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2007/05/17

Electric Moccasins

Vanessa Begay-Lee laces up a pair of moccasins for her grandson, Austin Nelson, 10, to try on at the City Electric Shoe Shop on Coal Avenue in Gallup. The family members were shopping for a pair of moccasins that Austin could wear to participate in a squaw dance.

As a small business owner Louis Bonaguidi is learning that the key to success is adaptation. He years he has run the locally famous City Electric Shoe Shop. And for years his shop has done shoe and boot repair, and sold a large amount of cowboy boots.

The market can be fickle though, and Louis knows it. So a few years ago when a local leather belt manufacturing company closed its doors he bought it. And now, being on the edge of the world's largest Indian reservation when he had the opportunity to acquire the Taos Moccasin Company (he was their biggest customer) he took a gamble and bought it.

Photographically speaking this was a nice assignment to handle. I was given an open ended request from the reporter, just asking for me to get something to illustrate people buying moccasins for graduations and ceremonies. The shoe store has a large selection and a pretty steady stream of customers. It was only a matter of finding somebody that was interested in moccasins and was willing to be photographed. When I asked Vanessa Begay-Lee if I could photograph her with her grandchildren she responded with an enthusiastic yes. From there the only hard part was to wait to see them interacting with the moccasins where I could see faces instead of hte tops of their heads.

The portrait of Louis was a bit more difficult. Being as the production line and store room are in the basement of his shop, lighting was limited to fluorescent or flash. With the colored wood surrounding him on all sides, including the ceiling, bouncing a flash was not much of an option, and I really prefer not to use direct flash, especially when the subject wears eye-glasses. My answer was simple. Put the camera on a tripod to use a long exposure that would get rid of some of the issues with the flickering of the flourescent bulbs, then I set my D200 camera to the flourescent light setting. shooting in raw-format I then cleaned up the colors and tweaked the contrast a bit in Photoshop to give an image that does not have terrible color issues.
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