Ann Brooks Photography

Photojournalism, art photography, studio happenings & resources

1950s North African market influenced my future travels, photography, jewelry

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The North African souq which was to influence my travels, my photography and my jewelry for years to come. Taken with a Kodak Baby Brownie.

I was a very impressionable teenager in the 1950s, when I first set eyes on a North African souq.

My grandmother and I had been traveling independently in Europe, from Ireland and Scotland, south through England, France and Spain. It was not all that long after World War II and Europe, itself seemed very “different” to this American teenager.

But I was in no way prepared for what I would see across the Straights of Gibraltar in Morocco, in Tangiers. The French were still present there and it was not unusual to see a European woman pushing a stroller on the same sidewalk with an Arab woman, covered from head to toe, with a toddler in hand. And Coca-Cola signs in both French and Arabic — on the same sign! The snake charmer! I found it all quite amazing.

But it was the sight of the the Arabs gathered in a souq, that North African market, that sunk deeply into my psyche. That view would influence where I chose to travel in future decades and even the jewelry I make today, a half century later!

It was my first view of how other people in the world lived that seemed in no way connected to the life I had known growing up in California. It stirred my my curiosity, my passion. I knew I wanted to see, learn more about other people, far away lands.

But then, time out to marry, raise a family and I was pretty tied down for two decades. I did manage to take my own children to Europe in 1973.

The yearning did not go away. Mexico was near and satisfied some of that need. Finally, in 1989 I saw India for the first time, but it was not till 2005 that I was able to return to India and made contacts with a Muslim family in Rajasthan that I would end up doing a photo documentary about their teenage daughter the following year.

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Written by annbrooksphoto

March 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

“Rajasthani Hanki” – 100 layers in Photoshop

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One of my images, “Rajasthani Hanki” was juried into the current exhibition in the Art Works Downtown gallery, “New Avenues: digitally influenced art”. Yes, I know, I don’t usually photoshop my photography, but I sure had fun with this one.

From my notes about the image: “Rajasthani Hanki” was created in Photoshop using over 100 layers of carefully  chosen details from digital images I made in the cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur in India’s state of Rajasthan.

Rajasthan is in northwest India which abuts Pakistan on it’s western border. Historically the state has been composed of a number smaller principalities which were united into what became the largest of India’s states at the time of Independence in 1947.

Prior to statehood, the major principality in Rajasthan was the city of Jaipur (2.3 million population today) , which became the state’s capital. Another, smaller, sister principality was the city of Jodhpur, population close to one million today.

In this piece, the central image is that of a young woman selling posters of sacred Hindu imagery along a major market street in Jodhpur. This is surrounded by lacy balcony details from City Palace in Jaipur. Next are a series of women in the picturesque, walled Old Market in central Jodhpur. The remaining, lacy effects which complete the ‘hanki”, are of a variety of architectural details from various palaces in “Pink City” of Jaipur.

To summarize, photos of the women are all from Jodhpur. All architectural details are form royal palaces in Jaipur.

Cultural note: Marin County and internationally acclaimed Indian musician, the late Ali Akbar Kahn was court musician to the palace in Jodhpur for several years prior to Indian Independence.

Written by annbrooksphoto

October 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Future Odalisque Café at Art Works Downtown

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Finally, looks like almost all the building permits are in and construction of Odalisque Café is about to get underway. This is how it looked when the Chinese restaurant that had been there for years, left and the space was gutted to the bare brick walls. I’ve always loved this picture, so untypical of my work.

Look for the opening of Odalisque Café, in the Art Works Downtown building on Fourth Street, San Rafael early in 2011. It will be a wonderful addition to the arts community and to all of Marin. More info on the Odalisque Café website.

Written by annbrooksphoto

September 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Jodhpur photo honors and signs of rapid change in India.

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Over the Fourth of July weekend Marin County, California holds it’s annual County Fair, reputed to be one of the best in the country for it’s Fine Arts exhibitions. So, this year you can imagine how pleased I was when one of my images was chosen “Best in Class” for Monochromatic Photography.

Recently, over several years, I had spent about two weeks each in Jodhpur, in the state of Rajasthan in India. I was doing a still photography documentary about a Muslim girl who wanted to become a doctor and had great support from her family.

