Nihonjin Desu-ka?

Are you Japanese?  I spent 3 weeks in the land of the Rising Sun and attempted to figure out the answer to this most basic question with my camera  (29 images).

 

Yokohama, Japan. 2016.  Chinatown.

Yokohama, Japan. 2016. Chinatown.

 

 

 

 

 

Yokosuka, Japan.  2016.  An US Navy sailor runs down an overpass after departing US Naval Base Yokosuka.

Yokosuka, Japan. 2016. An US Navy sailor runs down an overpass after departing US Naval Base Yokosuka.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016..  Shinto wedding at Meiji Jingu.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Shinto wedding at Meiji Jingu.

 

 

 

 

 

Tsukiji, Japan. 2016.  Hundreds of townspeople of Tsukiji parade through the streets carrying a mikoshi, or portable shrine in the shape of a lion's head weighing 700kg during the Tsukiji Shishi Matsuri, or Lion Dance Festival.

Tsukiji, Japan. 2016. Hundreds of townspeople of Tsukiji parade through the streets carrying a mikoshi, or portable shrine in the shape of a lion’s head weighing 700kg during the Tsukiji Shishi Matsuri, or Lion Dance Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016.  Coffee shop during Torigoe Matsuri festival in Asakusabashi.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Coffee shop during Torigoe Matsuri festival in Asakusabashi.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016.  Revelers at the Torigoe Matsuri festival in Asakusabashi take a break.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Revelers at the Torigoe Matsuri festival in Asakusabashi take a break.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Slots parlor.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Slots parlor.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Roadside restaurant.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Roadside restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. The Robot Restaurant.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. The Robot Restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016.  Gion geisha district.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. Gion geisha district.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan. 2016.  A group of hikers with panda hats at Fushimi Inari shrine stop to eat hard boiled tamago, or eggs, at a rest stop on Mt. Inari.

Kyoto, Japan. 2016. A group of hikers with panda hats at Fushimi Inari shrine stop to eat hard boiled tamago, or eggs, at a rest stop on Mt. Inari.

 

 

 

 

 

Himeji, Japan. 2016. A tour guide of domestic Japanese tourists highlights the sleeping and toilet quarters of samurai in the basement level of the main keep of Himeji castle.

Himeji, Japan. 2016. A tour guide of domestic Japanese tourists highlights the sleeping and toilet quarters of samurai in the basement level of the main keep of Himeji castle.

 

 

 

 

 

Himeji, Japan. 2016. Tourists pose in traditional costumes in the West Bailey of Himeji castle.

Himeji, Japan. 2016. Tourists pose in traditional costumes in the West Bailey of Himeji castle.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016.  A Japanese Macaque takes a nap in a tree. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is home to a troop of 120 wild Japanese Macaques on Iwata mountain in western Kyoto.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. A Japanese Macaque takes a nap in a tree. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is home to a troop of 120 wild Japanese Macaques on Iwata mountain in western Kyoto.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016.  Monks at the Rinzai Zen temple of Daikaku-ji in Kyoto, former summer home and garden of Emperor Saga of Japan.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. Monks at the Rinzai Zen temple of Daikaku-ji in Kyoto, former summer home and garden of Emperor Saga of Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016.  A gardener at Daikaku-ji temple picks up fallen pine needles by hand while kneeling under a canopy of miniature pine trees. Daikaku-ji temple is also home to the world famous Saga-Goryu ikebana school.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. A gardener at Daikaku-ji temple picks up fallen pine needles by hand while kneeling under a canopy of miniature pine trees. Daikaku-ji temple is also home to the world famous Saga-Goryu ikebana school.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016.  Public smoking section in Shimbashi.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Public smoking section in Shimbashi.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016.  A priest of the Enoshima-Daishi temple leads a Goma, or fire ritual on the small island of Enoshima off the coast of Japan near Kamakura. Such rituals are key practices of Shingon, or Japanese Orthodox Esoteric Buddhism, where before a flame several meters high in a smoke filled temple, devotees repeatedly chant mantras to the beat of a taiko drum.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. A priest of the Enoshima-Daishi temple leads a Goma, or fire ritual on the small island of Enoshima off the coast of Japan near Kamakura. Such rituals are key practices of Shingon, or Japanese Orthodox Esoteric Buddhism, where before a flame several meters high in a smoke filled temple, devotees repeatedly chant mantras to the beat of a taiko drum.

 

 

 

 

 

Enoshima Island, Japan. 2016.  A man sleeps on a rock.

