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Category Archives: People

Not a Normal Tourist Location – Provideniya Russia

In far eastern Siberia in Russia a natural harbor located off the northern Bering Sea lies the City of Provideniya. During the Soviet Union era, this city and the area across the bay was home to a large military base, accessible only by water and air. The deep water port was established in 1938 and is only 200 air miles from Nome, Alaska. The Soviets were concerned with the possible threat posed to their northern territory by the United States and constructed a large number of block military-style buildings, a landing strip and harbor facilities all with supporting infrastructure to house almost 50,000 people. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the base was essentially abandoned, with now only a few thousand hearty people struggling to make a living in the City of Provideniya. In 2007, my wife and I were very fortunate to visit the city and surrounding area, as part of a two-week cruise of Alaska and the Bering Sea, aboard the 100-passenger cruise ship the Spirit of Oceanus.

As we cruised into bay, we saw the city in the far distance with a Russian maritime tug boat headed in our direction with a pilot on board. As we neared the city, we noted that a large painting of our ship had been located on the side of a  building, as welcome to the ONLY visiting annual cruise ship landing there at the time. We were told that the year prior to our visit in July, the bay was ice jammed making entry impossible. These visits ceased a few years after ours, as the cruise line stopped operating due to economic challenges. Thus, we were one of the last to visit this extremely remote location. Most of the remaining buildings were in disrepair and abandoned, especially in the military base portion across the bay from the city.

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There were indications in the harbor where we docked signifying the seafaring history of the area, and early one morning we were hailed by a passing Russian boat loaded with fishermen off to destinations unknown. I was interested in several “unique” sights we saw such as the Bus Stop sign along a very rugged, rocky unpaved city road, a “Fine Art Studio” sign on a multistory, freshly painted building used to house residents, with numerous electrical device antennas on the roof. Also interesting was the city cemetery on the outskirts of the residential area. We were told that Stalin had forbidden the use of any sort of religious crosses on grave sites, so what you see here was typical. Many graves had discarded household items around their perimeter. Bed frames for example.

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The people we saw and met were exceptionally friendly and we were treated to an hour-long cultural musical and dancing presentation with traditional Russian and native songs. In summary, we saw and photographed sights that only a few outsiders have experienced. We were indeed fortunate. I wonder what the city looks like today seven years after our visit.

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Native People in the Bering Sea

A definite highlight of our 2007 two-week exploration cruise to Alaska, the Bering Sea and Far Eastern Siberia in Russia was having an opportunity to interact with many people living a hardy life on remote islands and mainland areas in the region. We were given many native cultural presentations, noting that the people here have ancestors which date back over 2000 years. Many villages depend year-by-year on subsistence fishing and as such they are concerned with climate change in the region, not that I am taking a position either way on this subject. The basic fact is, when you depend on four large whales taken during the annual fishing season to feed the village, and you only get two for whatever reasons, life becomes much more difficult. I hope you enjoy the colorful and generally happy faces I was able to photograph while we were there. Especially the young people!

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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in People

 

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A Dedicated Mountain Woman

Orelena Puckett known locally as “Aunt” Puckett was born in 1837 and lived near Groundhog Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The home she lived in has been restored and is available for visitors to view while driving by on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Aunt Puckett farmed with her husband and she lived for 102 years. During her lifetime she not only gave birth to 24 children of her own, but served as a midwife for others, assisting in the birth of more than 1000 babies. Ironically, none of her own children lived beyond infancy, although it was not uncommon during those days in the rugged environment of this region for many children to die of a very early age. No matter the weather, she walked or rode on horseback to help with the birth of neighbor children. Her fee for those services was typically one dollar, but when times were good, she charged six dollars. For those who could not pay in dollars, she often received food or other goods. The series of photographs below tell a bit of her story visually. The last image was made at a small family cemetery near her home, which marks the passing of Alfred Bowman who was born in August 1893 and died in May of 1894. It is not known if Aunt Puckett had helped with the birth of this baby. The stone reads at the bottom, “Gone to a better land.”

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Faces at Christmas

Looking in various merchant store-front windows the other day I focused on “faces” on miniature figures I saw. Each represents a part of the Christmas season (especially the first one) and I felt when combined together here, they might make for an interesting series of photos. The key to making such images through glass, is to have sufficient natural light so that a flash is not needed. In these cases, the setting sun provided al that I needed. I hope this sets you in a holiday mood!

