Traditional Photography Portfolio by Tony Zinnanti 


Miner's Grave

Roger Ball - Town Curator

Bottles and Grain

End of the Trail

Ginny Olsen

I Am Not Johnny Cash

Janis Austin

  Artist's Statement:
The grit of mine tailings crunched below my boots as I circled the steeple looking for the correct angle. My pace is typically frantic. However, this place evoked sensations not felt since childhood; a long moment of gazing, the embrace of a mysterious, warm breeze. Time moved slow. A vast quiet replaced the once deafening cacophony of twenty mills stamps pounding course ore. The vibration was rumored to be so intense that it chased all of the snakes from the town. Indeed, on my many visits, I have never seen any serpent slithering through this oasis of desert solace. I thought about Ginny and laughed to myself about her insistence on the infamous Coke can hat. Under the clay skies of that day, several months prior, Ginny straightened her back and shifted into position. I leveled the lens of my wooden 8 x 10, framing the shot against her modest stucco home. Suddenly, she raised a finger signaling to pause. She disappeared inside the shadowed dwelling and returned donning the yarn and Coke can hat. Finally ready, she carefully beamed a smile through the long exposure. Ginny was gone now. She had been a fixture in Randsburg. Age and several strokes took her within months of making these negatives. When I delivered a contact print to her still grieving son, I learned that she had spoke fondly of her experience with the grand, old camera. Ginny was the epitome of Randsburg: longevity, character and a touch of eccentricity. Randsburg, called a “living ghost town,” was settled in the late 1800s, thriving on a boon of gold, silver and tungsten. In its heyday, Randsburg, and its sister town, Johannesburg, harbored all of the typical accoutrements of a turn-of-the-century mining camp; brothels, bars, make-shift shacks with long days and nights peppered with the violence of reckless gun fights. Today, this living ghost town is home to a small population living in a diversity of dwellings ranging from river stone lodges to vintage reconstructs to modern mobile homes; all among the ever-present decay of eroding wooden structures and artifacts. But, it wasn’t the history I was after. I had spent enough time in Randsburg to understand that the carefree fatalism was the true story. I never asked what it was like to live amongst ruins. I simply observed. My observations revealed the textures and humanity, joy and contrition, and the ongoing continuum of a history uninterrupted. Several images are particularly poignant regarding the human foundations of Red Mountain. School House Door is the view of a child upon the foreboding institution of a mining camp education; all the while, the mine being the backdrop of life and death, as it is in Miner’s Grave. And, there are the commercial interests and constructs. For example, it is a little known fact that a track wheel must be absolutely precise or it will ruin the track. The perfect circle of Steel, is evidence that no expense was spared in tearing nature’s bounty from the Earth. To me, this precision of mechanism harkens imagery such as Sinclair’s “The Jungle”; reflecting on the contemporaneous time period, bragging of the efficiencies of slaughter while the muscle of the operation subsisted on promises and carefully calculated wages. My images are a testament to what grew out of these promises. The harsh life of the mining camp gave way to no less sentiment and attachment. Jonie’s Bed is a monument to a life transformed as it is recorded on a lengthy epitaph at the head of the bed Jonie died in. The bed rests upon a granite barrow. I stood on the welcome mat, mesmerized with every word of the story of her life. And, in Randsburg, there is always some confusion or disagreement; mild and never seeming to rise to conflict - except when someone’s had a bit too much to drink. For example, residents a mere fifty yards from the post office had almost no recollection of Ginny. The information afoot is always subject to debate. Roger Ball, the town curator, attempts to sort it out. He speaks slowly and deliberately; sometimes so slowly that you may interject an entire sentence before he finishes his. He is a transplant from the ghost town of Ballarat (population: three) nestled against the Panamint Mountains just west of Death Valley. When asked how it was to live there, he slowly responds, “Aw. It was pretty good,” before settling back into his distant gaze. I could have gone on in this body of work. There are more negatives. However, the images became diluted in the purely demonstrative. The soda fountain or old barber chair were interesting. But, they didn’t offer the photogenic quality of the living history depicted here. As artists, we always grapple with where to stop. Here, twenty large prints offered a perfect “surface tension” - with enough information and just enough mystery.
  Technical Information:
Except for Ginny, The Red Mountain Project was shot with a Mamiya C-33 Twin Lens Reflex with a 120 back. The negative in Ginny was shot with a c. 1897 Gundlach 8x10 with a Caltar 210mm f6.3 lens (Copal 1). A short lens was intentionally used for vignetting and fall off. Ginny is a portion of the original negative. The negatives were made with Ilford films, FP4 and Delta 400, and developed in ID-11 or Rodinal, depending on desired grain and manipulation. The negatives were then printed to Adox MCC 110 (multigrade) fiber based paper using Clayton P90 cold tone developer and, then, selenium toned.
  Contact Details:
Tony Zinnanti
Tony Zinnanti Photography & Fine Art Printing
27550 Lovage Court
Santa Clarita, Cal


 All work copyright © 2013 Tony Zinnanti

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