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

Pointer



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

Ghosts



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

Unnamed



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

Arms



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

Easy



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

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: 

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



PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: 


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!

Tomorrow...



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Landmarks



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: 


Landmarks

Landmarks! 
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.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Confinement



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  How is it that our noblest aspirations so easily fall victim to meanness, greed and abuse - become magnets for it? Or were predatory instincts driving things from the start? For the first time I find myself counting on two hands the number of similar campuses abandoned and shuttered that I've photographed or tried to photograph. We hope the laws that closed them offer protection against similar abuse, but we close such places even as we deny liberty to more people than ever before in history, and we use a more blunt architectural style to confine them. Does the change in style reflect any changes in our values, and who is the "we" that can make a difference?



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ball Game



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There is little left at Pennhurst to tell of the way lives were lived there. Though in the last of the three buildings I visited, there was enough furniture remaining to distinguish or characterize areas that might have been rooms, wards, lounges and labs. Beds were sparsely distributed where once they must have crowded the floor. Some of my colleagues wore face masks to block mold, but the old stanch has faded with time, and earplugs aren't needed anymore. I worked in solitude among large lounge chairs and sofas of inhuman rectilinearity. Moldy hulks with no crevices to lose your keys, no place for dust bunnies to roost. They were unmoving presences like an alien life form waiting to resume conversation. 

In another lifetime between then and now, it seemed, the buildings had been the handiwork of vandals who painted their own graffiti shrieks through the abandoned halls, and some of the walls were gardens of mold. I found myself constantly photographing the windows and thinking of the people confined in these rooms always wanting to look out, and yet all the views at Pennhurst continually look back in.




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Impatiens



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  More and more I am interested in making photographic images at the extremes of light: that point where brightness becomes specular blindness or where darkness becomes still. We are zoned against these regions, but they are the realms of mystery. Who among us doesn't remember a time in childhood lying awake at night alone in a darkened room?



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pennhurst Asylum



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I went uninformed, nothing more than a gawker at an accident. I knew a bit about the scandals of Pennhurst Asylum and thought I understood the process by which such places, however good the initial intentions, become underfunded warehouses of abuse. It's not my habit to gawk.  I like to understand the places I photograph, but circumstances and time and there I was. It didn't help that at a certain season it drew crowds from far away to see it ghoulishly costumed as a Halloween haunted house. The haunted house remained set up in the administration building and was simply refurbished each year. Otherwise, what struck me was how ordinary and respectable Pennhurst seemed. 

It could have been the campus of a college or a prep school, but for one odd feature. Because my first visit took me only around the perimeter, it took awhile to discover it. Paths lead through quadrangles between the buildings, but unlike the paths on most such campuses, Pennshurst's paths were all four or five feet above the land around them and lined with railings to keep one from falling off. I learned later that the paths were, in fact, on top of windowless, concrete tunnels that connected all of the buildings. They were not merely service tunnels but the daily passageways used by inmates and staff.

Places such as Pennhurst thrive by looking ordinary and respectable, Horrors and heroes are hidden by brick and ivy; it is for that reason hallowed ground. What does it mean to photograph respectfully here?

I recommend visiting this site to learn more: http://pennhurstproject.com/Intro.html


NOTE: For some reason this image always looks different after upload here than it does in any other forum. My monitor is calibrated, and this image is meant to have considerable shadow area. When posted here the shadows are brighter. I have adjusted this version of the image to compensate for Blogger's effect. If anyone knows what's going on here, please leave a note.  The image was uploaded in sRGB.



Monday, April 7, 2014

Ruins on Mill Street




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In the summer of 2013, the old dye works, abandoned for a decade, magnet for people left homeless and unemployed erupted in a ball of flame that burned for days.


Hand Made

Along the web where thumb folds into finger 
brick cadences resound as loaded piers
piling and arching against the weight of time
The meter of the module is a loom
to weave a wall of petit point perfection. 
A cold caress, to stroke it with your mind.
What ancient mason's hand? What royal tomb?







Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

St. Anne's of the South End II



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Most of us who live in the area know St. Anne's from driving eastward through Waterbury on I-84. How different its aspect from the streets around it. 

