Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Christina's Gone


No photo could better follow my week-long photo workshop at Rockport (Maine) Multimedia Workshops than this one which I'm titling, "Christina's Gone." I shot it on the fifth day of our workshop on a very special visit to the Wyath Farmstead. I took it on my way down the hill to the small family cemetery where Christina is buried. I chose this workshop because it seemed like it would do most to stretch me into photographing new subject matter. After 4 days of shoots that fulfilled my expectations, coming here brought me home to safe territory.

The house and barns were open to us before regular patrons arrived, and we had permission to go anywhere and rearrange furniture to suit our image-making needs. Like all of the shoots, time was limited. I don't work well under such conditions, and my time in the house always felt rushed; I knew I wanted to spend time outside shooting the property. Normally I have the patience to shoot for 3 or even 4 hours from a single spot. However, when offered the candy store and told I have limited time to pig out, I find myself frantically trying to consume a bit of everything as I explore. When I finally got outside, time had become limited there as well. Under normal circumstances, I would have tried a shot from under one of the wheels of this hay wagon, or I would have shot down the side to catch the partially hidden barn. I would have tried a hundred different angles. The energy of this meadow and the lovely magenta flowers were most welcome, and I have no complaints with what I caught here with its hint of Wyeth's landmark painting.

Photo workshop shoots are always under pressure, not just the pressure of time, but the pressure to produce for an audience of peers. We were asked to present 10-12 images each day. Most photographers are happy if they produce one good photograph a day. It seems that while patience may be my greatest photographic virtue, it is also my greatest photographic weakness. In any case, the figure walking across the field on the way to the harbor is one of my workshop colleagues. There were ten of us in the workshop. We all felt the pressure to varying degrees, and we all presented a mixed bag of images. Well, there was comfort in that, and much of the value of the class was in learning why those weaker images were not working. Frank Lavelle, the workshop leader, is a wonderful photographer and teacher. He is director of photographic education for the Smithsonian and has taught widely. His crits were clear, focused, and humane. His wisdom was always balanced by great humility, and he when he didn't know his own mind, he was quick to say so.

I'll meet you all tomorrow down by Christina's grave.