Congress Street


Bus Station communications

In the summer of 2009 I did a photo documentary called  “Congress Street between 5th and 6th.” The diversity and contrast of people who were photographed can be seen here. The challenge included photographing without notice. Seldom did I ask permission to photograph anyone. This was especially difficult at the bus station. I would sit and steady the camera on my knee or use a tripod and try not to be to obvious. The idea was to get candid images. It worked more often than not. Periodically people would question me and this usually ended well. Most often they agreed to pose for what I call a “Street portrait” as shown above and below. The young man flashing gang signs, above, wanted to pursue a modeling career and asked me how to proceed. The man pictured below jumped from his car and pulled his shirt up then posed for the camera.

The Hidden Secrets

The portrait above was taken on Congress Street. I had perched myself against a wall using a long lens photographing people walking toward me. This man was getting into his car and changed his mind. He called out to me then pulled his shirt up. The encounter took less than 30 seconds. He hurried away and I sat back against the wall. That was a lucky day.

Nanosecond isolation

I was sitting on one of the steel benches at Linda Ronstadt bus station when this man walked by. My camera was on a tripod and the bus had just emptied. He was intent on getting to his destination while the man in the background focused on drinking water. They seemed oblivious of anything other than the task at hand. The older man wanted to move forward, the other one wanted water. For a nanosecond this was their entire life.

Sleeping in public

This couple fell asleep at Tooley’s cafe on the corner on Congress and 5th. It was a favorite for locals and obviously a relaxed atmosphere. No deep meaning her, just two tired people.

Historical Tooley’s

This photo shows the casual and relaxed atmosphere at Tooley’s. It’s a simple image without much drama. The importance of it, however, is the history of Tooley’s which I will not go into here except to say Tooley’s is no longer there, nor are the surrounding art galleries and other business. A developer had other ideas for the area so the artists were told to vacate to make way for a sports bar. This pattern has been repeated in the downtown area for more than 30 years. Artists go into a blighted area, make it viable, then developers get rid of them for greener grass. Tooley’s was a grungy coffee house downtown where artists and others hung out. I suppose this image is my tribute to Tooley’s and the good times I had there.

Icy coffee kiss

Tooley’s was a great place to create art, either mindfully or visually. I sat at this table and crafted my day. Ultimately I decided to document Congress street while sitting at this table. And the iced coffees were very good as well.

Looking for another day

This man walked from the corner of 5th and stopped in front of the bar. He pulled on the door which was locked. It was not noon yet. He waited patiently out front. He was not concerned about me photographing him. He had other things on his mind.

Cranes, not the bird type

This image is important because it tells the story of what has happened on Congress street. The area between 5th and 6th has been changed forever by new construction and renovation. The area has changed dramatically since I photographed it in the summer of 2009. The intersection at Congress and 5th has had two major renovations. One block away a low income housing complex has been completed along with a parking garage and retail spaces.

Hair cuts

The barber shop between 5th and 6th welcomes everyone and has a shoe shine service. It reminded me of the shop my dad took me for cuts. This youth is getting a star shape cut into his hair, one of the specials that is offered there.

Older guy kicks ass

In spite of the age difference, the older guy kicked ass. The youth had pestered the girlfriend for drugs and got upset when the boyfriend told him to go away. The youth had friends standing by and it felt like it was going to get extremely violent. Then a very large man stepped off the bus to aid the older guy. The kids left. Wise move. Before they departed one of them asked why I was photographing the fight. “I photograph what happens in front of me” was my reply. The older man wanted some of the images so he could pursue legal action. I obliged him. I do not know how the legal action turned out, but I was glad to help.

Dinnerware Show

One of the shows as seen through the window, put on at Dinnerware Arts which was one of the galleries vacated by the developer who owned the building. The show featured drag kings and our perception of gender.

Background noise

These two seem oblivious of the art behind them which depicts a sexual device that in most circumstances would not  be allowed in a public venue. Dinnerware Arts on Congress street, however, featured art that most Tucson galleries would be afraid to show. Dinnerware had to vacate the location due to developers plans to create a sports bar. (As of Dec. the sports bar has not been completed although it was due  to be open in September).

Something to talk about

These two people seem to be talking about the art that depicts both male and female genitalia. This was part of the Drag King show Dinnerware Arts hosted before they left Congress Street so the developer could build a sports bar. There were a diverse group of people at the show which would be considered cutting edge and risky by most standards. Dinnerware Arts and Congress street galleries were known for unique art performances and shows.

