Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rejoice! (The Dressmaker's Daughters 16)

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Enough to say that images exist to fill in the intermediate posts in the Daughters series, though I'll leave it to those who care to imagine what they might contain to lead us to this happy moment.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Headstrong (The Dressmaker's Daughters 10)

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Twenty-two mannequins and an opera house with large windows letting in filtered side light! 

How fluid the forms! How little it seems to require for these mannequins to spring to life with attitude and intent! How subtle the faceless cues of movement from which we intuit significance! Is it only the central figure whose presence is felt, or do all three come with distinct mental posture?

This is from a subset of the images that especially relies on the form and texture of the mannequins’ surfaces and that light. These images are extremely detailed. Even in these jpg reductions one can see most of the fabric’s weave and the stitching. However, on originals viewed 100% you will see beyond that to the wrapping of the fibers of the woven cloth. Such tiny details frequently cause moire patterns to appear when they fall in or out of phase with native screen dpi. They also seem to react strangely to various tools I use to control certain kinds of contrast adjustments, and there will probably be issues when I begin to print them. All of that only makes the more interesting to me.

Next time I go back, I want to get the camera even closer. How close can I get and still make them live?

Friday, August 15, 2014



No Electricity

Headbanger pumps
and enough gasoline
to empty hydraulic wells
and fluid basins
of a century of progress
half a century gone.

Silence and space
when they pause.
No heavy sounds,
sole-felt sounds,
bone-rap sounds, 
moving mass,
Immovable abutment.
No iron clank,
No clunk-
of unbundled tube.
No forlorn, whining
extrusion solo, soul-felt and whole.
Only headbanger’s return.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rust Belt Dies

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  I’m drawn to the mottled, crisp surfaces, the planes of light and leading geometries and shadowed recesses in these piles of dies now lying about the extrusion mill. I’m not sure I can say much more about why, but I react to them as I do to the mannequins at the opera house, as pure form. These are too heavy to move much and too dirty, so I move about trying to fit my rectangle around them. It’s no different than shooting a landscape. Occasionally I’ll mutter, “That’s it!” And most often I won’t know why, but sometimes my eye will. 

Of course there are many excellent photographers with good reasons who will tall me, “No, not there. Here!” …and they will be right.  And my irksome brain will be worrying me, “Isn’t it too fussy in that notch on the top edge, and the top left corner feels weak. Worst of all, the exercise is of no consequence and of little if any importance to anyone but me. However, that quite misses the point.  Looking again later I think I know a bit about why this feels right while many other similar shots don’t work at all.

There are thousands of these dies, and they have been piling up at the old extrusion mill for more than a century. They were everywhere in metal shelves between the benches and in clusters and clearings wherever there was room. Most range in size from a stack of salad plates to a stack of generous platters, though some are as large a car tire, and all are solid steel and heavy. They fit the four draw benches and the expansion bench that formed the basis of the original tube mill that was probably here in the 1890s. Now they have been carefully piled into wire cages to accompany the benches to Mexico, and it’s feeling spacious between the benches.

The dies fit various machines similar to the one shown operating in a recently posted photo: http://rothphotos.blogspot.com/2014/07/bench-23.html

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watercolors No.6

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  It is often color that has surprised me in the working factory. Unlike the silk mill where I’m drawn to try images in monochrome, in the active brass mill spots and splashes of color seem to make the best images. Even as it is being taken apart they draw my camera.

My vigil continues, and today it rained most of the time while I was there while men were removing hydraulic pumps from the top of the extruder. The end is getting nearer. 

Now that I’m at home, and the sun is coming out, and I’m “developing” a few of the images I took, I’m regretting not getting a longer lens or my boots from the back of my car to explore close-up possibilities here, but the rain never stopped until after I left, and the car felt a long way off. What will tomorrow bring?

