The Haunted Studio


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For the last couple years, Vesta and I have been wanting to move to Midtown. Vesta has haunted Craigslist, looking for a building which was zoned multi use. One where we could have a studio in front and live either above or behind.

We finally found one and here I’ve posted about forty pictures of what we’ve come to call the Haunted Studio in all its glory. Okay, okay, not so much glory, more like anti-glory, if there is such a word.

It’s not all we were hoping for and it’s required a lot of work and it wants a lot more. But the building is not so frightening anymore. Maybe a little frightening still, but not scary frightening. Okay, maybe a little scary frightening. But not terrifyingly frightening. It’s not that. Not so much anyway.

We’ve finally convinced the homeless to move on. It wasn’t easy. And we’ve painted it throughout and we’re finally in a position where we can have people over without feeling like the poor relations. Well, we’ll still feel like those poor cousins you only whisper about, but at least the place is neat and clean.

A little scary, but clean.


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In the above photo, you see that it looks like a little, ramshackle house at 515 Sinclair Street in Midtown. The shingles are coming off the roof, but it doesn’t leak. the siding is asbestos and the paint is peeling, the windows are painted shut and some are cracked. But it’s in a good location.


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However, it’s going to take a lot more work than we thought. I’m not a house painter and Vesta isn’t either. Truth be told, house painting is not very high on the list of things we like to do. But we painted the inside of this one. However, we have a problem with the outside. Painting it might be beyond our ability.

The light in the above photo, doesn't work and that's a shame. We are going to have to figure out why and fix it, because we want it shinging down on the red Bootleg Photo sign we plan on putting up under it. And swinging under that sign, we plan on having Wedding Shots sign.

It's gonna be great. It really is.

It's not so great now, but it will be.


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One Sunday, after we were finally done painting the inside of this house, Vesta and I were sitting in the front yard in our Burning Man lawn chairs, wondering what we were going to do with the outside, because face it, it's butt ugly.

And look at that blue paint splash next to the window. Jeez, is that ever awful looking. Then, as the sun was going down, Vesta said, "You could change your name to Gomez and I could straighten my hair and dye it black."

"I don't get it."

"Then we could call it, 'The Haunted Studio,' and we'd look the part. I would anyway, you'd just be Gomez.”


GWW Salon


I thought about what she said and I remembered when we lived on the boat. We'd taken the settees in the salon and moved them back. When we started the project, we didn't know there wasn't any teak flooring under the settees.

Duh! If we'd thought about it, we'd've figured it out. It used to be Charlie Morgan's race boat and Mr. Morgan would've wanted to make it as light as possible.

While I was scratching my head, looking at the ugly floor and the seam between the uglyness and the beautiful teak and knowing there was no way we'd ever be able to match it up. Our friend Gary, who is the best boat carpenter and rigger in Trinidad, said there was an old carpenter's saying, "If you can't hide a joint, emphasis it.”


GWW Forward from Above


So that's what we did. Gary came up with the idea of running a couple planks of purple heart along the  seam, then putting teak behind it. It would have sort of an art deco look, like that's what the designers had planned all along. So that's what we did.

And I smiled at Vesta. "You want to emphasis the joint?"

"Exactly."

"We already got a name though, two of 'em."

"I'll still be Wedding Shots and you'll still be Bootleg Photo." She laughed. "But we work out of the Haunted Studio."

"I like it."

So we're going to have a Haunted Studio sign made and we're going to stick it right on top of that blue paint splotch and then we won't have to paint the house. That way, we'll be different. There won't be another studio on Earth, billing itself as haunted.

And besides, the place probably is haunted. It was built in 1926.


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This is a view from the back of the house. Behind the grass, not shown in the photo, is a parking lot which you can access from the alley in back. Homeless people were living there and in the area between our place and the place next door.

At first, I didn't mind. They had a super big pillow in the parking lot, next to the chain link fence between the parking lot and the lawn, where they could sleep in the sun undisturbed. And that was fine with me. If they didn't bother us, we  wouldn't bother them.

But then one day, Vesta and I came home and Vesta quivered in the passenger seat.

"Is he dead?"

There was a black guy flat on his back in the parking lot and he did look dead. How do you deal with a dead guy? I wondered. Do you call 911, or do you go up the body like they do on TV and check to see if he's still alive? You know, do you check his pulse, put a mirror up to his mouth. Should I jump out of the car, dash up to him and do CPR?