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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Close Up, People

 

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Brick People

I recently found a city center market in North Carolina that had a long brick wall creating an entryway, and on that wall images of people engaged in various activities were carved. How that was done is beyond me, but it sure does look nice. Impressive detail. Hope you enjoy what I saw.

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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Artistic and Creative, Close Up, People

 

The “Old-Timer”

Age brings wisdom many say. While that may not always be true, given the person involved, I found that talking to this “old-timer” I recently met while visiting a general store high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to be an especially enlightening experience. For example, he never once interrupted me while I was speaking, he always kept his eyes on me thus showing interest in what I was saying, and he never once indicated he had other more important things to do than listen and apparently enjoy what I had to say…a simple visitor from the foothills below where he lived. I wish more people were like this old-timer…especially those elected to political office.

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On the Farm

Given all the home comfort many people have today in the United States, it’s hard for some of our younger generation to understand and appreciate the many hardships their ancestors experienced daily. This was especially true on farms, where land first had to be cleared by hand, then cut trees fashioned into logs and wooden planks which formed the basis for the homes in which they lived along with associated out-buildings…they thrived for generations. What they ate mostly came from gardens, domestic and wild animals. Cooking was done over open log fires, water was obtained from wells or local streams or lakes, and at night families gathered around oil lamps reading the family Bible and books, playing various games, talking, or simply relaxing after the rigors of the passing day. This brief photo collection of mine was made at the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum located at Ferrum College in SW Virginia. The purpose of the institute is to show how farm life was during the 18th and 19th Century in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Virginia. Museum volunteers dress in period clothing and perform common chores experienced daily by those who labored hard to survive often under extreme conditions. Thousands visit the museum and outdoor exhibits annually.

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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in America's Past, Architecture, People

 

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Stylin’

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With sunglasses on, these vendors working at the Buffalo Wild Wings booth at Martinsville Speedway last weekend are definitely “stylin”, meaning they are looking good. If you’ve never been to a Buffalo Wild Wings casual sports bar and restaurant then you are missing not only good food, but some great sports programming, especially good during college football season. Their “wings” are super, as are their ribs, and the beer…lots on tap or in a bottle…ice cold and tasty. It’s been over a year since I’ve been and I’ve missed it. Around here the place is known as “B-Dubs.” You can figure that out for yourself…but a hint…a “B” and two “W’s.” Anyway, maybe this photo I made and my words above will make you hungry. Cheers!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in People

 

You don’t see this much anymore

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There is one thing in this image of an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park Ranger I made recently that is very uncommon today. Do you see it? Yes, the pipe. I remember when I entered the Army in 1963 (yes, Army Corps of Engineers) and I’d say just about 100% of us smoked, not chewed, tobacco of some sort. Most used cigarettes, but there were many who chose a cigar or pipe. I smoked cigarettes but experimented from time to time with a pipe. I recall one such time when I overdid it with the pipe, by smoking bowl after bowl of tobacco because I never could keep the darn thing to stay lit. As a result, I burned the tip of my tongue…so much so that I never put a pipe near my mouth again. I did the same thing with cigarettes in the mid-1970s. Regardless of the clearly obvious health hazards of tobacco use, there is something nostalgic about seeing someone smoking a pipe. It looks so relaxing, and like this park ranger taking a break from his work activities, seems to convey being a peace with himself and the world.

As an aside, I made this image at Martinsville Speedway during race weekend April 5th. The park ranger was there along with others who had set up a display promoting usage of the local Corps of Engineers recreational facility at Philpott Lake Dam and Reservoir near Bassett, Virginia. Wonderful place to visit.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in People, Photo Stories

 

Opposites

After I made these two photos it came to me that they are really opposites. First, these images were made looking through the front window of an antique store, and they are clearly ceramic figures. The main difference is that the first one, the clown, may cause people to say “Yikes, what a scary face!” while the second one, the cowboy, most likely will be met with a much happier and warmer reception. Clowns frighten many people, while cowboys always seem friendly and manly. So, that’s my story…opposites. Short as it is.

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Close Up, People

 
 
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