Baker Beach, CA 11.11.93

I’m an amateur photographer and motorcycle tourer who lives in San Marcos, Texas. I work in Seguin, where I teach Web Mastery, Architecture, AutoCAD Drafting and Computer Applications. (Geeky Stuff!) I know at first, at least to the normal person, it would seem a bit weird there should be this fella who wanders around all over the place snapping photographs of manhole covers. However, if you take a bit of time and listen to my story and look at the images I have collected through the years, it begins to make better sense.

I graduated from Texas A&M University in 1986 with a degree in Industrial Education, evidently a very rare and unusual degree these days. Basically, an Industrial Education degree is about the same as an Industrial Technology degree except that instead of taking business management classes, I took curriculum development and education coursework in preparation to teach. Generally, the core classes were the same as the INTC degree. Subsequently, I took all sorts of cool and groovy things in college like industrial ceramics, plastics, sheet metal and structural metal fabrication. I took classes in jewelry making, lapidary, woodworking, construction science, furniture design, graphic arts and photography. In fact, I actually DID take a class in basket weaving. (Although it didn’t occur underwater.) During the vacuum casting, sand casting and “lost wax” spin casting portions of the jewelry making course I started to realize I had this keen interest in casting. Any sort of casting… I liked it! This in turn, led me into taking even more course work within the field of industrial casting.

There was just something about the idea of pouring hot metal that appealed to me. I liked the way the forge sounded as it burned. I liked the way it looked after the slag was skimmed off and the flux cleared the surface in preparation for the pour. I loved the way it shimmered and glowed when I reached in to lift the crucible… carefully pouring the liquid metal into the prepared moulds. All of this… primed me for a lifetime of observing and admiring industrial castings, patterns and foundry process.

New Orleans, LA     By: Robert A Melnick

New Orleans, LA By: Robert A Melnick

Then something amazing happened! One day… while wandering aimlessly through a book store in Atlanta… I found a coffee table book of black and white photographs featuring manhole covers. (Manhole Covers By: Robert A. Melnick) Evidently I am not the only weirdo alive in the world! It would seem there is at least one other in this exclusive club of mine. This gave me hope… and encouraged me to look once again at the unsung texture and diversity of industrial pattern and process waiting innocuously under our feet every single day. The grills and grates, the faucets, spigots and hose bibs, the door handles and gate latches, the stamped metal electrical boxes and the lowly die cast lawn mower engine block.  The “common as dirt” meter box cover and the grand daddy of them all, the manhole cover.

But at that time, my life was in turmoil.  In spite of my notice of such things my passion had not yet jelled. That was yet to happen.  It seems that some of us bloom late. Time passed and still I found myself standing at red lights looking at Bell System hexagons, Con-Ed cross hatching or the universal concentric rings of city services and storm sewer covers everywhere.

Then in the early spring of 2001, I once again found myself in New Orleans. Along with all the architectural and cultural diversity that city typifies, it also boasts some classic vintage covers that are available nowhere else on earth. The temptation was too great, on Valentines Day, while wandering the Quarter, I finally succumbed and snapped this picture with a Kodak disposable. This led me into collecting coloured pencil rubbings featuring the distinctive and vintage New Orleans water meter box covers. Imagine it! All around me, the rest of the world was focused on the pending Mardi Gras and I’m camped out in the middle of the side walk taking rubbings of meter box covers.

New Orleans, LA   02.14.01

New Orleans, LA 02.14.01

It didn’t take me too long to realize that while Mr. Melnick’s photos were strictly of the covers themselves, my muse seemed to be the covers cradled within the urban landscape. For me it was all about their placement, about the cracks in the sidewalk, about the texture of the sun-blasted asphalt, the miss-oriented traffic markings, the subtle accumulation of leaves around a cover or the available light on that particular day.

These days I find that my varied interests are beginning to merge into one single, very solid, block of Life.  My renewed interest in motorcycles in the last few years has lead me through  two motorcycles within the last few years.  The first being a 2002 Honda VT1100C, which while being a very fine bike, was a bit undersized for the sort of traveling I commonly do while collecting images.

Then in February 2009, I got a call from a local Honda dealer who had just received a 1996 Honda GL1500 Goldwing as a trade-in.  I fell in love immediately.  The beginning between Maltov and myself was somewhat volatile.  In the end, the dealer ended up rebuilding the carburetors, fixing the massive fuel leaking issues I had those first few weeks.  Owning a Goldwing changed my life.  This was motorcycling the way I always thought it should be.  Now I had a machine capable of delivering the speed, heft and comfort I needed to really tour… to really get somewhere… quickly, cheaply and efficiently.  Since then, Maltov and I have been tearing up west Texas and I have begun to set my sites on New Mexico for sometime next summer.

Under the Big Western Sky... Again!   06.13.09

Under the Big Western Sky... Again! 06.13.09

So… it seems my passions have gotten all mushed together.  The desert… the road… Maltov… manhole covers and photography in general.

Photography is entirely about light. Without light… there would be no life. Photography is about recording light and the contrast light defines between itself and darkness. Funny… for all it’s power and intimidation, the powers of darkness have not the might to overcome even a single light.  Darkness is typified by void… emptiness… nothingness. Of itself, darkness is without form and therefore, lacks any defining shape. But light, defines gives boundary to the darkness. It is light… which creates the endless play of colour and shadow which we perceive as the world around us.  As a creature of Light. I have chosen to live in the Light. I am a light collector… an archivist… a recorder of imagery… defined by the light.  So… having said such… witness the light I have seen… and the pattern… the colour and the texture.

Upper Rio Grande Valley, NM  June 1990

Upper Rio Grande Valley, NM June 1990

Such as it is… as limited, weird and skewed as it may be… that I should find my muse in these unsung icons of urban infra structure and the crumbling wastelands of the deep desert… this is my story.

Last updated: 10.07.09
Contact Me…

It used to be I was really free I didn’t need no gasoline to run
Before you could say Jack Kerouac
You’d turn your back
And I’d be gone

Now days I got me two good wheels
And I seek refuge in aluminum and steel
It takes me out there for just a little while
And the years fall away
With every mile

I’m back out on this road again
Turn this beast into the wind
There are those who break and bend
I’m the other kind

Steve Earle, 1991


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