But then he moved his arm and we could see he was just sleeping the deep sleep of someone who'd most likely had way to much cheap booze.

We left the almost dead drunk to his dreams and Vesta took her car to WinCo and I took mine to Trader Joes. She was getting dinner and I was getting the wine.

I got back first and as I drove up the driveway, the almost undead guy was standing in the parking lot, pants down, knees bent about to, well you can imagine what he was about to do.

I jumped on the gas, roared up the driveway, slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car just like a cop, with my right index finger wagging the no no sign. "That's not cool."

"Yeah, well I wasn't planning on getting caught." He hadn't had a chance to do his busines yet.

"You can't stay here." I advanced toward him and he pulled his pants up likitty split, grabbed a bag and took off.

Then I took the pillow the homeless used to sleep on and trashed it. I cleaned up the back and when Vesta got home we put rocks where they'd made their beds and we went out every day for the next couple weeks, trashing whatever they'd for the day and they thought might still be there be there when they came back. Now they don't come around anymore.

Just one bad apple, that's all it takes to ruin it for everybody.


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This is the breezeway and it’s the first thing you see when you come in the front door. Also, it’s one small room we have not painted. It’s on the list, maybe sometime next week. When we first moved in, we set our Christmas trees up where you see the breakfast table and chairs, because we thought we’d be able to do our Christmas shoots here. However, the room is too narrow and in the mornings, the sun shines in that window with an almost blinding light. So we moved the trees downramp. I’ll explain what that means a few photos below.


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 On the other side of that door on the right is Scruffy the Cat. He used to be an outside feline, but he’s old now and we don’t let him out anymore. And sadly for him, we use the breezeway sort of like a cat airlock.

When we come home with stuff, we bring it into the breezeway and we can make as many trips out to the car as we want, without worrying about a quick cat getaway. Once we’ve unloaded, we close the front door and open the door into the Haunted Studio, much to the consternation of the cat.


Scruffy, by Window Light


Sorry Scruffy, no getting out for you.

 

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When you come thru that front door, you’re in Vesta’s work station. This was obviously where the attorney’s receptionist worked when the lawyers had the office. I don’t think churches have receptionists, so we don’t know what function this room served when it was a church.

As you can see, the carpet is bright green. It took a bit of getting used to. I’m not fond of it, but what can you do? Vesta, on the other hand likes it. Scruffy does two. So there you go. Two out of three, I lose.

When we first looked at this place, it was awful. This room was painted a sort of putrid kelly green and the walls had holes in them and one of those wall had peeling wallpaper, but Vesta loved those windows. She envisioned herself working as she watched the world go by, with Scruffy the cat basking in the sun on the cushions she was going to make for that settee in front of the window.


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But after we put her desk together and set up her computer, she discovered that from sunup till around 10:00, it was impossible to see her screen, so she decided, much to her chagrin, to put a faux stained glass film on them. It looks pretty good and certainly cuts down the light, but she doesn’t get to see the world go by while she works, with Scruffy basking in the sun.


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This house used to be an attorney’s office, then it became a church. And what you can see here, are bookcases galore and they’re not the only ones in the house, as you’ll see below. In our quest to be minimalists, I donated several hundred books and now we live in a place that has more than enough space for them. We coulda filled ‘em up and still been minimalistic people. Ah, the irony.


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This is my work station. This room was painted the most godawful red, sort of a cross between dried blood and burgundy. The Behr paint people advertise that they have this super special paint that’ll cover anything in one coat. They guarantee it, that’s what the guy at Home Depot said.

They lie. Not only did it not cover that ugly awful color in one coat, they didn’t honor their guarantee. I went back to Home Depot and told them my story and the paint guy there told me I had to take pictures and send a letter to Behr and they’d give me credit for another gallon of paint.

“But I don’t want anymore paint. I just want my money back, like you promised.”

“I never said you’d get your money back. I said the paint was guaranteed to cover in one coat.”

“But it didn’t.”

“They’re going to give you more paint, so you really have no complaint.”

“How about this, I don’t like to paint, so I paid more for the one coat covering paint and it didn’t work. I coulda saved money and bought the two coat covering paint.” I paused to let that sink in, cuz it didn’t look like he was getting it. “Now if the Behr people come out to my house today and put on that second coat for me, then maybe their guarantee's worth something, but I’m guessing they’re not gonna do that. So I get to do the job again.”

