[photo post] Location Scouting

I’ve been given a pretty rad photo project to work on that will be happening next week with my bro Amber at Lost Sew’l Organics. Since I still have a week to prepare, I figure I would go out and scout some locations to shoot at while also combining my budding interest in urban exploration. I’ve spent the better part of the last week researching various abandoned places and cemeteries in the general area and have put down a few that are easy driving-distance for a small group of people and I set out to check two of them out yesterday morning.

I started in Oak Ridge at the historic Worthington Cemetery. Oak Ridge is a fascinating place given its WWII era history. Elza is a community in Oak Ridge where one of many entrance gates stood in the 1940s when comers and goers were checked as they entered and exited the town during the Manhattan Project. Nowadays, very little exists in that part of town that would indicate such a gate ever existed, let alone the “busiest and most public” entrance to town. However, there is a small “park” with the town’s name on the sign. While most likely use it as the head of the Melton Lake Greenway, there’s another, unpaved, path that starts at the other end of the park. This short, wooded, path guides you through a beautiful wooded area, crosses over overgrown, abandoned railroad tracks, and eventually brings you to Worthington Cemetery.

The cemetery boasts around 50 headstones, some reportedly restored, but most are extremely old. While the majority of the death dates were between 1900-1950, I definitely saw at least one with an 1860 death year and more than one were so old and worn, none of the inscription could be deciphered. There were a few headstones belonging to month-old babies, husbands and wives, and one row belonging to the Worthington family. This is likely where we’ll be shooting next week.

I have more photos, as always, over my Flickr account so dig ’em there if you’d like. Otherwise here are these:

Next, I headed to Rockwood, TN to scope out the abandoned Post Oak Springs Christian Church. Reportedly the oldest Restoration Movement Christian Church in the state of Tennessee, this church formed in 1812 and the building was originally built in 1876. According to the church’s wiki page, the congregation of the church now meets in a more modern church across the road, but the old church has fallen into a state of major disrepair. Vines and mold are growing all over the building, paint is chipping away, and the backside, likely added later, is completely destroyed as the corner has fallen in. Windows are broken, shingles are missing, gutters are falling – in a word, it was beautiful.

Across the street was a very small, very old cemetery that included a nice wooden cross. I wanted to shoot it but there was no fencing around it to indicate where the property line ended and there was an angry redneck banging around his truck not far from the headstones. He was a locksmith using the tools out of the back of his locksmith truck to open the door to said truck that he apparently locked his keys inside. He was pissed, but I guess if anybody’s going to lock their keys in their car, he’s the best guy to do it.

The big shoot is next week and I plan on spending about a week processing the images, but bet your ass I will be sharing the best of the best on here, on Flickr, and on Instagram. Follow me, would ya?

[PhotoPost] The Shell of a Laugh House: Side Splitters Comedy Club

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When we found out Josh Blue was coming to Knoxville, we didn’t even have to think twice about whether or not we were going. Erin had been a fan of his since he appeared on Last Comic Standing and I would turn into a pretty big fan shortly after. It was also cool because we had only recently moved to Knoxville and while I was aware of the local comedy club, Side Splitters, the place looked a little shifty and I just sort-of assumed it played host to up and comers, nobodies, and local weirdos that thought they were funny – sort of an open-mic venue for guys telling jokes. After we got our tickets, we sucked it up and made our way to the tiny little building not far from where I currently work, parked in one of the worst-kept parking lots in town, and stood in line in Sid’s Lounge, the bar just outside of the main showroom, waiting to be let in.

The walls around Sid’s Lounge were red and covered in framed photographs of talent that had passed through the doors of the funny little place. Some were posters of talent I knew and were actual photographs taken with someone’s cheap camera after a show, others were professional headshots used to promote upcoming shows for Etta May and Tim “Booty” Wilson. I rarely ever saw anyone actually sitting at the bar, which may have been because the club had a two-item minimum purchase requirement in the show room and drinks at Sid’s didn’t count toward it.

The showroom was small and cramped with almost every available space filled with a table or chairs. Most tables sat four people and were already crowded with candles, advertisements, and menus. The beer selection was minimal and expensive, the mixed drinks list was extensive and expensive, the food was shit quality and expensive. Erin would often order the Designated Driver Special that included bottomless soft drink and popcorn and covered her two-item limit. I, on the other hand, was a sucker for the fried mozzarella sticks and would usually put away 2-4 Newcastles over the course of the evening.

I was always fascinated by the group of people that would come to each show. There’d always be several tables of guys that had been practicing their own comedy routines on the car ride over, likely fueled by some pre-show spirits. Bachelorette and birthday parties were common. I’d sort of look around before the show started to see if I could pick out who the heckler would be – because there always was one – but after the lights went out I couldn’t see them well enough to confirm my suspicion anyway.