The other thing I always looked forward to in Jodhpur, was photographing in the vibrant streets, and markets in this small, ancient Indian city. I had found that about 5 p.m. each afternoon the light came streaming through the city’s major market street and was often magnificent.

It was in this street, at that hour that I took the three black and white photos in this post. The one to the right has been an award winner several times, including this year’s county fair.

Below are two others in that series. The year after I took the one with the man and the cows, I marveled that the same small street was a totally different scene – lots of motorcycles and motor scooters and no cows in site – signs of very recent prosperity!

On the right below, is a woman carrying her groceries in that 5-gallon can on her head, something else that was nowhere to be seen as prosperity took over in subsequent years.

Yes, prosperity is bringing large, rapid changes to many parts of India. It is growing harder to find “the old India”.

Technical notes: Photos were taken with my first digital SLR, a Canon Rebel XT, and the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS lens that I still use on my Canon 40D today. The images were then converted from color to black & white in Photoshop.

[Addendum: The Indian photos were taken in October 2005]

Italian Street Painting Festival in San Rafael

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Last Saturday afternoon I had a great time checking out the street painters in downtown San Rafael just off Fourth Street, only two blocks from the art center where I have my studio.
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This year’s festival theme was “Bella Terra” and was the 17th annual Italian Street Painting Festival. It is a fund raising event for Youth in Arts, an organization which, among other things, funds extra art teachers and art experiences in the schools here in Marin County.
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I had my trusty Panasonic LX3 with me, it was late in the afternoon and the shadows were long. So at times I had fun playing with the long shadows in my images. Here are some of the photos, including one of a street painting being done by Erin Castelan for the main sponsor of the event, Youth In Arts.

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June 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Frogs or Fleas? Plazuela de los Sapos

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This February I timed my visit to Puebla, Mexico so that I would arrive in time for two days of sleuthing at an open air market. I was looking for unusual little goodies to add to yet to be designed jewelry for my collection.

Every weekend at Plazuela de los Sapos – little plaza of the toads (frogs) – vendors set up shop for a lively outdoor market. It’s often referred to as Mercado de Antigüedades or Antiques Market. To me it seemed more like a flea market, and I loved it!

Saturday I went looking for little charms and trinkets to hang on bracelets yet to be designed for my jewelry studio – both online and at Art Works Downtown. I did find some wonderful little charms and other goodies which, once affixed with a loop of one type or another, can be added to bracelets. I also found pieces that can be the center focus of necklaces.

Sunday I returned to the market, hoping for more jewelry goodies and found none. However, I did have my Canon 40D with me and came home with another type of gem — great photos for my notecard series, a selection of four follows at the bottom of this post.

One of the images for notecards is the one above, “San Miguel Arcangel”,  patron saint of Puebla. San Miguel and his niche is right in the middle of the little plaza where the weekend antiques market is held. The medium for the image is Talavera tile, for which Puebla is well known.

Here’s the plaza on the weekend …                               and then, during the week.


Written by annbrooksphoto

March 11, 2010 at 2:18 am

Parisian déja vu in Puebla, Mexico!

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My second morning in Puebla, Mexico, I awoke with a strong feeling of déja vu. Actually a very comforting feeling. I had a sense of  being in a little hotel in Paris as a teenager, my grandmother nearby. How could it be? This is Mexico! My grandmother long gone!

Then I began reflecting on my hotel room’s high, double French doors with the solid inside shutters covering them, a protection from cold and light at night.

Yes! An intuitive sense that these doors were sisters to ones that had been in that small hotel in Paris so many years ago!

Then the suspicion, no I think I had heard that the French and other Europeans, had, indeed been here in Puebla. These immigrants, business men, bankers, industrialists had come in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, exactly the period of the building I was in now and that of others around the center of the city.

And so, that day and the next I went out with my camera on a detective hunt around the historic center of Puebla. Looking for more evidence of a European presence. More evidence that I wasn’t crazy, that my déja vu experience actually had a foundation. And here’s what I found!  — Art Nouveau is alive and well in Puebla, Mexico!

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There is a little story and photo I took of my grandmother in Europe in when I was a teenager, elsewhere in this blog. You can find it here.

And on my website is a selection of photos I took on that European trip with a 1952 Kodak Baby Brownie.


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March 11, 2010 at 1:12 am