Viewed small this image has the effect of seeming clotted or blurred, but at proper scale details are all clear and it's easy to read the caution sign on the red post, and all of the writing stenciled on the side of the yellow crane at the back of the image.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Dressmaker's Daughters 9



What is scent before a nose smells vanilla?
What is flavor before a tongue tastes ham?
What are light and dark before retinae paint a multicolored picture to sit down in?
What are sound and echo before cochleae hear whistles and waves; songs and words?
And what is touch before skin feels itch, ache, sting and caress?
The world makes our senses and our senses spin a world of sensations in our brains.
From whence comes self that makes brain into mind?
And has taught us there are worlds for which we have no senses.
And what am I without a cosmos of others?
Therefore, We Exist!
Children of Electricity,
Life’s purpose? To thrive.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wanted (The Dressmaker's Daughters 8)

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Special thanks to all who sent thoughts for titling yesterday’s daughter. So many things I learned from the titles sent me! I puzzled a long time over, “Segregation,” But I had learned something about my image after I’d thought about ti awhile. Other titles sent were:

"On the Hot Seat"
"Hot Stuff"
"Hotsy Totsy"
"Hot Child in the City"
"Old Fashioned Steam”
"Lady Lashes"
“Ensconced” and

I’ve tentatively titled the new Daughter 8 (above) “Wanted,” because that’s what the sign says, but I’m ready to discover new dimensions of my picture by seeing it through your eyes. Please feel free to send titles. However, unless you can zoom in close, you’re missing much of the fun. I did a horizontal version, but I miss the layers of window glass and the knotting of the shade pull or whatever the cord is for. This is where a tablet that flips sideways has an advantage.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Old Fashioned Steam (The Dressmaker's Daughters 7)

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I though t to title this, "Ego," but I decided to let viewers title it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Dressmaker's Daughters 6

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Taking our cue from the Food Channel’s “Chopped,” in which contestants are each given four unlikely ingredients from which they must prepare a dish, adding things as needed "from the Chopped pantry and fridge"; today Lazlo and I returned to our secret Chopped kitchen, not in competition, but cooperatively to figure out what else we could do with our cameras, 21 beige manneqins, one charcoal mannequin, and an abandoned opera house. We brought with us an ever-growing collection of props to enrich the chopped pantry.

We may return. All suggestions are welcome, and we will try almost anything so long as it respects the ladies' virtue, such as it is.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bench 23

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: This journal entry is meant to mark a significant moment in my photographic vigil of the demise of the Last Brass Mill. 

The machine in this picture is an expansion bench. Until last fall Rudy, Randy, and Ray ran this machine regularly. (Whew!) Extruded, seamless tube is repeatedly reworked cold on expansion benches and draw benches to bring it to the desired specification for the job. In the foreground Ray pushes buttons to work elevators that position the tube.  In the background Rudy controls a hydraulic valve that puts immense pressure behind the ram. Between them the ram is part way through the tube and is making it bulge. It traverses a tube in under five seconds, like a snake swallowing a mouse, increasing the diameter of the tube and evenly stretching the wall. In the far background are two, large electric motors. Once, one of them turned a hydraulic pump that applied the muscle to the hydraulic fluid behind the ram.

Hiram Hayden was famous for revolutionizing pot-making, and he was reputed to hold more patents than anyone else in Brass Valley. He was the embodiment of the inventive brass entrepreneur in a world that was just inventing engineering. In the early days, pots were hammered out in a “battery.” Battery workers usually were deaf long before they were dead. Hiram Hayden made better pots with machines that could spin them and shape them instead of battering them. It is not surprising, then, that he was also a pioneer in the making of seamless tube. He understood how cold metal flows and how to fit the wheels and gears and engines to do it.

