Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Friday, November 16, 2007

Farm of a Thousand Faces


Cold Spring Farmstead is a compact structure made up of three connected barns and two silos. It's odd geometries are compounded by the general decay. One section is beyond use and all three are bending and twisting as members give way to age. From what I've been told this hasn't been a working farm for at least 15 years, though several times a day Richard, who has lived here most of his life, disappears somewhere inside the structures and emerges later with fresh eggs. To me this remains a mystery as I have yet to see a chicken.

I'd like to call Cold Spring. "The Farm of a Thousand Faces," as I sense that potential in it. I first saw it last Monday. The day was overcast and a gloomy, diffused light touched it everywhere. I quickly fell under its moody spell which influenced every shot I took. In three or four hours I worked my way systematically around the farm and up onto the steep hill to the west. The best shot I got was from the back of the barns where the field descends northward; setting my camera low to the ground, the barns look like they are rising from behind the grasses.

I returned on Tuesday afternoon when the sky was bright and crisp, and I shot until the sun had vanished behind the hills. I had come to shoot that back face again, but it was quickly clear that at this time of day it was all in shadows. I again climbed the hill to the west and found I could cross a stone wall and get even higher on the hill. From this angle it is hard to avoid shooting the old farmhouse. Unlike the barns, the house is in immaculate condition. It's bright white siding presents a serious photographic obstacle in late afternoon; it invades shots taken from the west and makes proper exposure settings impossible. If the two structures have any message together, it must be their contrast. By the time the sun was low in the sky I had worked my way back to the front which was catching intense orange light. I will have to repeat that, but I was still eager to reshoot the back.

I returned shortly after sunrise the next morning and shot until midmorning. I had thought the early light would catch that back face, but I quickly saw that the back won't catch sunlight until next spring. As I adjusted my shooting plan for the morning I came on the frost-covered grasses of the previous posts. Then I again climbed the hill and worked my way to the south-facing front where this shot was taken.

While I've been a bit disappointed in the results of these three shoots, twelve or more hours of shooting under such varied light has taught me much about how light effects these structure and left me more intrigued than ever to unlock those hidden faces.

I went to Cold Spring Farm on a tip from Frances for which I'm very appreciative. Cold Spring Farm is a 45 minute drive from my home. That's the farthest I've traveled for repeat shoots of the same farm. I expect to be back often, and there's much else to be shot in the neighborhood, but we are increasingly in the dull time after the excitement of seasonal changes. All the best things occur in times of change, and I'm already wondering if I'll be able to get here when the snows start..