Mike Mandel’s Baseball Photographer Trading Card set has been one of my favorite things for a few years. It’s the venn diagram intersection of my interests on baseball cards, printing, and photography but is unfortunately frequently priced as Art™ in the few instances when cards are even available.
I don’t even want to collect the set (although I’m kicking myself over missing the window on buying the catalog to his Good 70s show which included a complete second-edition set). It’s just that there are a handful of cards in it that I kind of love.
Last week though I landed one of those cards. I wasn’t internet stalking it or anything, I just randomly check ebay like I do a couple times a year and lo and behold this was available.
For the last five years or so if I had to pick a favorite photographer I would’ve answered Lewis Baltz. It’s not just that he was a photographer’s photographer whose work I can look at all day,* but the fact that his work taught me how to see.
*I wish I could say I own all his books but, alas, I only have Industrial Parks.
Baltz’s photos are transformative, beautiful images of buildings and places that most people deride as ugly and uninspired. As a child of the suburbs who learned to drive in deserted industrial parks, these places speak to me as “home” just as much as any photo of the natural beauty of the American West does.
Looking at his work trained me own eye in noticing what’s interesting about industrial buildings and the way their façades interact with light. There’s a surprising amount of texture and going out through an Industrial park to go “baltzing” is one of my favorite ways to take a photo walk.
While the photos start off being very much in his style, like anything artwise if you stay on that path you eventually end up someplace more personally interesting. In my case, one of my favorite projects I’ve been working on is a mix of color and black and white photos of the locations where my kids attend birthday parties.
These are frequently in warehouses and other nondescript buildings but of all the things in New Jersey they are by far what I’ve enjoyed photographing the most.
I’m very happy to have this. It’s the first card I’m considering putting in a one-touch and keeping on my desk. …well…keeping on my desk on purpose.