“Yeah,” he said, “but that’s the way the guarantee works.”

“Then it’s not a real guarantee. It’s just a lie you guys use to sell more expensive paint.”

I won’t repeat the rest of the conversation, cuz it just went downhill from there.

Anyway, I’ve got two monitors and before you go thinking poor Vesta only has one, she can have two, she just doesn’t want ‘em. And I’ve got the same problem in my work station she has in hers, too much sun in the morning, so Vesta stain glassed my window too. Mine’s a lighter blue, which lets in a little more light, because the light doesn’t fall directly on my screens.

Under the stained glass window, sitting onto of the printer, is an old style phone. Vesta found it at the Goodwill. The only problem with it, is you’ve gotta know the phone number you want to talk to, to make it work and who knows phone numbers anymore. Not us.


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Here’s another view of my work station and in the corner you can see Bob, wearing his jester’s hat. He used to just be a photographer’s dummy, but now he’s been given a new job, Guardian of the Haunted Studio. 


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Here’s a closeup of Bob. As you can see, he prefers an old fashioned telephone. He also likes his watches. Wait, do my eyes deceive, is he wearing both a Rolex and a Patek Philippe?

He’s a pretty sour fellow most times, Bob is. But not all the time. Give him a beer or two, or even a glass of wine, and he’ll chuckle up a storm. We try not to do that, cuz his laugh is sort of a spine tingling scary thing you don’t want to hear—ever.

We’ve been checking all the thrifts, hoping to find a Mrs. Bob, but so far we haven’t had much luck. We think, if he gets a girl and they hit it off, maybe we could photograph the wedding. That would be the wedding of all weddings. And maybe, just maybe, a married Bob, would be a better Bob, you know, with a chuckling laugh that maybe wouldn't frighten even the Devil away. 


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So, when you come into the house, you’re in Vesta’s work station. If you go thru it, you’re in my work station. If you go through that, you enter this room. Thru the window, you’re seeing the breezeway and thru the breezeway, you’re seeing the outside and it’s dark out.

We had initially planned on using this room as a studio, but the walls are too dark the carpet is too green and the back half and the front half of the room are too narrow.

That marble coffee table was my mother’s and it’s about the only piece of real furniture we’ve kept. Those chairs around the table started out their life with us as patio furniture. The tall red chair came out of a place ladies of the evening plied their lovely trade in Virginia City a long time ago, so we just couldn’t get rid of it.

So, now the room kind of looks a little like a living room. Something we didn’t want, because we’re not normal, so we didn’t want a normal house. But, eek, we might be getting it.


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While on one of our outings to the thrifts, searching for a mate for Bob, Vesta spied this chair and she had to have it. “It’ll go with the house,” she said.

“I can’t say no to her,” so we bought it. And now I’m guessing it’s a beginning, because we’ve been looking in the antique furniture places in Midtown for furniture to go along with it. Vesta wants the living room, which wasn’t supposed to be a living room, to look like it would’ve in 1926, when the house was built.

I kind've like that patio furniture, but it appears it’s future with us in doubt.


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Here, it seems, is a little more irony, more bookcases. Fortunately for Vesta, she boxed up all her cookbooks for a later day and that later day came sooner than she expected, because now they have a home.

At one time this was probably a dining room and I imagine the lawyers turned it into a conference room. What the church people did with it, I don'lt have a clue. We're leaving it empty.

We've been taking about replacing those gold blinds with white ones. That window used to be at the end of the house, but it looks like sometime in the 50’s or so, someone added a small room to the back of the house. We’re using it for Devon’s very tiny bedroom.

If we leave the light on in there, a nice white light will show thru the white blinds and we’re thinking about using that as a backdrop for glamour photography. We’ll see.

If you go thru the door on the left, you wind up with the view in the photo below.


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This is the view you’ll see if you come from what was once the dining-slash-conference room and if you look left, you’ll see our tiny little Refrigerator Room. If you go straight, you’ll be in the kitchen and if look right, you’ll see down ramp, right into our large bedroom-slash-studio.


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This is our little tiny Refrigerator Room, which you'll see if you look left as you come thru the door. We had just enough room to put in the bench we use when we ply our trade at Reno’s Wedding Shows. It was a drag, getting that heavy thing into our little car, now I don’t ever have to do it again. We’ll find something else.

