Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kansas City River Market

Just north of downtown Kansas City, between Interstate 70 and the Missouri River, is the neighborhood known as River Market.  It was first known as Westport Landing.  This is the original and oldest part of Kansas City.  In the early to mid 1800's, this area was the location of the docks where people and supplies were off-loaded from boats on the Missouri river.  Most were then transported a few miles south to Westport, which at the time was a starting off point for the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail.  The area around the docks began to be developed, including a public square.  Part of the square became the location of a farmer's market.  Soon warehouses and sales stalls were built. You can still walk around and buy fresh produce in this same area today.  You work your way through a series of covered walkways along the front of the warehouses.  

I took the photo here during our most recent visit in April, at about the halfway point around the warehouse stalls.  You can see even in just this one area there is a wide variety of food to choose from.  There are also people with booths selling jewelry and other artistic objects.  There are some shops you can wander through.  There is also the Steamboat Arabia museum.  The Arabia was a steamboat that sunk nearby in the river in 1856.  It was dug up and restored in the late 1980's. The whole area around the River Market is made up of really cool old buildings, most of which are being renovated into loft apartments.  One building housed a law firm, and while we were there I noticed several of the employees working in the small yard on a Saturday doing some landscaping.  There are some great views to the south of the skyline of Kansas City, too.  All in all an interesting place to visit if you're ever in K.C. 

Monday, June 28, 2010


I have a small collection of Tintype photographs, and I have scanned six of them here.  Please click on the photo to make it larger and easier to see some of the detail in the photos.  Tintypes were invented in France in 1853, and were patented in the USA in 1856.  To take a tintype photograph, the photographer would take a thin photograph-sized sheet of iron (not tin as the name would imply) and varnish it black.  He would then apply a wet coating of silver-based emulsion, and then place the sheet in the camera and expose the photo.  The photograph appears right on the iron sheet.  It is technically a negative, but the black varnish background makes it a positive.  Tintypes were comparatively fast and easy to produce.  This was the era in which photographs were taken only by professionals, men who were virtually chemists.  There were no portable cameras that you could snap away around the house.  For that reason tintypes were very popular at fairs and carnivals.  You could go into a tent, get your photo taken, and it would be ready to pick up before you left the fair.  Tintypes were very common for more than 40 years, and there were many thousands of them made. The gelatin-silver emulsion photographs have proven to hold their images very well over the years.  When you consider that the 6 tintypes I have shown here are all in the neighborhood of 125 years old, the quality is quite remarkable.  Due to my interest in photographic history, I own ten of them.  They are available at antique malls, and I see them pretty regularly, but I only buy ones that are in good shape and in which the subjects of the photos intrigue me.  I have looked at these old photos many times, and almost feel I know the people. Sadly, the reality is that their identities have been lost forever.  It's almost haunting to look into the eyes of the people in these portraits taken in a far different time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Winter World/Summer World

On January 16, 2010, in the midst of the continuous cold winter weather we were having here in northeast Kansas, Evan and I ventured out to Lake Shawnee on a very foggy, icy Saturday afternoon to shoot photos and video.  We were drawn there due to the weather that day.  The temperature was hovering indifferently around 15 degrees. The fog was so thick you couldn't see the other side of the lake.  No animals were around.  There was snow everywhere, and the lake was frozen clear out to the middle.  It was dead quiet, almost like being on another planet.  We took dozens of photos and lots of video all along the west side of the lake.  I took the photo of Evan on the left above as he stood on a dock on the southwest corner of the lake, near 45th street.  This evening we went back out to the same spot and reshot the photo as close as possible to the original.  This time the whole place was alive and different.  There were people walking along the trail, including a man with a dog.  There was a fellow fishing off the dock.  There were birds everywhere, all the trees were green, and the flags on the golf course across the lake fluttered in the breeze.  Free from the ice, the water spashed ashore.  I love the seasons and couldn't bear to live without all four of them.  I love walking around in winter's frozen, dead world as much as I do strolling along the lake trail on a summer evening listening to my iPod, as I did tonight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Darren Danger and Dot

Here I am  holding my 2009 Epiphone Dot Deluxe, my newest guitar.  I bought it in February.  I will be using it tonight because every Thursday night my band (presently called Avondale, but we are trying to come up with a  new name) practices at my house.  We play a variety of rock, punk, new wave, and reggae songs. About half are cover songs and half are songs I have written.  I have been hosting a night of music, wherever I've lived, every week for about 15 years now.  Now, with a basement, I have a pretty decent setup.  I have a drum kit and sound system permanently set up, so it is easy for us to just plug in and start playing.  We have a small entourage of regular fans that come and watch us.  Someday we may venture out and play somewhere, but we mostly just play to entertain ourselves. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Stu