Thoughtful and lonely

This man is starring out at the window at one of the cafes on Congress street. He seems thoughtful and the colors and lighting gives this image a lonely feeling. I was hesitant to intrude on his space, so I used a convert camera technique. He had no idea I got the photograph. Covert image capture is often necessary to tell the story, as long as it is done with respect and without ill will or negative intentions.

Intense man

As I sat at the entrance to Ronstadt bus station on the corner of 6th ave., and Congress St., this man approached me and talked passionately about religion. I asked his permission to photograph while he spoke.

Babies and mothers

This group of people declined my request to photograph them so I used a covert image capture technique. It seemed important to show the culture of the Ronstadt bus station which often serves as a brief resting place for folks of all ages and ethnicity’s. I observed that many people, regardless of who they are, enjoyed just sitting and waiting for the next bus as if it were a break from work.

Club Crawl

Patrons at Club Crawl, 2009, on Congress street. These two struck this pose when I pointed the camera at them. Club Crawl is an annual event in Tuscon in which streets are closed and bands play and beer is sold on street corners. It is a party atmosphere that attracts thousands of people which showcases musicians from Tucson as well as other parts of the United States.

Rocket Gallery

Rocket Gallery on Congress had an erotic art show and featured live performance art in the window. The gallery, part of Dinnerware Arts, closed along with Dinnerware to make room for a sports bar which has passed its opening date and is currently idle, as of Dec. 2010. The developer made galleries and business’ vacate so he could gut the buildings and build the sports bar. The artist has since relocated and are moving forward while the sports bar sits idle.

All gone

The outside of Tooley’s and an art mural across 5th ave are gone. The developer vacated Tooley’s and renovated both buildings. The one on 5th is being used while Tooley’s sits idle. The art mural was becoming a point of interest for downtown residents and others. Its interesting that the only way to honor this art is by posting it here. It is now able to live on. That is my main reason for posting this image, to give it a second voice, another chance to live.

Paper being

This art piece was created by Nick, in background with camera,  who shared gallery space with Titus. Their gallery, the Works was next to Tooley’s on Congress street. They were the last artists to leave Congress street after the developer gave notice he was replacing the art galleries with a sports bar. The sports bar has yet to be completed and the space sits vacant and idle.

No free pics today

These two people let me photograph them but wanted to get paid. At first I just took their picture. It is an old technique called street photography. This is when you photograph randomly anyone who is in close proximity. After I got the picture they questioned me and objected. I explained in public everyone can be photographed legally without permission. These days I noticed people are becoming sensitive to being photographed. With privacy issues raging I understand, but as an old school photographer..well the show must go on.

Visually interesting

These two people viewed the art at Rocket Gallery, which was one of the galleries that left Congress street to make way for a sports bar. I found them interesting to look at. They reminded me of art collectors, although I did not speak to them and that is only my perception. Since then I have tried to ask people who I find interesting visually for information after I photograph them. The idea is to capture the image candidly. The challenge with explaining what just occurred, capturing their image, is they can react negatively which for me gives a negative color to the image.


This man is not sure about this art at Central Arts Gallery on Congress street. The gallery has relocated to the warehouse district.

Street walker

After spending months on Congress street photographing people and events, one can begin to identify the regulars. This man was a regular and often seemed distraught. On this particular night he was wearing pajamas.

Dogs on Congress street

These dogs do what dogs do. It is usually not picture worthy, but I captured the image anyway. It did happen on Congress street and that was my intention to document Congress street people and events. So this is my Congress street dog buddy picture.

Almost invisible

He is almost invisible. I used a time exposure with flash to capture this image. There was live music playing throughout the downtown area that night as part of the annual music festival Club Crawl.

Ronstadt bus station

She was getting off the bus at the Ronstadt bus station. I was fascinated by the light and contrast of this scene and how it made her look strong.

Unusual composition

This image is considered unacceptable by industry standards, however, I like it. It intrigues me because of its sparse contents and extreme contrast. To me it represents another world, one we seldom get to view for longer periods.

Big bus riders

Departing passengers at the Ronstadt station are very large people. Sitting and photographing people at the station I noticed a large percentage were overweight.

Very tired

This man must be very tired to be able to sleep at the Ronstadt bus station in Tucson Arizona.

Hanging and waiting

These girls are chatting and hanging out at the Ronstadt bus station.

Same dog, different holders

I photographed this same dog on three separate occasions on this particular night. There was a number of art receptions on Congress street so apparently these people were dog sitting, or holding.