Enoshima Island, Japan. 2016. A man sleeps on a rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. A competitor at the 28th National University Archery Invitational practices his release prior to the competition outside the Shiseikan martial arts field.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. A competitor at the 28th National University Archery Invitational practices his release prior to the competition outside the Shiseikan martial arts field.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016.  A child cycles on the sidewalk.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. A child cycles on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

Kamakura, Japan. 2016.  A tourist peers inside the incense burner at the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in monastery.

Kamakura, Japan. 2016. A tourist peers inside the incense burner at the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in monastery.

 

 

 

 

 

Kamakura, Japan. 2016.  Lifeguards group stretches at Zaimokuza Beach.

Kamakura, Japan. 2016. Lifeguards group stretches at Zaimokuza Beach.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. The meishi-koukan, or act of exchanging business cards.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. The meishi-koukan, or act of exchanging business cards.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan. 2016.  Japanese schoolchildren eat lunch during a field trip to Ueno Zoo.

Tokyo, Japan. 2016. Japanese schoolchildren eat lunch during a field trip to Ueno Zoo.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. A Shinkansen (Bullet Train) conductor.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. A Shinkansen (Bullet Train) conductor.

 

 

 

 

 

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. Izakaya chef and accompanying menu.

Kyoto, Japan, 2016. Izakaya chef and accompanying menu.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Window washers.

Tokyo, Japan, 2016. Window washers.

 

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl Revelers

The Denver Broncos celebrated their Super Bowl victory today in Downtown, Denver.  This is my day among the revelers.

(14 images)

 

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Durga Puja for Dummies

What did I just type?  DuRgaH-PooJah.  Yeah, it’s one of the great festivals of the world, a Bengali festival.  What’s Bengali?  People from West Bengal, an eastern state of India, see map below:

 

Number 29 is the Indian state of West Bengal, the city of Kolkata - which used to be called Calcutta - is the state's capital.

Number 29 is the Indian state of West Bengal, the city of Kolkata – which used to be called Calcutta – is the state’s capital.

 

To be fair, I knew absolutely nothing about Durga Puja before visiting Kolkata for 3 weeks earlier this month (October 2015).  All I knew about it was that it was where people threw the statue into the water.  Really.  The following is a better description from what I’ve learned about it, which is also on my website, although I am still a complete noob when it comes to all the religious details and historical significance.  I was and still am, an outsider to their world.

 

“Celebrating the Mother Goddess” – 24 captioned images

 

Durga Puja is one of the most important festivals for Hindus, especially in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and its capital, Kolkata. Officially beginning with the ritual of torpon during Mahalaya, where throngs of Hindus flock to the Kolkata tributary of the Ganges – the Hooghly River – to pay tribute to deceased ancestors on October 12, 2015. The actual dates of Durga Puja festival proper this year were the five days from Oct 18-22, and ran through Oct 25, ending in the submersion of Durga idols in the Hooghly River. Durga Puja is one of the great, but relatively unknown to the West, festivals of the world, often compared to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Brazil.

The festival is a communal celebration of the mother goddess Durga and the triumph of good over evil. Durga is normally portrayed riding a lion and wielding 10 different weapons in each of her 10 arms, alongside her four children, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikya. The female Durga is shown slaying the male buffalo demon Mahishasura. The elaborate painted clay idols are created out of sun-dried river mud from the Hooghly River. Created from foundations of straw mannequins attached to bamboo frames, the Durga idols are normally commissioned by neighborhood districts who pool funds together and hire a potter – usually from the potter’s colony of Kumartoli in north Kolkata – to assemble and paint the artwork in the months leading up to the festival.

In order to facilitate mass communal worshipping of the mother goddess, more than 2000 of the massive idols are then transported by trucks to creatively themed structures called pandals placed within their respective neighborhoods all over Kolkata. The highly decorative pandals are already erected on public streets by pandal makers all over the city in the days before Durga Puja. Both the pandals and the idols are temporary, as on the last day of the festival, the idols of Durga are ceremoniously transported to the Hooghly river and immersed in the water, symbolizing her last day on Earth and return to Mt. Kailash to rejoin her husband Shiva.

 

 

 

Worshippers line the banks of the Hooghly river during Mahalaya to pray to deceased family members and enter the waters to make offerings, or tarpan, Mahalaya marks the beginning of the Pujas.

Worshippers line the banks of the Hooghly river during Mahalaya to pray to deceased family members and enter the waters to make offerings, or tarpan, Mahalaya marks the beginning of the Pujas.

 

 

 

 

Pilgrims dry their clothes after submerging in the Hooghly river during Mahalaya.

Pilgrims dry their clothes after submerging in the Hooghly river during Mahalaya.

 

 

 

 

Pandal makers constructing a pandal.