The plans for this bench are in the factory offices nearby; they are dated 1905. Hiram Hayden died the year before.  The year before that the Wright brothers flew. This bench may have been here already at the start of World War I, when a new factory shed was built for an expanding tube mill to meet war’s rising production targets. Perhaps significantly, that the tube mill butts against an 1880s era, four-story factory that was built by Holmes, Booth, & Haydens to make burners for oil lamps. It was likely repurposed for tube-making as the world electrified and tube milling began below. It is not hard to imagine that Hayden and the men who pioneered the technology for making tube seamlessly, did so in the old lamp factory, and that the original equipment put in place here in the new tube mill was built and installed under the direct supervision of many of those innovators. It is a formative place for Brass Valley to finally expire. One might almost call it a holy land.

In the background, Rudy's controls are like no others. He adjusts the hydraulic pressure to the ram by turning a great wheel that sits horizontally, like the steering wheel on a city bus, but cast metal and heavy-looking. And the chair that Rudy sits on is made of welded metal and is fastened to the floor. It is an odd thing, inhuman in its engineered rigidity and with a high back out of all human proportion.

The homemade chair is a mystery. Perhaps the swing of the great wheel required such force that chairs made of wood were being turned to matchsticks. Or maybe the great wheel was at one time turned by a “big wheel,” who the engineers thought to honor with a throne. If so, it is a story that's lost. One of the men doing salvage work at the factory pointed out the back was made of expanded metal. Expanded metal was developed, patented and first marketed around 1889; it is an interesting use, a parody of wicker for a world of metal workers. 

Friday while I was shooting at the mill, the salvage men began removing the expansion bench. It will take awhile to cut it from the floor. They said it will be going to a factory in Mexico. If labor there remains cheap and the laws governing working conditions and pollution remain lax, the expansion bench may still be turning out seamless tube for another hundred years.

I’ve avoided discussion of the cold processing of tube on the blog as it will be treated in my book when it appears next spring. I’ve made an exception here as the occasion demanded recognition.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bias (The Dressmaker's Daughters 3)

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Photos such as this in the Dressmaker’s Daughters series were finished in order to maximize fine detail. For me one of the pleasures of the image is in looking up close. These are dressmaker’s mannequins and are themselves, finely tailored.

Unfortunately, most of that fine detail is the first thing to be lost in downsizing and jpg compression for email. The coarse cloth not only catches light well, but the weave is clear. The seams along the shoulders that quickly pixelate here are in the hi-res original clear enough to see each stitch that binds front to back as far back as the second to last row of mannequins in the upper right corner. Such clarity is of little value for its own sake. Here it seems to me to be a part of the visceral impact of the image, a feeling a little bit raw and rough on the pin-cushion, tailored form. 

Click the image to view it larger.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Basting (The Dressmaker's Daughters 2)

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I used to think my photographs should be expressive. I’ve come to believe the best photographs are not expressive but impressive; they draw us in, engage us with their forms and say as much by what is left out as by what is included so that as viewers we are forced to make our own connections and fill the gaps with our own sensibilities and experiences. In seeking to express, the photograph risks overwhelming the viewer’s creative energies.  The point is not, “Do you get it?” Rather it is, “What do you find there? What do you make of it?”

I was delighted at the variety of responses I received on the previous “Dressmaker’s Daughters.”  This reply from Mary Weissbrod especially caught the spirit of enjoying open-ended possibilities:

"I see sadness. Perhaps a lady who worked all the time to support her kids and dreamed of a life of excitement and power as a designer to the rich and famous. Instead she sews for a hard ass boss who doesn't care if her talents show as long as she makes him look good. She is lonely because she works day and night and has only her mannequins as friends. I see the garment district and the juxtaposition of the haves and have nots who work there. I see a story similar to Pinocchio. The mannequins are longingly looking out the window wishing they could be real. I see the emptiness of the loft the mannequins are in and the coldness of the streets outside. New York can be like that. There’s no doubt that it is anywhere else but New York. 
...Your photo speaks many things to me. I could make up lots of stories that it creates in my mind.” -Mary Weissbrod

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jaws 2

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I spent long enough with the pointer to enjoy its bold form and graphic look. It seems to turn everything around it into part of an Art Deco abstract. This is where the man plugs into the machine. The machine is essentially a 19th century battery. 

