiddoo. The guards said it’s illegal to take photos on the grounds of a state mental hospital. Now, mind you, there were no signs posted to this effect. AND I have the tendency to want whip out a copy of the “photographer’s rights” and beg to differ whenever my right to photograph is being challenged. In this case, I had decided the abandoned building wasn’t THAT interesting if we weren’t going to sneak in anyway, so I didn’t put up a fight.  (Also, I always appreciate a word of warning from security, rather than having the law called on me. Thanks, over-zealous security guards for giving us a word of warning!) I’d gotten a shot or two fired, Gabe had gotten a shot off. We headed to greener pastures.

Giant Cloud had seen a old flea market on their way into Bolivar. They thought it might be cool to do some photos there. Having nothing to lose, we followed the band to flea market. This turned out to be a GREAT move. Firstly, across the street from the flea market, there was a diner called Dot’s Country Kitchen (photo by Gabe Bouck.) Gabe and the band decided to ask the two women at Dot’s if they thought it’d be okay if we took pictures across the street. They did think so, and we ended up talking to them for awhile about possible other cool locations in the area.  They were a lot of fun.

Once we headed over to the flea market itself, we were SO glad we did! There were a series of  rectangular stalls made of wood and fiberglass, with hinged front windows (which were down) and doors on the side for accessing the inside space of the stalls. We all took some time to explore the stalls – most of which had remnants of items that had been sold in them. A child’s sneaker here. A toy dinosaur there. Photographing the band as they were walking through the stalls in exploration made for some great shots.

Gabe and I traded turns using the Hassy, and I used my Holga as well,  taking promo-type photos of the of the band while we were at the flea market as well. It was SO great! I felt awesome, like I was going to be the featured photographer on the next Rolling Stone cover (hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? *wink*) Gabe’s shots of the band were not too shabby either (slash, he did a wonderful job!)

Once we’d felt we’d exhausted our possibilities at the flea market, the Caravan to Memphis (as I lovingly referred to it) got on the road again. I’d promised Julie I’d do some engagement shots for her and Ben, since they’d gotten engaged recently. She wanted the photos taken somewhere a little more pretty than the flea market, so we kept our eyes peeled on the drive to Memphis in case we saw a location that was struck the bride-to-be’s fancy. Now, I don’t know which part of the “Caravan” laid eyes upon it first, but I’d like for Gabe and me to take credit for noticing the next backdrop for our Giant Cloud shoot: a field. Now, lemme tell you, this was no ordinary field. And it was no ordinary sunset light with which we’d been blessed. And don’t you worry, due to our previous run-in with people not wanting us to take pictures in our chosen spot, I did have Gabe go up to the single-wide trailer there and ask the man who lived in if we could take photos in the field. We were granted permission. *high five!*

As I mentioned, the members of Giant Cloud just look cool when they’re doing “stuff.”  So Gabe and I just followed them around some while they were walking around the field, frolicking in the field, and terrorizing the emus that were fenced-in on the property.

Yours truly also got the opportunity to pull Ben and Julie out of the group to do some engagement-style shots, as promised. I LOVED it because, not only was the field/light/tall green grass so pretty for more “standard” shots, but Ben and Julie also let me take some more playful shots of the two of them. It’s my fave when couples let me do that!

Just like we’d done at the flea market,  Gabe and I took turns photographing the band in the field with the various cameras we’d brought. The light was nothing less of spectacular. And I’d be hard-pressed to believe that we could’ve happened upon a more perfect field in which to shoot this band.  While we did use the D300 for some of our shots, I have to say that the Hassy was PERFECT for this stuff. I’m super happy that Gabe and I had the opportunity to do the Giant Cloud shoot while we still had that camera in our lives. If I could talk to the Hassy right now, I’d tip my hat to it (if I had a hat) and tell it “We couldn’t have done it without you!”

Like all good things though, our Giant Cloud photo shoot in the field had to come to an end. The light was waning and we’d ran out of film. At this point, we bid “adieu” to Bolivar and made our way towards Memphis. I could tell you about the “awesome” experience we had at a chicken restaurant in Oakland, TN that will remain nameless  (to give you a hint, it’s initials are “Gus’s Fried Chicken”), but I’ll save that for the day when I run a restaurant review site…

A link to the rest of my photos from our Photo Excursion Awesomeness in Bolivar. A link to Gabe’s photos from our Photo Excursion Awesomeness in Bolivar.

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