Pandal makers constructing a pandal.

 

 

 

 

Artisans works on Durga idols leading up to Durga Puja.

Artisans works on Durga idols leading up to Durga Puja.

 

 

 

 

Workers pull on a rope to load an idol onto a truck for delivery in its pandal.

Workers pull on a rope to load an idol onto a truck for delivery in its pandal.

 

 

 

 

Pandal porters rest in the a potter's studio before having to rake out the idols and deliver them to their pandals.

Pandal porters rest in the a potter’s studio before having to rake out the idols and deliver them to their pandals.

 

 

 

 

An inauguration of a pandal and its official opening to the public.

An inauguration of a pandal and its official opening to the public.

 

 

 

 

Performing religious rituals using the banana plant, or Kola, leading up to Durga Puja.

Performing religious rituals using the banana plant, or Kola, leading up to Durga Puja.

 

 

 

 

The activity of "pandal hopping," or visiting the hundreds of pandasl which house the idol of Mother Goddess Durga around Kolkata.

The activity of “pandal hopping,” or visiting the hundreds of pandasl which house the idol of Mother Goddess Durga around Kolkata.

 

 

 

 

Visitors to a pandal photograph the idol of Mother Goddess Durga.

Visitors to a pandal photograph the idol of Mother Goddess Durga.

 

 

 

 

The pandal at Kumartoli park is decorated with a diorama of a military scene.

The pandal at Kumartoli park is decorated with a diorama of a military scene.

 

 

 

 

Throngs of visitors enter a pandal.

Throngs of visitors enter a pandal.

 

 

 

 

Fire extinguishing equipment at a pandal.

Fire extinguishing equipment at a pandal.

 

 

 

 

A shooting parlor at a carnival.

A shooting parlor at a carnival.

 

 

 

 

Cotton candy stand at a carnival.

Cotton candy stand at a carnival.

 

 

 

 

Fake flower merchant at a carnival.

Fake flower merchant at a carnival.

 

 

 

 

A street in the Ahiritola district during Durga Puja.

A street in the Ahiritola district during Durga Puja.

 

 

 

 

Drummers play music as idols from all over Kolkata are trucked to Babu Ghat for immersion into the Hooghly river on the last day of Durga Puja.

Drummers play music as idols from all over Kolkata are trucked to Babu Ghat for immersion into the Hooghly river on the last day of Durga Puja.

 

 

 

 

Pandal porters drag an idol of Goddess Durga to the Hooghly river for immersion on the last day of the festival.

Pandal porters drag an idol of Goddess Durga to the Hooghly river for immersion on the last day of the festival.

 

 

 

 

An idol of mother goddess Durga is submerged in the Hooghly river at Nimtala ghat.

An idol of mother goddess Durga is submerged in the Hooghly river at Nimtala ghat.

 

 

 

 

Immersion porters celebrate after dunking an idol of mother goddess Durga into the Hooghly river.

Immersion porters celebrate after dunking an idol of mother goddess Durga into the Hooghly river.

 

 

 

 

As per custom, female Bengalis adorn themselves with red paint and dress to ritually send off goddess Durga back to Mt. Kailash and her husband Shiva and thereby marking an end to her brief time on earth.

As per custom, female Bengalis adorn themselves with red paint and dress to ritually send off goddess Durga back to Mt. Kailash and her husband Shiva and thereby marking an end to her brief time on earth.

 

 

 

 

Discarded idols post-Durga Puja festivities in the Hooglhy River as a man opens a packet of laundry detergent in order to wash his clothes.

Discarded idols post-Durga Puja festivities in the Hooglhy River as a man opens a packet of laundry detergent in order to wash his clothes.

 

 

 

 

People along the Hooghly river collect and recycle bamboo frames on which Durga idols are created that wash up on shore after immersion.

People along the Hooghly river collect and recycle bamboo frames on which Durga idols are created that wash up on shore after immersion.

 

 

 

 

Indian Luxury Movie Theater – INOX Insignia

I am in Kolkata, India still and felt like watching the new Tom Hanks / Steven Spielberg movie – “Bridge of Spies.”  It was a great movie, but that’s not the point.  This post is all about the theater and the great wealth divide in India between the very small percentage of those with and the even larger percentage of those without.

I went to Quest Mall in south Kolkata, a beacon of modernity opened in 2014 brimming with luxury retailers such as Breitling, Gucci, and Swarovski.  At the top floor of the mall lies Quest’s branch of the INOX movie chain.  Within the already exclusive INOX theater, rests a superlative movie experience unlike any other I have ever experienced simply called Insignia.