I watched George pull and shove and lift and turn each heavy tube repeatedly. I photographed the constantly shifting arc of his back when he leaned into the work, pushing the pipe forward and when he cradled his fingers under it and pulled while pushing as much with his feet as he pulled with his hands near the pointer jaws. Each time he found the position he wanted, his foot fired the hydraulic hammers that drove the wedges into the thick-walled tube, gradually hammering it into a nipple of the correct size for a draw bench to grab. Every length of tube must be pointed. Sometimes I saw George at it all day long, and he still had all his fingers and a smile.

The OSHA sign hanging behind George is for a code violation that was remedied, I was told, by installation of the plastic guard in front of the pointer’s jaws. While most of the jobs in the brass mill required more monitoring than doing, running the pointer required constant attention over long periods and the strength to move the heavy lengths of tube constantly backward and forward.

Friday, July 4, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Attitude is everything. It is annoying to have again been blind sided by expectation, in this case: that the operation of a small piece of equipment used to prepare tube for a larger operation should be less interesting than the larger dinosaurs amid which I photographed for four years. Although I have been interested in the workings of industrial hydraulics, it was not until last night, looking at some of my photographs of the machines shut down, that I appreciated the simplicity of the Pointer’s design and followed the hydraulic lines to the place at which they deliver their punch. What photographs did I miss because I was on the other side photographing the operator and only got here after operation ceased? 

It is often my habit to explore various methods for developing an image, though I’ve been told that the permissible range in developing an image after shooting is limited, I would argue to the contrary, it is as limitless as I choose to make it. I welcome comments for or against either or both of these.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Epic II

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Photographed a week ago still mounted beside the annealer; found last week tossed aside as scrap.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Body Politic

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: When I visited last week the tube racks that filled the aisle beside the annealer had been trashed and the beast lay cold and disemboweled in the empty space.  This week it was cut in two for easy scrapping.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remembering the Annealer

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: If the brass mill were a bestiary, the annealer would be some armor plated creature that hunches like a rock when enemies hover; it was an organism that lived at a tempo almost too slow for human observation. At one end of the annealer there was usually tube waiting on the rack to be rolled onto the conveyor. It might sit for twenty minutes, or it might sit for hours. Inevitably, when my back was turned, and I was photographing something else, the waiting tube was rolled, and the rare human interaction of man and beast was missed.  

The conveyor moved rows of tube through a long heated chamber - slowly the way a clock’s minute hand moves, too slow for observation. Eventually rows of tubes emerged slowly on the other side. Sometimes long wisps of steam rose from the ends of the tubes as they entered and exited the annealer. The vigor and the beauty of the steam varied with the diameter of the tube, the temperature of the shop, and elements beyond my ken, but I often tried to get human events and steam into the same image, but all the stars were never quite in alignment then. This shot with José is as close as I came.

The annealer heated tube that had been stressed and stretched as it was worked on the draw benches. Heat relaxed the crystal structure of the metal to prevent pinholes from developing. I always found it to be a photogenic tangle of tubes and pipes and wires and ducts, and even on occasion tried to photograph inside of it as it ran.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mayor's Office

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The Sterling Opera House, they say, is haunted. Upstairs plaster walls hang silently, and no applause follows, only cracks, but if it is the sound of bones rattling or chains being dragged, it more likely comes from down stairs behind the dressing rooms in the City Council Rooms where the city council met with the mayor before there was a city or a council or a mayor. There was only a benefactor manufacturer named Sterling. He made pianos, and employed many people in town. It could have been the plot of an opera. He paid for both city halls, they say, though there was no city.

