Working Man

Portland Oregon black and white film street photography by Paul Ottaviano

Andrew, assistant for Baseline Surveying. Nikon FE2, TriX 400 Film. Portland, OR.


Andrew came across as one really good person. We met shortly before I snapped this street portrait of him, working as a surveyor assistant in NW Portland.

He found my old Nikon FE2 camera fascinating. I was delighted by his surveying equipment. There are many different photographies, a lot of ways to use light to make a picture. So, in a way, we were two comrades in photography outside working for the day.

Andrew is new in town. He moved to PDX from Austin, TX. He likes it a lot better here. The pace suits him and he thinks people are friendlier. Interestingly, he had no problem finding a job.

“There are A LOT of jobs here (in comparison to Austin),” said Andrew. “The south is just getting too damn hard to find work.”

Contextually, his statement was a curiosity to me. We hear a lot about how Oregon is allegedly a bad place for business and jobs.

In PDX, so many people relocate here for either a tech job in the Silicon Forest or to pursue something creative. The pickings for the creatives is often slim. Portland is a tough job market, in some respects, particularly for professional endeavors. Like most everywhere, we do have an underemployment and homeless problem.

Gentrification is also an issue in Portland. Andrew surveying – presumably for an architecture firm – in NW Portland, a place he unlikely can afford to live in, was irony not lost on me.

But, Andrew is right. There are jobs around, if a person is willing to work a trade. It might not pay the most or lead to a swanky downtown apartment. But, for something like surveying, it’s an honest living and for Andrew this is more than okay. I was reminded of honor in labor. It was refreshing to meet someone like him.






Prelude to a Thrash

Photo of Influence Music Hall open mic guitarist by Paul Ottaviano

“Open mic night is not just daisies and Bob Dylan.” This guy thrashed.

I went to Influence Music Hall in Hillsboro, Oregon for Open Mic Night not long ago. This place is cool for any town, let alone a small town not exactly known for its creative scene. Although, believe it or not PDXers, maybe that ought to start changing a bit for Hillsboro. At least on Main Street, anyway.

Located at 3rd and Main St., Influence Music Hall is a hole-in-the-wall room with good acoustics. Previously it was a small tire storage facility. Tire marks are still visible on the wall and ceiling. But really, the place seems like it was born for local music.

There are occasional concerts there, but every Friday night is open mic. Organized by the non-profit Tualatin Valley Artists, people from around the area (one guy was a rock singer from Norway!) come to play music, usually guitar, and also sing folk, rock, or anything they’ve composed. I’ve heard screaming punk rock there and heartfelt poetry, on the same night. There are various levels of ability, but that is not the point. It’s just a local place to hang out and play live music with friends, or the occasional stranger.

Not long ago I was there with my Nikon FE2 film camera. Without getting too technical the light is, to put it mildly, low-key. In other words, there is barely any light at all. And my old film camera does not have a strobe. I shot there with the aperture open all the way to f/1.8 on a 50mm prime lens. Exposures usually around 1/10 or 1/20 on ISO 400 TriX film, hand-held.

The photo you see is one of my favorites of the bunch. You can see more here along with some other film shots I’ve done for fun lately.

American Soldiers

Japanese American Nisei Soldiers

The men were Japanese-Americans serving in the U.S. Military Intelligence Service during the Second World War, deployed to the South Pacific. We know one of the men standing is Joe Mitsuru Shiraishi. The photographer is unknown, and to me that is unfortunate because this photo is great.

I could have shared with you my digital enhancement that reveals more detail of the map and brings that highlight back into balance, but chose not to. This is not about me. It is about one anonymous man who over 70 years ago took this photo and preserved the moment. It is about the men in the photo and their service to the United States and her allies. Also, it is about the men not seen and the many Japanese-American Nisei soldiers who volunteered during the Second World War. It is a soldiers story.

Under the circumstances and considering the times, this is good work that deserves to stand on its own.

This photo comes courtesy of the Oregon Congressional Gold Medal Banquet Committee and is archived at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center.