As we drive our morning commute five days a week, we pass by the same buildings, stores and landmarks. Most of us don’t have the time to admire Sioux City’s architecture or marvel at the environment that surrounds us.
Jamie Lempares has that time. The former theater director has had it for nearly a year since his departure from Shot in the Dark Productions, a playhouse known for its edgy, offbeat shows.
Lempares’ days spent producing plays at the Evelyn Larson Theatre — which is named after his late mother — are gone. Now he spends his time in his apartment in downtown Sioux City with his dog named Capone, a frivolous little mutt who barks at and recoils from any person except his master. The little guy also accompanies Lempares on his walks, of which he has had many.
During those walks, Lempares comes equipped with a small, point-and-shoot digital camera. He looks in all directions as he walks, searching for something that might catch his attention. If Lempares sees something he likes, he takes a couple photos and continues on. Capone tugging at the leash will make sure Lempares doesn’t linger for too long in one spot.
“There’s no plan when I go out,” said Lempares. “I’m taking the camera and ask myself, ‘What part of Siouxland am I going to go to?’ and ‘Which direction am I going to go?’ Capone loves it.”
He took photos for months and months on end. Before long he showed his collection to his friend, Cindy Waitt, who encouraged him to host a photo gallery. With her help, Lempares will finally be able to display his images of various locations in Sioux City to the public on Friday (Feb. 5) at Vangarde Arts.
Lempares, by no means, considers himself a professional photographer; his only previous experience was when he was a reporter shooting photos and writing stories for a South Sioux City newspaper. He doesn’t edit his photos or use filters. He presents them as is. To save money, Lempares decided to reuse his own frames to present his photos; frames that had once hung on his apartment walls and included small pieces of artwork and vintage posters.
The framed photos were packed in boxes in a corner of Lempares’ apartment. He opened his laptop to show examples of his work. His finger tips dashed wildly across the trackpad, moving the mouse around the desktop.
“I can hardly ever see this damn thing; I get lost just trying to look for it,” said Lempares, whose eyesight has been forever altered after a sudden stroke many years ago. He has blind spots in both of his eyes. As a result, Lempares isn’t allowed to drive. (“And, honestly, I don’t want to! You see the way people drive”). That explains the walks.
But even with his lack of vision, Lempares still takes time to look at Sioux City’s parks, walkways, buildings and skywalks. He can’t take pictures by looking through a camera viewfinder; he has to use the large, illuminated screen to help him see the framework of the picture.
Lempares exhibited his photos to me through a slideshow. With every new frame he asked me, “Do you know where that is?” And every time I’d shake my head no. He’d reveal the location in full detail and tie in a specific memory of his.
“I’ll show people my photos and they’ll ask, ‘Is that in Sioux City?’” said Lempares.
It is. They all are.
“We’re blessed in Sioux City,” he said. “We have a lot of color and a lot of beautiful architecture.”