Phantom Businesses

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A couple of hours north of San Francisco, Ukiah is a city of about 15,000 that is still looking for a replacement for the timber-based economy that was decimated decades ago by over-cutting. Wine? Tourism? Marijuana? In the meantime businesses come and go (recently, it seems, mostly go). I decided to photograph these "phantom businesses" for a project in the Introduction to Photography class at Mendocino College, taught by Tomiko Jones. My initial thought was only businesses that had left their signage, but I eventually applied a more liberal interpretation to include address numbers and other assorted decals, signs with the letters removed, and two examples of what I call phantom phantoms (the plastic of a sign completely obliterated and a removed sign revealing a different color paint underneath). The saddest sign, I think, is “Joseph’s” an intricate floor tile design from the 20’s? 30’s? - who knows? - that is still intact but now covered in filth. My favorite has to be “The Toggery”, at the top of an old brick advertising wall (see my California page for the whole thing and a few closeups). Black and white seemed appropriate to emphasize the gritty nature of the subject, but I decided to go with saturated color as a reminder that each of these business was started with hope and enthusiasm. The “No Lament Award” is presented to Bank of America, the “Irony Award” goes to the smoke shop than burned, and the “Inevitable Award” is saved for Lucky (not yet closed, but doomed, in my opinion, as soon as Costco opens). All photos were shot with a Fuji X100F on a tripod, ISO set at 200, aperture priority with f11 or f16 to provide depth of field, then tweaked in Lightroom. (6/1/19 note:  Lucky is still open.)

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