For the past month I have been constructing a family scrapbook, choosing to restore old photos or to let their age and the scars show bravely through or even to make the new look like a treasured relic of the past. Returning from my recent shapeshifting through time, my urge seems to be to see Waterbury as it was.






Saturday, March 29, 2014

St. Anne's of the South End



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL & ANNOUNCEMENT: Today's Photo has been in hibernation while my attention has been on another project. All is well, and my thanks to those who wrote to inquire. It's good to know friends care. I'm pleased at last to be able to tell readers of this blog that I've signed a contract for the publication for my book currently titled Brass Valley: Made in America. The release is over a year away, but I will let readers of this blog know when release is imminent. 

The news is, however, bittersweet as I received word this week that the brass mill, closed since this past fall, will not reopen. This was the last of its kind, the last real remnant of old Brass Valley. After three years of photographing there regularly, I'd come to know the men who always tried to look out for me, help me understand and get my shots. I miss seeing them, and the book will be dedicated to John Barto, President of the firm who gave me freedom to shoot, and to the men who worked there and were my friends.

TODAY'S will continue to be intermittent as I give attention to finishing the manuscript, but this image marks the beginning of a new series on Waterbury that will NOT be part of the Brass Valley book.




Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shroud Room or Composition in Blue and Brown



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  There is an odd corner at the Klotz Silk Mill that I don't recall seeing in any online photographs, in part because it is hidden until one swings open an awkward door. As everywhere, things have been left as they were on that day in 1957 when the mill ceased operations. Here, coarse cloth (cotton?) has been carefully hung for a purpose unknown. What was it used for?  There's nothing like it anywhere else in the mill. Here it sits, ready for use on a day that never came for a purpose forgotten.

I'd missed this spot until our last morning in the mill, and, frankly, if I had seen it earlier I would have judged it unpromising and moved on, perhaps wisely. However, by that last morning I had the leisure to take the challenge of an unlikely discovery. How to compose it and develop it so that it might at least hold ones eye? The room was tight; bright sunlight glared from behind the fabric but barely illuminated it. I thought, why would anyone take a picture here?

One of my shooting colleagues arrived in the room at the same moment but from another direction, and we each took turns shooting and trying to make something of our discovery. 





Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Toil

TONIGHT: SILK 'N STYLE
at the Housatonic Camera Club, 7 PM
Noble Horizons, Salisbury, CT


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:   

From lives of simple drudgery to lives of complex drudgery,
Autumn spreads a golden shroud to the tatters of our seasons.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Coequal



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created coequal, that they are endowed by their creator with similar inalienable rights. Among these are some life, liberty in that area over there and, after work is done, happy hour.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Plumbing



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  It was an outsized in-reach and all around it and in it was a claylike muck that adhered like cement. Once I had stepped into it, the damage was done and I was bound to cross the deepest section though it pulled at my hiking boot with every step. Two car tires half way up showed where a trailer had been enveloped by the machinery. I too was engulfed in industrial viscera. That was the phrase that crystalized the image, and from that point every decision: where I stood and shot in the goo, the lens I used scoop it, the exposures I set and the processing afterward were all determined by that phrase, "industrial viscera."

I received an article in my email today that suggested photography without a message is mere, empty "Aestheticism," and quotes Kant to prove it.

What is the difference between having a message and making something clear? As a photographer, I can't be too concerned with message beyond being properly respectful of others. The task is to find a place, a mountain top or a few cells of honeycomb or an old factory and select from it elements that make something clear of my experience of that place. How I transform the reflected light collected into a photograph is for me about clarifying that experience more than attending to literal appearances. How I process the image is dictated by the image and the feelings that attend it. I try more often than I succeed.

The article spoke about "ruins porn" prettifying rustbelt blight with little regard to those who live there and suffer, and it added a new term, "nature porn" to describe those eco-friendly calendars and the chain-emails that bring us steroidal nature and fill us with dreams of places secluded and wild.

In fact, isn't all art pornography teasing out feelings that we may submit to its will - to lose ourselves in a book or a symphony or a photograph.