Now you have to realize that just to get into the Quest Mall, you need to pass the visual inspection of several security guards as well as X-Ray screening and wanding for you and your bags.  Everyone I saw inside the mall was very well dressed and frankly, I felt really underdressed in my pants and T-Shirt.

I have never been to a movie in India, and before arriving here in Kolkata at the beginning of the month, I knew that a movie in Kolkata was one of the things I wanted to experience.  Little did I know what I was in for.

My ticket price for the top of the line experience was 600 rupees, about $9.20.  I had no idea I was purchasing Insignia, I just thought, hmm, well, a movie back home in Boulder, Colorado costs $10.65, so I’m getting a good deal.  I later found out that a ticket to “normal” Indian movie theaters go for 250 rupees, about $3.80.  The regular INOX theater ranges in price from 270-450 rupees depending on the kind of seat you get.  Remember, INOX is already much better than the standard Indian theater.

To get into the theater, I had to pass another security checkpoint filled with the requisite wanding, X-Ray screening, and emptying of all pockets.  If this is starting to sound like getting on a plane, the similarities didn’t stop there.

My Insignia ticket got me access to not only a super luxurious theater, but also my own pre-movie waiting lounge complete with an exclusive concessions counter.  Besides popcorn and all the usuals, the counter stocked bagels, sandwiches, Indian food, coffee and tea.  I felt as if I was in a club lounge at the airport waiting for my flight to board.

 

The Insignia pre-movie lounge with my fellow exclusive Insignia guests

The Insignia pre-movie lounge with my fellow Insignia guests

 

We were ushered into a relatively small theater with the most comfortable movie seats I have ever experienced.  Think the best Lazy Boy recliner you have ever been in whose footrest is electronically raised and lowered and whose backrest goes almost to horizontal.  You not only have cup holders on both armrests, but also a personal table on which to rest food.  My seat was assigned – Row B, Seat 13.

 

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Here we are ushered into the Insignia screening room

 

 

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Here the couple next to me is served hot drinks and snacks during the movie

 

Some interesting observations…  There were no previews, just ads and social commentary like smoking cigarettes are bad for you and love your parents in their old age.  Also, half-way through the movie the lights came on and the movie went back to ads.  I thought there was a problem, yet nobody panicked.  HA!  It was intermission, a 15 min break for us to go to the bathroom and get more snacks!

 

 

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The first thing I saw when walking into the Mens’ room

 

 

The second thing I saw in the Men's room.  The urinals covered went around the entire wall and formed a full inner and outer circle

The second thing I saw in the Men’s room. The urinals covered went around the entire wall and formed a full inner and outer circle

 

So, the INOX Insignia experience was special, and with the help of a strong US dollar, I got to experience it for cheaper than I would at my local theater back home.  One must realize that the majority of Indians will never experience such things.  Also, the fact that the movie I saw was in English without subtitles, not Hindi or Bengali, tells you something about those who saw the film.  What an amazing country you are India.

 

My Day at Nicco Park – Kolkata

Ever wonder what it’s like at an Indian amusement park?  I thought the same, and as I am in the West Bengali capital of Kolkata for the next 3 weeks or so, I decided that since today is Saturday, it was the perfect day to satisfy my curiosity.

The weather was sweltering at over 95F and 90% humidity. Coming from arid Boulder, CO, USA just a few days ago, my body has yet to adjust to the literal swamp conditions, so needless to say, I barely ever took a piss, and gulped bottled water constantly, which instantly turned to sweat and poured down my limbs.  The locals must have wondered, “why is this brown skinned guy so wet all the time?”  It was like wandering around in a combo sauna and steam room.

Ok, back to the point, think Indian amusement park – coming from the American Six Flags point of view, any real comparison would be unjust and unfair.  Yes, maintenance of worn out equipment and lack of general cleanliness were issues, but Nicco Park is Kolkata’s go to Numero Uno amusement park, combining wet and dry parks into one, and I actually had a really good time.  (15 images)

 

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Indian Wedding Festival

Some of you know that I am pretty obsessed with India.  I like the food, the people, and the craziness of the country.  Life over there is so different to my American way of life that upon my first trip to India last year I felt as if I landed on another planet.  There was so much vivacity and authenticity of life, so many people jam packing your every sense.  The USA seemed comfortable and boring.

Well, I am going back soon to concentrate on another major Indian city, and to get a preview, an appetizer if you will, I went to the Indian Wedding Festival in Denver yesterday.

A celebration of all South Asian culture, Nepalese, Tibetan, Assamese, Bengali, to name a few.

