Through Ace Taylor’s Eyes

DSC_0448I had the pleasure of roaming Illinois, Kentucky and a chunk of the Missouri Bootheel with Ace Taylor, the 13-year-old nephew of museum director Carla Jordan. Carla mentioned that Ace was interested in photography and was good company, so invited him to hit the road Thursday.

It’s never good to waste a perfectly good seat, so Carla’s ready-to-ramble mother, Carolyn Taylor, filled it. I have the feeling that she may become like Mother was: jingle the keys and she’s ready to go.

I tried to think of a photo-rich environment where taking good pictures would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

It turned out to happen, almost literally. When we got to the spillway at the southeast end of Horseshoe Lake, we saw hundreds of minnow-size fish frolicking in the overflow. We couldn’t tell if they were trying to fight the current to get upstream into the lake or if they were beings swept out of it. A couple of fishermen said they were baby carp. It’s worth clicking on it to make it larger. Maybe someone can tell us if the fishermen were right.

The kid has a good eye

Ace Taylor - Thebes RR bridge 03-17-2016_5951I got my first camera at 12. Ace is so far ahead of where I was at his age that there is no comparison. I didn’t point out any particular shot to him. I would give him a little background about why the location was interesting from a geologic or historical perspective, then I’d look around and Ace was already scoping out angles and getting busy.

Experimenting with framing

Ace Taylor - Thebes Courthouse 03-17-2016_5954Ace wasn’t a plain old point-and-shoot photographer. He experimented with shooting through things and with the relationships of shapes. He also had a good grasp of depth of field and the relationship between lens settings and shutter speeds. He tried using slower shutter speeds when shooting the fish photo so the water movement would show up, then he switched to higher speeds to freeze the fish. All of this without a word of advice from me.

In fact, I tried to capture the jumping fish in a video, but Ace aced me hands-down with his still shot.

Not afraid to get in the middle of it

Ace Taylor 03-17-2016 Cairo_6098I told him that photographers have a responsibility to document the world around them for future generations. He took a dramatic photo of a machine eating one of my favorite old buildings in Cairo.

“You realize,” I told him, “that you have taken the last photograph of that building that anyone will ever see. If you come back tomorrow, it’ll be gone, and the opportunity to document it will never be there again.”

[Note to Ace’s Mom: he was very cautious. He was careful to step in areas clear of nails and glass, and I always made sure he wasn’t any place where he was in danger.]

A deliberate shooter

Ace Taylor - Horsehoe Lake 03-17-2016_5989The kid wasn’t a pray and spray shooter. After he took a photo, he would study it to see if he had captured what he was looking for or if he should take another crack at it.

A quiet kid

Ace Taylor - Horsehoe Lake 03-17-2016_5987I don’t know that I’ve ever met any boy that age who was so quiet and soft-spoken. When he DID talk, he had something to say. I liked that.

The next day, he was helping Carla at the History Center in Jackson, so we didn’t roam around. I stopped by the center to give him a polarizing filter that I discovered had a small scratch. It probably won’t make any difference, but I’m persnickety about that kind of thing.

We talked gear and techniques, then I watched him wander around the room checking out how the filter would eliminate reflections. I give him credit for understanding when you DON’T want to use it.

“I WANTED the reflections in the water in the picture of the cypress trees, so I wouldn’t use it there, would I?” he asked.

You nailed it, kid.

If he continues at the pace he’s on, he won’t have to talk: he can let his camera and photos speak for him.

Ace Taylor’s work

Here’s a selection of what Ace photographed in roughly six hours (including 150 miles of driving). Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

Keep in mind while you are looking at these pictures that Ace Taylor is 13 years old.

 

SEMO: Rev Up the Dozers

Ochs-Shivelbine House 03-25-2015Katie Lamb had a story in the May 11 Missourian that the Ochs-Shivelbine house is slated for demolition to make room for a planned Greek Village. The Greystone Estate, located next to the doomed Ochs-Shivelbine home on North Sprigg, was demolished in March.

I’ve given up railing against the university’s penchant for treating buildings with benign neglect until they have an excuse to tear them down.

One down, one to go

Here’s a gallery of photos I took of Ochs-Shivelbine shortly after the Greystone was reduced to rubble. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

We Lost the Handball Court

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013It was appropriate that the first thing and the last thing you would see when you were coming into or leaving Cape by the Mississippi River Traffic Bridge was a religious institution, the St. Vincent’s College, a Catholic Seminary dating back to 1843. I suspect more prayers were said on that bridge than in all the churches in Cape on an Easter Sunday morning.

The first (or last) things you’d notice when looking at St. Vincents were the magnificent trees on the terrace to the east of the school and the curious brick structure in front of it – the handball court.

Goodbye handball court

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013Well, don’t look for the handball court in the future. The Missourian had a story today that dismantling the historic structure began March 12. The court, built in either 1843 or 1853 and possibly the oldest handball court in the country, is being torn apart so the green space where it has lived all these many years can be covered with academic and residential buildings.

Goodbye green space

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013

The loss of the brick court is a disgrace. The loss of the open lawn that gave the College buildings its character is a crime. They could have stacked the buildings they are planning on top of the parking lot to the west and maintained the character of the River Campus.

The biggest joke

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013The biggest cruel joke is that the university and planners are going to honor the handball court by preserving “some” of the bricks and incorporating them into the facade of the new building. Follow the link to the Missourian and you can see the care Milam Masonry is taking in “preserving” the bricks. It looks to me like the workers are heaving them off a scaffolding to land in a truck. I doubt there are workers wearing catcher’s mitts standing down there to catch them.

When I made these photographs Feb. 12, 2013, I was astounded at how many had names and dates intricately scratched into them. There were some seminarians with a lot of time on their hands. What was fascinating was the different printing styles the students used over the years.

Did anyone document the bricks?

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013I wonder if anyone took the time to shoot individual closeups of the bricks before the wreckers got there? You’d think a university with an historic preservation program would have been all over that.

I shot a few of the bricks, but the lighting wasn’t coming from the best direction to capture detail. The 1920s and the 1940s were well-represented.

When I looked at the ones from the ’40s, I wondered how many of those boys were shipped overseas to fight in World War II and whose only markers are a white cross in a foreign land and a name scrawled on a brick in a handball court that is being torn down.

Will the terraces and trees be next?

Handball Court at River Campus 02-12-2013It won’t do any good to cry over spilt bricks. We’ve lost that piece of Cape’s history. Now’s the time to head off turning the terraces and trees into parking lots.See how flat the ground is? Cut down those pesky trees and spread some asphalt and you could fit several hundred cars there.

I mean, after all, they could “preserve” the trees by turning them into commemorative toothpicks.

Earlier River Campus stories

River Campus celebrates 5th season

SEMO plans to erase Cape landmark

Photo gallery of handball court

Some day, someone doing research may come looking for photos of what Cape Girardeau looked like before Southeast Missouri State University bulldozed it. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.