Monday, June 2, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  The Sterling Opera House, they say, is haunted. Furniture moved, toys left, the usual stuff. How could it be otherwise? What fitter place for regrets to lodge or revenge to seethe? How many coughing Mimi’s upstaged? How many Lears, unforgiven while crooners got ready backstage? It could be any missed cue or final curtain that lingers like an animal caught in the wall, a warm spot when you pass through padded houses and empty houses and the closed house. An opera house without ghosts, they say, is like a mirror without reflection. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pilgrimage to Forsaken Acres

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Lazlo and I were back at Forsaken Acres last week. The fields around the abandoned farm were planted and two-inch seedlings poked through the mud in tiny rows. Another week or two before they will be ripe for photos.

When I was last here the silo at the east end of the farmstead had collapsed, and I predicted these remaining two would not last the winter. In fact, the old farmer’s handiwork is tougher than I suspected and a comparison of this with the image I made then [http://rothphotos.blogspot.com/2013/10/shadows-cast.html] will show how little changed the farmstead is, though this time I caught it under midday sun with a lighting guy in the heavens who for a brief moment made the sun shine just behind the silos, and of many photos I took of his lighting experiments, this one best brought out the spirit of Forsaken Acres as I found it that day, a ruin that has survived so long nobody can tell me of a time there were cows in this milking room. The business of this valley then was milk, butter, and eggs for New York City.  Spring rains long ago made the roof and columns of the cow barn mushy, and the weight of snow and ice has pounded it as surely as if a giant foot had trampled here, but one can still creep inside where the structure rests on the metal cow stalls, at least until the new spring vines, fighting for their place in the sun, claim every shaft of available light. Although there are no graves here, this is a spot deserving of seasonal pilgrimages, at least until the cenotaphs implode.

Friday, May 30, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I thought of calling this “Bodybuilding” or “Face-off,” but it quickly became clear that the fun was in finding ones own title.  I invite readers’ suggestions for a title for this photograph. What would you title this image?

A reader recently wrote to ask, if the way things looked does not determine processing, how do I choose? The more I do this, the more I try to respond to qualities I find in the image.  Sometimes I know them as I’m shooting.  More often, I only have an idea of possible directions. 

I make choices on processing as I make choices on composition. Everything is subjective. To a large extent, I left the mannequins as they were when Rick Pauline passed them to me. With more time I would have made other arrangements and other images. Perhaps I’ll go back and do that. They are a great subject.  Or maybe this says as much as need be said.

I adjusted the placement of the mannequin on the left and at the front and got down low enough to make the pattern of overlapping necks and shoulders interesting. The height of the camera controlled both the relationship of the rows of mannequins and the height of the entire shot. Thus, best placement was determined to make for interesting overlap and best proportions. 

This image was captured with care to preserve very sharp detail back to front because I liked the course fabric of the mannequins under the strong side light that made it stand out. My intuition as I began processing was to enhance and emphasize that as much as possible. As I began I had only a vague idea in what direction I wanted to develop the image. Though I shot in color, the result was a sepia-like monochrome. Some unnecessary detail on the floor was happily minimized by leaning into the image contrast and the natural vignette. I set the curve of the gradient to maximize contrast while minimizing the detail that would be lost except in the darkest areas. NIK’s Silver Efex Pro is one of the best plug-ins available and allows many ways to gain very precise control over all aspects of grayscale imagery. The treatment seemed to call for the full weight of B&W without sepia softening, though Silver Efex let me experiment with “silver toning” and paper tone..

By moving the vignette’s center to the left side of the screen, my hope was that the eye would be led along the picture’s diagonal and to the “dialogue” of eyeless audience and voiceless speaker.

Military Intelligence

You can tell by the seam of the spine
and the place where a nod should be and a brim for salutes
that these were men who’d heed a call to arms
and never lose their heads in battle.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hartford Metropolis from Colt

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Without us ever asking, our guide escorted us up a broad flight of wooden stairs and through a hatch in the roof, and in a few moments we stood beneath the Colt Dome with the city of Hartford in front of us. You see the closed hatch cover, lowered for shooting, in the foreground.

The image is a high resolution, stitched panorama made from 15 separate images. Usually one sets the tripod and shoots a sequence from one side to the other with 1/3 overlap, but the geometries were strange. Placing the towers of the Metropolis into the space of an opening between columns meant placing my tripod well off center under the dome. To include floor and ceiling I shot at 18mm, but unwrapping the panorama is a bit like flattening the globe into a Mercator projection.

I tried to visualize what the scene around me would look like when unwrapped and recalled a disastrous panorama attempt on the top of Cadillac Mountain at sunset in Maine. This time I shot a hasty sequence and then a bunch of extra “fill” shots so I’d have enough ceiling and floor. With a second chance, I’d be more methodical, but maybe not so lucky in the sky I’m granted.

Getting all the separate images stitched back together taxed the genius of Photoshop. Sometimes photoshop chose to join pieces where the shadow on the column makes a neutral gray. The consequence of this was that sometimes the railings butted the columns at random heights. In the end I discovered Photoshop very much appreciated having as much redundancy as I could give it, and when it was done I tugged on the corners with the skew and distort tools until I thought it looked right. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colt Legacy

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Several weeks ago my friend Lazlo and I photographed at the old Colt firearms factory along the Connecticut River in Hartford, and I am just beginning to learn about the Colt legacy and Colonel Samuel Colt and his wife, Elizabeth.

The cupola on the surviving East Armory is the most distinctive and recognizable feature of the Hartford Skyline for those approaching from the south or east along the interstates. Every child who thought about being a cowboy or cowgirl knew about Colt revolvers. They rank alongside the cowboy hat as icons of the Wild West, but they were invented and made here in the Upright East.  This description of the Colonel’s funeral was a pretty good teaser to make me want to know more: http://connecticuthistory.org/sam-colts-funeral-the-day-hartford-stopped/

The buildings are survivals from a very different era that are being carefully restored and repurposed as “Colt Gateway, A Community Inspired by Imagination.”  They gave us a tour and permission to shoot in areas that had been cleared but had not yet been restored.  The rampant colt atop the cupola is a duplicate. The original is on display at the Museum of Connecticut History. Colt Gateway provides an excellent background history here: http://www.coltgateway.com/History-At-Colt

Monday, May 26, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I’m trying to get back to the factory once a week for as long as I can. No power means no lights. It’s not good; it’s not bad; it just is. As I photograph I’m often aware of work going on in some distant corner. Occasionally Charlie passes on one of the little factory tow tractors, but most of the time I feel solitary in my mission. Here and there on various benches I can see where parts have been gathered. The annealer lies like an eviscerated beast, pipes and rollers that might as well be intestines have been pulled out and lie sprawling every which way in the passage.  The extruder’s great ram has been disarmed, but more often than not things are as they were left when work ceased last winter and calendars stopped turning.

Work at the foundry stopped first, and I found it too painful to photograph the great wheel coming to rest. Now that work has ceased entirely, the factory is already taking on the aura of a historical relic or archeological site, and I'm back. Without the constant motion of the working factory and men as subjects for photographs, I have the leisure to focus on what has been left behind as it is slowly dispersed and discarded and as bit by bit the purposeful actions of men pushing back chairs or setting down tools succumbs to irreversible entropy and Brass Valley and 200 years of evolved culture passes into history.

Some special photos must be saved for the book, and so I zoom in close and look for new directions.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another Old Saw

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: - Photographers’ Voice, Part 2

For most of my life I photographed things. I photographed as a traveler to remember my travels, and I photographed friends to remember our times together. I photographed as a student of architecture to study a site and a neighborhood. I photographed as a reporter to document events I thought mattered. When I retired I stopped photographing things, and then people said “Oh, you’re an Art Photographer.”  

