Ignacio Michaud was born and raised in Chile. In 2005 he moved to Atlanta. At night he paints and, during the day, he works as a translator at a farmers’ market on Buford Highway. In this segment he talks about the multicultural qualities of Buford Highway and compares the spatial layout of the street to a neighborhood in Santiago.
Archive for July, 2009
From 2004 to 2006, I produced videos for the online scholarly journal Southern Spaces. The journal’s editor Allen Tullos developed a special kind of video content for the site: poets reading their work at the locations in which their poems are set. Words remain the foundation, but images and sounds can add new resonance and connections. I helped Allen produce a few of these videos, and, in the past couple years, my friend Matt Miller has done a great job of expanding the project.
The most special “Poets in Place” performance I helped produce was for Natasha Trethewey’s “Elegy for the Native Guards.” We met Natasha in Gulfport, Mississippi (her hometown) and traveled with her to Ship Island, where the Civil War-era Fort Massachusetts is located. This fort was home to the Louisiana Native Guards, one of the first African-American combat units to fight in the Civil War. As we winded down our shooting with Natasha, a group of African-American Civil War re-enactors arrived on the island via the ferry boat. It was almost as if Natasha’s poem had conjured up the Native Guard soldiers.
A couple months after we shot the video, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Ship Island suffered major damage. The eastern part of the island was totally submerged, and the boardwalk, pier and visitor’s center next to the fort were destroyed.
Undoubtedly, one of the most tragic incidents in Atlanta history is the Winecoff Hotel fire, which occurred on the morning of December 7, 1946. 119 people lost their lives, and it’s still the worst hotel fire in U.S. history.
Sam Heys and Allen Goodwin wrote the definitive book about the fire, The Winecoff Fire: The Untold Story of America’s Deadliest Hotel Fire. Allen maintains a website about the fire and its aftermath, and the site contains lots of photos and anecdotes about the victims and survivors.
Sam graciously met me in front of the site of the old Winecoff Hotel to provide the basic story of the fire, including a discussion of the famous photos of the fire taken Georgia Tech grad student Arnold Hardy. After twenty-five years of neglect, the building re-opened in 2007 as the boutique Ellis Hotel.
I realized that I had some unused reels of black and white 16mm film, so I decided to go to Oakland Cemetery and do some old-fashioned shooting on celluloid. The cemetery is probably one the best places in town to bring a camera. The graves and old trees are beautiful and moody, and it’s all surrounded by great Atlanta sights (downtown, CSX rail lines, the Fulton mill, etc.).
The underlying music is an excerpt from the song “What a Day May Bring,” taken from Slang’s 2001 release The Bellwether Project, a record that my brother and I helped produce.
Five years ago I built a website about blues music in the lower Chattahoochee Valley for the online journal Southern Spaces. Here’s some of what I wrote in the intro:
The Lower Chattahoochee River Valley region has one of the richest traditions of blues music in America; but, apart from long-time residents of the region and a handful of blues aficionados, the blues legacy of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley is largely ignored. The region — defined here as the eighteen counties that hug the Chattahoochee River along the Georgia/Alabama border, along with three additional counties in Georgia that have traditionally been a hotbed for blues music — doesn’t have a revered blues reputation like the Mississippi Delta. That’s probably due to the fact that virtually no 78’s of country blues emerged from the Lower Chattahoochee Valley from the twenties through the forties and only a small number of Lower Chattahoochee blues 45’s, LP’s, and CD’s have been issued since the fifties.
One person has been largely responsible for documenting the rich blues tradition of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley: George Mitchell. From the late sixties through the eighties, Mitchell recorded dozens of nonprofessional blues artists, many of whom were old enough to have recorded before World War II. More than just an amazing portrait of talent and creativity, Mitchell’s recordings demonstrate that the region has developed a unique blues sound.
For my project, I interviewed George and taped performances by some of the region’s blues artists (Thanks to Jason Hibberd for production assistance).
I’ve assembled a couple video highlights from the project. Here is Precious Bryant playing the instrumental “Georgia Buck” at a club in Columbus:
And here is Precious playing the great Memphis Minnie tune “My Chaffeur” in her front yard:
George Mitchell discusses the unique sound of Lower Chattahoochee blues:
George Daniel delivers a raw performance of “Smokestack Lightning” in his front yard: