Photography by K. Eckland 2013

Bridge crossing the Red River from Shreveport to Bossier City

On a recent trip to Shreveport, we headed downtown to indulge in two of my favorite hobbies; photography and looking at architecture..

While much of downtown Shreveport is like downtown segments of many cities across the United States, with some run-down areas; there are several lovely buildings from by-gone areas.

Downtown Shreveport (and other images of Shreveport)

The Strand

Most notably among these buildings is the Strand theater.  Originally built in 1925, (according to a local press clipping from the time), the Strand was originally conceived almost 18 years earlier.  It cost one million dollars to complete and opened its doors to the public for its first performance on July 3, 1925.  The first show at the Strand was “The Chocolate Soldier,” a comedic operetta first written in 1860, and popularized on Broadway in 1909.

Despite it’s illustrious opening, by the 1970’s the Strand had closed and fallen into disrepair.  It wasn’t until 1984 that the Strand re-opened, after several years of painstaking and meticulous restoration.

While we were wandering downtown and taking pictures – we noticed that the marquee was advertising a show that evening – for a Queen tribute band, “One Night of Queen”.  Who could pass that up??  so off we went..

A Night of Queen with Gary Mullen

Low light, and constantly changing light conditions, using my long lens (200mm), no flash, subjects with rapid movement.. Some of the pictures are terrible – but it sure was fun!  As you can see – the photos are a riot of color and noise, but it was great practice while rocking out to some great music..

Thank you to everyone at the Strand for allowing us to take pictures.  (They usually restrict photography, but immediately before the show, several ushers stated that photography would be permitted.)

The Riverwalk –

The River Boardwalk is a modern creation, devised to attract tourists to the areas surrounding the waterfront casinos.  On one side of the river lies a park and trails, along with a small string of businesses (that were almost all closed when we strolled by) and on the other side of the river, a huge shopping complex (and more casinos.)

We strolled down to the River Boardwalk after walking around downtown.  While most of it is pretty typical and kind of generic looking, I did enjoy some of the art designed to highlight Shreveport and its history.

panel from the past - tools and instruments from early Shreveport

panel from the past – tools and instruments from early Shreveport

The panel above is my favorite – in a string of decorated panels on the underside of the Neon Bridge.  There is a performance stage, several preserved handprints as well as a lonely little Mexican restaurant.  (All the other storefronts were vacant.)

More Shreveport: 

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While I always fall in love with the big things; bridges, skyscrapers and massive landscapes – along with their rich details, there is so much more to Shreveport.

While looking for more information about Shreveport architecture, I found another great photography blog called Southern Lagniappe.  If you want to better know Shreveport, and architecture, this is a good place to start.

Now, if you love home architecture, especially the ‘Painted Ladies’ – Gerald Massey has written a nice article about some of the Victorian homes in the city. (As the proud owner of my own historic home, in my native Virginia, these homes always make me just a tad wistful.)


Since I had a few days off, we decided to take a road trip.  My assignment here is almost complete, so we are trying to squeeze in as many adventures and outings as possible before we leave for our next location.

Since I am a little camera-crazy – we usually plan trips that give me the opportunity to practice a little photography.  It’s funny how I can always manage to cram in a bit of ‘homework’ where ever we are – I guess that is what makes photography such an addictive hobby.

As many of my readers know, I never meant to do more than the usual touristy snaps – but necessity forced me to become more and more adept, to illustrate my writing, and visually document my  interviews and observations.  As I’ve progressed from project to project – my writing style has evolved, my detailing has become more precise – and I’ve refined my picture-taking.

In the most recent months, as I begin researching the next project, I’ve started practicing by trying to expand my range, beyond the casual snapshot – to fast-motion, low-light and a variety of other conditions.

So we headed off to Shreveport, for some new scenery and more practice.

Low-light, No flash with a tripod 

captioned, postcard style

captioned, postcard style

I have always lacked confidence in my photo-taking, so I’ve resisted using a tripod for a long time (and missed a lot of great photos because if it).  But, I finally had to face it; it’s just impossible to keep still enough during the SLOW shutter speeds necessary to capture low-light situations..

Even so – the photo still has a lot of noise, or fuzziness..

During our trip, we attended a concert at the Strand theater..  Surprisingly, both the theater staff, and the performers explicitly lifted the usual rules to permit photography – which was just fantastic, even if only to get photos of the restored theater.. But it was even nicer that the performers invited us to take pictures.

(More about the beautiful and historic Strand theater in my next post.)

The freehand photos from the concert stage demonstrate this lack of definition (and noise) even more acutely.

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If you don’t take a lot of photos, than this post is probably boring beyond belief – but you also don’t know the frustration of seeing an image in your mind’s eye, and then struggling to capture that image with your lens.

But then too – comes that satisfaction when the shutter clicks and the image is immortalized – in your mind, and on file, forever.  (or at least until I crash the hard drive.)

With the help of several friends, amateur and professional photographers – I’ve learned a lot, in my efforts to move the image from my eye to the camera.  I’m not always successful, but I seem to be getting better and better..  But there are other issues in photography.

For me, that struggle is two-fold; it’s both accuracy and providing perspective. Accuracy seems like an oxymoron for photography – but it’s not.  The next photo is a good example of what I mean..

a country lane?

a country lane?

Accuracy in photography to me means depicting a person, place or circumstances as honestly and straightforwardly as possible.  Now, in a movie, I recently watched – “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“, a group of English citizens decided to retire to a residential hotel in India based on a brochure, and the photos of the hotel in the brochure..

this 'romantic' backdrop for my lovely model is actually the corner of a somewhat dirty, beat-up parking lot in downtown Sherveport.

this ‘romantic’ backdrop for my lovely model is actually the corner of a somewhat dirty, beat-up parking lot in downtown Shreveport.

(I bet you can see where this is going.)  Of course, when they arrive in India – the group quickly finds out life in India (and their hotel) isn’t quite as cute, contained and photographic as the brochure led them to believe.

This isn't a great photo - but it does show the size and scale of some great art.  A mural, 14 stories tall, that is so detailed you can visualize the fabric of her dress..  (Note the size of the reference man walking on the sidewalk).

This isn’t a great photo – but it does show the size and scale of some great art.  This mural, 14 stories tall, is so detailed you can visualize the fabric of her dress.. (Note the size of the reference man walking on the sidewalk). It’s not crazy to want to be able to accurate capture that image just as it is.

With my style and type of writing, equally accurate photography is essential.

I also want to give perspective – whether that perspective is from peeking over the shoulder of a surgeon hard at work, the view from outside the operating room theater or even just the view from down the street.. (or even from really, really far away..)

washing a fire truck

washing a fire truck

That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the sweet, or romantic photos – like these pictures from the sidelines of a recent parade.   (I was across the street – quite a distance away – but just watching from behind a camera – really did seem to tell a story.)


another photo from the same St. Patrick’s Day parade

little Eviel Knievel jumping his bike while waiting for the parade

little Evel Knievel jumping his bike while waiting for the parade

I’ll post some more photos of Shreveport in my next post..

Cottonwood Trail

You may have guessed from some of my posts – and my eternal fascination at some of modern metropolis lifestyles that I am, at heart, a small town girl.

Of course, that just makes the big cities all the more wonderful and wonderous to me.  All of the essentials of big city life that are a big yawn for long-term residents still seem a bit magical to me.   I really do feel a bit like Dorothy at the gates to the Emerald City.

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore...

I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore…

I guess, even with all of my travelling, the rural redneck remains..

Never has this been more obvious than during my current stay in Texas..  Despite living in the shadow of the mega-freeways, I remain fascinated, and awed by their sheer size and scope.  The challenge has been trying to bring this to life with my camera..  I’ve tried on multiple occasions, and on every road trip since we’ve been here – but the results have been well, rather uninspiring..

Cottonwood Trail 025

How can something that is so captivating to me, (yet so pedestrian to the  local citizenry) be so difficult to capture?

But I have included a gallery of my most recent attempts – in a mix of color and black and white..  The photos below come from the Cottonwood Trail.

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The Cottonwood (Creek) Trail

Just a few days ago – we wandered off our usual trail for our walk.. We took the path, that is (literally) less travelled – and headed down the Cottonwood Trail.   (I wouldn’t recommend it for solo journeys – we didn’t pass a single other person for much of the walk – in some pretty desolate areas.. Then, as we passed through some sketchy areas; there were large groups of homeless men gathered at the side of the trail.)

The desolation, the sense of aloneness is overwhelming, and bewildering since the trail winds thorough the heart of the maze of freeways that make up the cosmopolitan city.  Yet – alone we were on trails the snaked beneath the very freeways that rumbled and trembled above us, reducing the sky to just a sliver of blue.  At times, the roar of traffic was so loud as to be deafening, with the bombardment of noise coming from all directions – ricocheting off the acres of concrete, in the valleys beneath the elevated roadways.

on the path underneath the freeways of Dallas

on the path underneath the freeways of Dallas

Maps of Trails in Dallas

Much of the trail (along with much of Dallas) is under construction, so we took a couple of detours during our outing – including a trip past Mount Calvary Cemetery.

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The answer is “NO” for several disfigured patients in Australia, who later found out that a loophole in Australian licensing laws allowed Dentists and other medical (nonsurgeons) professionals to claim use of the title of ‘cosmetic surgeon’ without any formalized training or certification in plastic and reconstructive surgery (or even any surgery specialty at all).

In this article from the Sydney Morning Herald, Melissa Davey explains how dentists and other nonsurgical personnel skirted around laws designed to protect patients from exactly this sort of deceptive practice, and how this resulted in harm to several patients.

As readers will recall – we previously discussed several high-profile cases of similar instances in the United States, including a doctor charged in the deaths of several patients from his medical negligence.  In that case, a ‘homeopathic’  and “self-proclaimed” plastic surgeon, Peter Normann was criminally indicted in the intra-operative deaths of several of his patients.  The patients died while he was performing liposuction due to improper intubation techniques.

But at least, in both of the cases above – the people performing the procedures, presumably, had at a minimum, some training in a medical/ quasi-medical field..

Surgeon or a handyman

More frightening, is the ‘handyman’ cases that have plagued Las Vegas and several other American cities – where untrained smooth operators have preyed primarily on the Latino community – injecting cement, construction grade materials and even floor wax into their victims.

How to protect yourself from shady characters?  In our post, “Liposuction in a Myrtle Beach Apartment” we discuss some of the ways to verify a surgeon’s credentials.  We also talk about how not to be fooled by fancy internet ads and the like.  (Even savvy consumers can be fooled by circular advertisements designed to look like legitimate research articles as well as bogus credentials/ or ‘for-hire’ credentials*. )

*We will talk about some of the sketchy credentials in another post – but the field is growing, by leaps and bounds..More and more fly-by-night agencies are offering ‘credentials’ for a hefty fee (and not much else.)

Downtown Dallas

View from Above Dallas

View from Above Dallas

Now if you’ve ever seen the old 1980’s television series, Dallas, then you’ve seen the gleaming glass highrise buildings that characterize the city of Dallas – and much of big-city Texas..

A lot has changed in the more than thirty years since this show was originally aired (in fact – there is now a sequel series).

The freeway segment of the intro is a good example – since it has now expanded to Jetson-like proportions, with ongoing construction making it one of the largest freeway systems in North America. Some of the decks are over six stories high..  Compare the scene from the video with the photo here, for example.

The freeway hovers above much of the city - a modern day 'Jetsons' skyscape

The freeway hovers above much of the city – a modern-day ‘Jetsons’ skyscape

The city itself has exploded in growth – and has one of the fastest growing (and healthiest) economies in the United States; now boasting the label of ninth-largest city in the USA, third-largest city in Texas.

(How big are the economies of US cities?)  Bigger than that of many countries according to this Huffington Post Report.

The baby sister to the mammoth city of Houston has a population of 1.2 million in the city proper.

If you are interested in the history of the buildings downtown, and more information on the architecture – there is a great website here by local Dallas architect, John Roberts.

Downtown Dallas also contains some of the most infamous sites in American history; the Texas School Book Depository and the Grassy Knoll..

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It’s been busy on all fronts; lots of surgery patients, lots of plans for the next book,  and squeezing in a little photography practice on my days off; in between laundry, emails, writing, dishes and all the other errands that get pushed off during the week..

But yesterday was a glorious sunny day, so we skipped out away from laundry, and grocery shopping to spend a free afternoon at the zoo – practicing my photography..  some of the results were mixed; some were downright awful – but here are some of my better results..

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The Man in the Iron Lung

or rather the people in the iron lungs…

Spending my afternoon off doing the usual things; as I was folding laundry watching one of my favorite quirky comedies, Bubba Ho-tep, it brought to mind an interesting bit of medical history.. the era of the Iron Lung, or negative pressure ventilator.

There is a brief scene at the beginning of the film, which is set in “Shady Rest Home” in rural Texas..  In this scene at the beginning of the film, one of the nursing home residents, who is a bit of a thief, steals the glasses from another resident, an elderly woman who is imprisoned in an iron lung.

iron lung display at the Sacramento Medical Museum

iron lung display at the Sacramento Medical Museum

This is an interesting footnote to the Iron Lung – the one we don’t often hear about – the fact that several Americans are still encased in this iron maiden of artificial respiration.  According to the most recent statistics available (2004) there were more than thirty people still living in iron lungs in the USA.  (Some sources cite 19 people in Houston alone – in 2009.)

Not everyone needed to use iron lungs for years – in fact, many of the children and young adults stricken with polio recovered after several months, and went on to live normal (ventilator-free) lives.  But for others – the iron lung became a life-long condition.  Here are some of their stories..

“28 years in an iron lung” – interview with Joan Herman – Mark Finley, April 1976, Ministry Magazine

Soon, as these  few elderly patients pass away – the iron lung, the relic of early life support technology will be forgotten into the pages of history; remembered only by history buffs such as myself, in a few scattered photos and the backrooms and storage sheds of obscure museum archives.

The negative pressure ventilator aka ‘tank respirator’ worked exactly as it sounded – patients were placed into the small cylinder, with their chests and lower bodies enclosed as the machine applied negative pressure (think of vacuüm suction) to make the patient’s chest physically rise for inspiration. While iron lungs were invented in the late 1920’s, they became popularly known in the decades following their invention due to Poliomyelitis.


The iron lungs became critical life-saving devices for large numbers of people, especially children (who were more affected) during the polio outbreaks of the forties and fifties, and were one of the most visible images of medical technology / modern medicine of the era.

Martha Mason, one of the most well-known of the modern-day iron-lung reisdents published a memoir entitled, “Breath” of her sixty-year experience in 2003.  It’s a great glimpse into a full and amazingly rich life lived despite these handicaps.

Another Iron Lung resident, Diane Odell made headlines after she died during a power outage, which caused her iron lung to stop working. (This is an on-going problem for people living on life-support apparatus in their homes according to a 2009 article.)


Related stories:

Bangor man living with effects of Polio still  in Iron Lung.

Polio: The Iron Lung

University of Virginia on-line Iron Lung Exhibit

We are all welcome here” – fictionalized biography of Pat Raming.

The Sessions: Life in an iron lung – movie about man in Iron Lung.  Click here to read an interview with the actor.

Mark O’Brien – the real life behind the man in the sessions.

Interview with British man from 2004, BBC living in an iron lung.

Life in an iron lung – Paul Berry

Not even an iron lung” – Laurel Nisbet, who became a preacher in Jehovah’s Witness religion

Iron lung in Dallas – Star-News article, 1976

The Emerson Respirator – article brief from Anesthesiology, April 2009

A practical mechanical respirator, 1929: the ‘iron’ lung.   Meyer, J. (1990).  Annals of thoracic surgery.

Reading periscope for iron lung patients

An improvised iron lung – 1956 letter to the British Medical Journal

Negative pressure ventilation in the treatment of acute respiratory failure: an old noninvasive technique reconsidered. – 1996 article on potential modern applications for the iron lung.

Iron lung versus conventional mechanical ventilation in acute exacerbation of COPD. – a 2004 article comparing use of iron lung (negative pressure ventilation) with more invasive positive pressure mechanical ventilation.

More about Martha Mason:

Documentary on YouTube

Book review of Breath – at the Washington Post

“Martha in Lattimore”