Art photographer! It’s a term I dislike because it suggests that my pictures are aimed at audience who possess an occult knowledge that allows them to unlock secrets the rest do not see. To the extent there are secrets, I think they are only unlocked by looking and doing, and there are no authorities, but that’s another discussion. For others, it is a term for things that are decorative. I freely admit my photographs are a self-indulgence especially in a world overwhelmed with photographers and photographs; that there are too few people to look at all the photos being shot, but my aim is not decorative. My only answer is that photography is an addiction that gives me pleasure and harms no one, and that in my wanderings I occasionally stumble on images that seem to move others, that I’ve done it long enough that maybe, sometimes I see things others miss, but mostly I’m dogged in my wanderings, both at home while processing, and abroad while shooting. 

If I don’t photograph things, what do I photograph? It’s a reasonable question. I photograph what catches my eye, and sometimes I see what I feel. So it’s really my eye I hope you feel when you look at my photographs. And why should you care to feel my eye? All I can say is it’s different, which is a truism. A few days after I took this photograph of the old saw, it was packed up and shipped to another country, but I didn’t photograph in order to remember it when it was gone. No, it was something else I saw, a pathway for my eye, cheery colors, textures, forms; the timbre and pitch of the light, the passage of time; qualities that resonated inside me as I shot and processed.

Be sire to click and view it large.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cutting Edge OK

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: - Photographers’ Voice, Part 1

I suppose I will never cease to ponder the role of subject in my photography, nor do I expect my approach to be consistent. What remains consistent, regardless of the part played by the photograph’s subject, is the primacy of composition, and the need to let each exposure shape the processing it receives.

There is a school of photography that believes that the entirety of the photographer’s art occurs at exposure and that processing should play a minimal role in the ultimate expression of the image. Some photographers go so far as to claim that emphasis on processing is an admission of a weakness or failure at exposure. I learned long ago that there are many ways to be a photographer, and I’m more interested in exploring the expressive capacity of photo images irrespective of time/place fidelity. Even so, pholography is always about a real subject, but it begins with an act of abstraction.

When I began processing this image my goal was to treat it in such a way as to make it a companion to the previous TODAY’S posting. The subject of both images is the same; they were taken on the same day as I studied the saw for its photographic potential. They are 3109 (previous TODAY’S) and 3117 (above) in the sequence. I’ve clearly moved my lens to a less obvious and more abstracted angle.

As I worked at processing this image to be like the earlier image, the more I was pulled in other directions. I sent contrary pairs to a few friends for their reactions. They came back mixed but with comments that often helped, adjectives to distinguish, details that stood out or were suppressed. Knowing my friends’ reactions helped me know my mind, indicated what connected and what missed. 

In the end I chose to follow the lead given by the image itself, made a new image that epitomized what I had discovered in the non-matching image. Whether that makes it a worse or a better partner to the first image I’ll leave to potential purchasers, should they appear. Is it possible that though mismatched, they may speak with a single voice? Where is the photographer inside the image?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Henry Ford: “Competition is the keen edge of business, always shaving away at costs."


How close is the cutting edge to the edge cut?
Sometimes closer than a butchered buzz cut is to scalped.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Untitled Factory Building

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Benedict Street! What's in a name? A family, power, genius, management of vast enterprises that blossomed new corporations as trees sprout fruit, though Benedict Street was never more than three blocks long. To the north it once ended gracefully where it split, and one could turn left and reach the tall, prosperous shops and establishments of Bank Street. Today life ends at Meadow Street; there is no meadow, only the hard wall and underpinnings of the interstate highway that sails by overhead, and nobody remembers meadow though once there must have been one.

Three blocks south Benedict Street ends at a gate. Those with no business behind the gate may detour via Jewelry Street around the enclosed campus. There’s little jewelry on Jewelry Street, and fewer people go through the gate to a land of furtive visitations, but I’ve heard from those who have made it to the giant stack that stands beside the Naugatuck River (anonymous masterpiece of bricklayers’ craft), that the sign is still there on the wall of the old powerhouse, the giant, faded letters that spell out, “Benedict & Burnham,” and those with eyes can see through time.