 

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Grocery Store Part 2

You may or may not know, I work at Whole Foods Market, Boulder, CO, USA.  It’s a subject I have documented before with my iPhone here on Creamy Bokeh, and here are some more recent images – a continuation.   The following images are all selections from my Instagram feed at https://instagram.com/joshuabergeron

 

 

 

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Stephen from Grocery on break vaping strawberry mint mojito nicotine juice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Frank in Whole Body found an invisibility cloak.

 

 

 

 

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Every 6 months, we at WFM Pearl need to get new non slip shoes. Here the lady at the Red Wing store has me sign the paperwork required for when they take the discounted price of the shoes out of my paycheck in installments.

 

 

 

 

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Thom from Security with what appears to be a wasp taking a ride on his shoulder tonight.

 

 

 

 

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Watching kickball behind the Pearl store.

 

 

 

 

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How cash dollars leave the Pearl store and go to Austin in a convoluted way.

 

 

 

 

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Hanging behind the Pearl store.

 

 

 

 

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The Grocery Dept bosses talking something serious.

 

 

 

 

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My favorite grate grazer.

 

 

 

 

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Brian from Specialty gathers his load from the DDC pallet in a semi-trailer on the Receiving dock.

 

 

 

 

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Remember when things like a toy car you can get into at the grocery store made you happy?

 

 

 

 

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Two Chinese people, one is in a cart.

 

 

 

 

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Found customer shopping list.

 

 

 

 

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Who cut the cheese? Master Ben (r) hands me a piece of 2 year old Parmigiano-Reggiano after apprentice H cracked open the 90lb wheel.

 

 

 

 

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This is called a job dialogue, a yearly review for every Team Member in the company. Grocery ATL Isidro is about to give me mine tonight after my shift. He doesn’t look happy.

 

 

 

 

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Late afternoon pondering behind the Pearl store.

 

 

 

 

 

Corn and Humans

In praise of corn at the Loveland Corn Roast Festival! A Non-GMO corn celebration and consumption in massive quantities, an apprecitaion of harvest in Colorado.

 

 

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Pure Americana in a Way

August is the month for County Fairs, and yesterday I went to the Adams County Fair just outside Brighton, CO.   Only a 40 min drive east of Boulder, but it might as well have been another planet.  Ranching, Agriculture, Colorado State University, Red, Republican, Conservative, Tradition, Family, Values, Respect, Fairness, Kindness, Truth are words which come to mind.

This is the kind of culture which changes very slowly I have a feeling.  I find it utterly perplexing that a way of life is so tied to political affiliations, whether it is Blue like it is in Boulder or Red.  It’s truly Amazing how polarized this country is.  It was a wonderful experience to penetrate such a unique bubble of Americana.  (21 images)

 

 

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The County Fair

 

I spent the weekend first installing a photo installation where I work at Whole Foods Pearl St, Boulder, CO, USA entitled “The Feeders.”  Start in the cafe and walk along the whole south wall of the building.  Check it out if you can, it is a long-term body of work of images of the lives of team members over the past 3 years coupled with found shopping lists from customers.  It is an examination of the symbiotic relationship between team member and customer.   The exhibit will hang during the month of August.

Not photographing much last weekend due to prepping and planning my Whole Foods Pearl exhibit, I was glad to be back shooting one of my favorite subjects – American Culture – once again!  It was the weekend of county fairs, and as a friend of mine who lived his whole life in Colorado, most county fairs occur in the month of August.  From someone who never experienced or knew about such activities when growing up, I always find fairs around Colorado stimulating, enlightening rituals which act as a lenses magnifying unique aspects of American culture.

On Saturday I went to the Boulder County Fair and on Sunday the Denver County Fair.  They couldn’t be more different.  Conservative vs Progressive, perhaps even Old School and New.  Today’s 11 images are from both fairs.

 

Boulder County Fair, Longmont, Colorado, USA

 

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Social and Political conditioning at a Republican Party campaign tent at the Boulder County Fair in Longmont, CO, USA.

 

 

 

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4-H, an organization of the US Dept of Agriculture since 1902, whose mission is “”Engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.” – Wikipedia. Here a youth’s project involves demonstrating different choke tubes used in shotguns to vary the shot pattern and grouping. I did my science project on what melts and ice cube faster and why – salt or sugar?

 

 

 

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I had a great time at the Boulder County Fair and  hope to return during its height next weekend.

 

Denver County Fair, Denver, CO, USA

 

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So this is what a cat show competition looks like!

 

 

 

 

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Self defense company for women, note the tattoo of ammo around the thigh.

 

 

 

 

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A clash of brand icons

 

 

 

 

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Remember when photos were taken this way? Tintype time.

 

 

 

 

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