I think that bench thingy was meant to go behind a sofa. Here it’s holding Vesta’s bread maker and blender. The vacant spot in front of the bread maker usually has a crockpot sitting on it. 


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If you pass through the little Refrigerator Room, you’ll wind up in Vesta’s tiny, tiny kitchen. She’s got the new Panasonic Inverter Microwave, which is the latest in microwave technology. On the microwave’s left, she’s got her little professional, electric burner.

Yep, she can only cook on thing at a time on that.


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This is another view of the west side of our kitchen. I forgot to point out the toaster on top of the microwave. When you have limited space, you have to be a bit creative.

As I mention in a photo above, in the 50’s someone added to the back of the house. On the right side they put the small room, which we’re using as Devon’s bedroom. On the left side, through that window, they added a laundry room and I converted it into a closest as the house had none.

That’s right, not a closet to be found in the whole place.


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This is the east side of the kitchen, which is about four feet from the west side. Not very big. Also, one of the first repairs we had to make when we moved in was having the faucet replaced. The old faucet worked fine, it just leaked and filled the floor with water. Now it doesn’t do that anymore.


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In the photo of the east side of our kitchen above, you can see the hint of a doorway in the lower righthand corner. That door leads into the bathroom.

That’s right, you have to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. The bathroom door in the back of the photo leads into my workspace, but it’s blocked by the bookcase full of bathroom stuff on this side and Bob on the other.

If you do an about face from where I'm standing when I took this photo, you will be presented with the view below.


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Does that look like a very, very small shower? It is.


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This is the inside of that tiny shower, which is about the same size as the one we had on the boat and the only reason I’m even showing you this photo is because of the caulking job. I did it. I caulked the drain too.

We checked under the house and it was a muddy mess. It’s been a week since I did the work and now it’s drying up. So, I guess I did a good job.


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This is the closet I built. I’m not a builder, so we had to make several trips to Home Depot, before I figured out everything I needed and how to put it all together.

Actually, I put op the clothes rack twice, because after we loaded it all up with clothes, it came tumbling down. Now, everything is securely screwed into studs. It’s never coming down again (fingers crossed).


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Here’s another view of the closet Vesta and I share.


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This is Devon’s very tiny room, which is opposite the closet. As you can see, it was an add on. We’ll keep that window open when Devon’s with us, so he won’t feel like he’s been captured and sent to prison.


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And here is what I mean by “down ramp.” Some houses have stairs, we got a ramp. I’m betting it was because the church had to comply to the state’s handicap rules.

If you go through that door down ramp, you’ll be in our bedroom studio.


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This room, which we’re using both as a bedroom and as a studio, was probably added on to the 50’s add on not so long ago. The walls, floor and ceiling are all straight and not all catywompus like the rest of the house.

However, new as the add on is, we had the paint, so we painted it and Vesta painted her dresser to match. On the dresser is an old Mac, which we used for music and every now and then we’ll watch something on Netflix. We try not to watch more than one day a week.


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Here’s another view of the bedroom, boudoir shoot half of this large room, where the right Rev. Somebody used to preach to his congregation. As you can see Linda Ronstadt hasn’t been hung up yet.


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When Vesta does boudoir shoots, we move the nightstands and lamps out of the picture. The blank white walls and white spread are perfect for boudoir, but we have a lot of other bed coverings if you don’t like white.


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Here is an example of what Vesta does with that white spread, the white wall and a girl.


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Facing away from the back of the bed, you’ll see our studio setup. We’ve got have more lights and strobes on order and we’re going to make a backdrop to cover the door, with different backgrounds. We’re pretty excited.

A little crazy maybe, but very excited.


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Here is another view of the studio part of our big down ramp room. It’ll look very different when we take the trees down. We can’t do that now, cuz we’re still doing Christmas photos (you can check out one below).

Also we'll be setting up the lights when those trees come down in plenty of time for our very grande opening in January.


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And as promised above, here is a sample photo from one of our Christmas shoots. You can see more if you follow this blue link. And, Vesta just reminded me, you still have time to order you're Christmas photos, we are willing and waiting and they're only fifty dollars.


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Here is one more photo of the Haunted Studio. It’s a bit scary looking, but even so, I won’t be changing my name to Gomez anytime soon. Vesta, on the other hand, is still talking about dying her hair black as night.


Ken Douglas Wedding and Portrait Photography, 1250 Ralston Street, Reno, NV 89503 
Phone: 775 393-9529