Just as the show was about to start, the lights would go down and the screen that covered the stage and was previously displaying a slideshow of drink specials, upcoming show advertisements, and warnings to not drink and drive would go dark and then an intro video would kick in. The video was very poor quality and appeared to have at one point been on a VHS tape and had since been transferred to DVD. It gave the show’s main policies (don’t take pictures, tip your waitress, bathrooms are in the back, etc.) in between clips of history’s funniest movies set to Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Starting Something. It was cheesy and repetitive, but Erin and I always loved it and always laughed at the same parts.

Once the intro video was over, the screen would raise to reveal a claustrophobically small stage with the club’s logo fixed to the wall. There was almost always an opening act and there was always a club MC that would start each show with a string of jokes that you’d heard several times if you attended regularly.

And attend regularly we did. Shows we attended included Josh Bleu (twice), Lavel Crawford, Pauly Shore, Chris Tucker, Gilbert Gottfried, Brian Posehn, Mick Foley, Harland Williams, and Chris Kattan. Gilbert made me laugh until my face hurt, Pauly broke my heart, Chris Tucker disappointed me. Despite the emotion, however, each show was a great time.

So you can imagine how bummed out we were when we found out the place was closing. Rumor had it that the owners were assholes and were extremely difficult to work with over the years. No official reason was given for the closing but you could probably guess a few valid reasons for it with poor ownership.

But the comedy light hadn’t been turned out entirely. Shortly after the closing it was announced that another company had bought the business and planned on re-opening after UT Football season was over (try having Saturday night events during football season in Knoxville and you’d understand why) so we waited patiently for football to be over.

And then it ended. And still no Side Splitters. No word. No explanation. Just an old building, rotting on the side of a hill in west Knoxville. I drive by that building every day on my way to work and my heart hurts a little every time I see its current state. It’s been years now since anyone inhabited that building. Despite its terrible state and the giant bummer that is its continued closing, there’s something beautiful about the building in the morning sunlight.

So I set out to shoot it on Sunday morning. The grass around the building has grown up to almost knee-height, there are stacks of tires inexplicably stacked in front of the building, every door and window is boarded up and piles of garbage line the southern side of the building. A trucker had lost his license plate on the front porch and two bowls of untouched oatmeal were balanced on the railing. The marquee remains on the northern side, though no upcoming shows are listed. Every wire, cable, and pipe has been forcibly removed from the back side, the picket fence that once enclosed them has been destroyed in places.

I still have a bit of hope in my heart that Side Splitters will re-open one day, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, we still have the laughs.

If for some reason you want to see these in high-res, head over to my Flickr account.

For what it’s worth, the day after shooting these I noticed the oatmeal was gone.

You’ve Heard Me Talk About It…(AKA: Watch These Videos)

If you’re friends with me, follow me on social, or have read this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know I have no problems talking about my involvement at Title Boxing Club Knoxville. I’ve mentioned it in almost every post I’ve made in the last year. I check in four times (or more) a week on Facebook and have geotagged several images from there on Instagram. Title is Life, you could say, and I’m obsessed.

So, obviously, if you really care about a place like that you want it to succeed. And while I give it all I’ve got when I teach boxing and kickboxing classes every week, I’m really only benefitting the members and the first-shot people, not really doing anything to draw new clients to us, not doing anything to get new fists in gloves. So with that in mind, I was convinced to start doing some video work for the gym.

I’m certainly not a creative mastermind when it comes to video production but I do know how to do it, and thankfully my friend DeMarcus is eager to learn the how-to and brings lots of creative ideas to the table. Our hope is to beef up our social presence as heftily as possible through creative videos and quality photography work.

The Hit It Hard video game video was a product that came about unintentionally after viewing some footage we shot on the roof of our shopping center during sunrise. The footage I intended to capture (and succeeded) hasn’t even been properly used yet, but I was able to take those shots and piece them together in a way that gave us something kind of silly, which I think our boss is looking for: humor. I can’t purposely do funny so accidents like this are always welcome.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, I’m sure you saw me spamming you about our All Star Class we organized for last Thursday, August 11. We gathered all of our currently active trainers and put together a Power Hour that was truly unique and a total ass-kicker. Each trainer got their own round, so our members had to work through a fresh trainer every round. The house was totally full with every bag being taken, and at least two bags had two people on them working at the same time. D and I ran around with our cameras and with the addition of two other cameras were able to put together a pretty sweet video that showcases what we’re all about at Title Boxing Club Knoxville: intensity, motivation, and getting an awesome, totally unique workout.

Dig it:

I don’t even care if you don’t live in Knoxville – if you have a Title Boxing Club nearby, give it a go. Your first time is always free, and I can promise you, you’re not going to get a workout like it anywhere else!