Back then Aaron Benedict had a house high up on Prospect Street. It's still there on the other side of the interstate. His son, Charles, laid out Hillside Street above his father’s house on Prospect Street, and then he set his own mansion high above Hillside Street with porches and balconies running three floors up from which one can survey the whole valley, watch the traffic cross it on the interstate, and at a time before the interstate was built Charles Benedict might have watched Benedict Street to see who came and went through the gate at Benedict and Burnham had he lived to see his house finished.

This is Benedict Street near its midpoint where the old fabric of warehouses was rent to make space the squat, orange Home Depot and acres of parking. It is architecture for a world that does not see and does not walk.  Here the world of auto commerce meets an empty place scaled for people, horses, wagons and the railroads steam and smoke.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

La Primavera


Rebirth of Pentameter

Spring's scrim still as pale as breath
until the leaves unfold, a curtain drawn
to me and other budding Botticellis.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Waterbury from Holyland USA

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Holyland closed in 1984. Although the cross has been replaced three times and is bigger and brighter than before, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the manger itself have been battered by vandals and the elements. The Holyland U.S.A. sign which was once lighted and could be seen from all over the valley can only be seen when the leaves are off the trees, and even then only if you know where to stand and look.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Brooklyn from Washington Hill

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Just north of Washington Hill is Pine Hill, and near the top of Pine Hill was Holyland USA. Everyone who drives I-84 East knows the giant cross that has marked Pine Hill for travelers since 1956 when John Greco put it there and opened Holyland U.S.A. 

Theme parks and motoring were just catching on. On the other side of the country a year earlier, Walt Disney had taken his personal miniature railroad and expanded it to link 4 new continents, and thanks to the synergy of motoring and television, all children of the fifties have forever scored 100% on the geography of Disneyland.  

Holyland became a hit; at its peak 40,000 people a year visited the chicken wire and plaster models of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and of stories from the Bible. They came as motorists from all over the country to leave their cars and walk through the park created by John Greco and the Companions of Christ.

The brick factory near the center of the image was built for Holmes, Booth and Haydens, one of the pioneering brass companies that became American Brass. The last vestige of American Brass was operating there as recently as this winter and has now gone out of business forever.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Holyland from Brooklyn

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  My photo walks this spring have moved from the Northwest Hills and the Great Hollow to the hills and hollows of Waterbury. I call these clothesline views; shot through fissures, gaps and  crannies, they are framed by weeds, wires, phone poles, and laundry of the communities that grew and flourished when the factories were active. 

St. Francis Xavier, the church on the far side of the valley, was opened in 1896 and serves residents of Waterbury's South End. Back then, if you lived there or here in Brooklyn, chances are you worked in the mills or served those who worked in the mills that turned the ore of the earth into buttons and clasps, handles and faucets, clocks and cameras, tubes and rods, wires and sheets, bicycles and grand pianos that played the smokey music of the valley in bars, parlors and churches near and far.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Absolution #1

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Back making photographs at the brass mill today though the power is off, and it's quiet enough to hear the roof leak. Along Route 8 on the way home I listened to NPR discuss, "insourcing." But the jobs here are never coming back.  At the factory, I photographed while specialists were testing to identify possible contaminants that would need to be dealt with. Removing the stain of 150 years of industry on the site--- How much simpler than repairing the damage of 35 years of deindustrialization in Brass Valley and the nation - lost jobs, lost neighborhoods, lost families, lost skills, lost cities, lost purpose!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014




anchors in space
windows through time 
bidden or not
like the morning 
and cinnamon
scent of the bakery 
on the corner
no longer
and the long sigh of the factory whistle 
when shifts changed, 
and the watchful clock at Union Station 
saying no one should ever be late
and the world was rolling on.