Stuart Sutcliffe was born 70 years ago today, June 23, 1940.  Not a well-known name anymore, but Stuart was once a member,  before they became world famous, of perhaps the biggest rock band of all time- the Beatles.  Born in Scotland, at three years of age Stuart's family moved to Liverpool, England.  As a teenager at the Liverpool College of Art he met and became close friends with fellow student John Lennon.  Stuart showed real talent as an artist, especially in the field of abstract expressionism.  But John was more drawn to music, and he wanted Stuart to be part that scene with him.  In early summer 1960, despite his rudimentary musical skills, John Lennon and Paul McCartney persuaded Stuart to take the money he had earned selling one of his paintings and buy a bass guitar and join their band.  He went with the Beatles to Hamburg, Germany where they toiled away the hours in obscurity, playing in dingy bars. 

Stuart was never comfortable onstage and it has been said he often played with his back to the audience.  While in Germany, Stuart met a local girl, Astrid Kirchirr, who was herself a young art student and photographer.  Kirchirr ended up taking some of the earliest photos of the Beatles as a group, including the photo of Stuart shown above.  She and Stuart began seriously dating, eventually getting engaged.  In early 1961 Stuart told the band he didn't want to play any more, and resumed his art studies. His life and the lives of the Beatles parted ways, though he remained in contact with all of the Beatles after his departure.  On April 10, 1962, he collapsed during an art class in Hamburg and died en route to the hospital in an ambulance.  It was determined that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage.  He was only 22 years old.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mariachi Girasol

I recently videotaped a performance of a local mariachi band- Mariachi Girasol (Sunflower) at the Marlo Cuevas-Balandran Activity Center in Topeka.  I edited the video and gave each member of the band a copy.  I later received a card signed by all of the band members thanking me for the video, which was a super-nice thing to receive.

This was not my first encounter with a mariachi band.  In the summer of 1980 I went to Mexico with a dozen or so fellow Shawnee Heights high school students, including my brother.  We had all been taking Spanish together for a few years. We planned the trip during the school year and went a few weeks after school ended for the summer.  We went to Mexico City, Taxco, and Acapulco.  One night in Mexico City we went to a big plaza and there were a bunch of mariach bands walking around playing for tourists.  We hired one of the groups and they played a few songs for us.  That night in Mexico City was on my mind while I was filming Mariachi Girasol.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Evening at the Lake

Last evening Lyndy, Evan, and I went to Shawnee State Fishing Lake in northwest Shawnee county, Kansas.  It's easy to get there, just go north out of Topeka on Highway 75 and go west a few miles on NW 86th St. We spent several hours there sitting in some of the limited shade available, reading, listening to Lyndy's iPod over a boombox, eating a pizza we took out there, and relaxing. I fished a little, catching a few very small fish. We went on a walk along the road that goes around the lake. During that walk I took this photo: 

I have been to this lake many times in my life, from camping trips as a kid, to keg parties in my late teens and twenties, and a lot of fishing trips.  We always just called it the State Lake.  We never called it the "Fishing" Lake, but that is part of it's official name.  The Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission of Kansas bought this land in 1958, and built the lake in the early 1960's.  It has changed very little over the years.  There never has been very many trees, and it has only a few campsites.  You can't have ski boats or jet skis, nor can you even swim.  Here, it's all about fishing, and occasionally, at least in the old days, keg parties. 


Greetings, my name is Darren. I'm 47 years old and live in Topeka, Kansas. I live here with my girlfriend Lyndy and her 17 year old son Evan. The three of us have been together for nine years now. 

Darren Danger started out as my video game screen name.  The Darren Danger blog is not going to be an ongoing commentary of everything I do through the day. Instead, it is going to be a place for me to share photographs, videos, music, history, information, and humor, and try to create a webpage you will want to return to for decades.

I enjoy photography as well as shooting and editing video, and hope to use this site to share some of what I create.  I am also a musician, primarily a guitarist, and am in a band that plays every week in my basement studio.  I plan on posting some coverage of that here.  I'm a history buff and you should see some entries about historical places of interest in this blog, too.

Please leave comments if you wish.  I encourage you to click on photographs to enlarge them.  The blog goes back in time as you scroll down. The more recent posts are at the top. Since you have reached the very bottom here, you are going to have to go the other direction.