•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hillside Redux (for Jonathan)


I was almost ready to pack up and had returned to my car when I noticed the setting sun penetrating beneath the low branches of trees to light this spot of ground in the middle of Hillside Farmstead. It was an impossible lighting situation of high contrast between the very dark shadows and the brightly lit surfaces where the barns caught the last light of the sun, and I didn't expect anything to be useful. Hillside's finest feature is the series of "backhouses" that enclose a compact dooryard, and this shot caught them from an unusual angle. I was surprised and pleased to discover how much detail I could lift out of the dark shadows with Photoshop, and I was pleased with the zigzag composition that resulted.

I was directed to the beauties of Hillside Farm by my friends Ken Cornet and Joe Mustich and began shooting there when I returned from Maine in mid July. This was the first photo from Hillside that I prepared for posting, but then I had hard drive problems and thought the prepared photo lost in the related system crash. This morning I set out to reprocess the image and found, to my delight, that I had in fact saved my original work.

This is an ideal photo to make a request for your help. Last week, concerned about the accuracy of my laptop screen for editing photos, I purchased a stand-alone monitor which I have now calibrated. This should mean that the image I see is similar to an image seen on any properly calibrated monitor. As you look at this and subsequent photos please be on the alert for any image that strikes you as too light, too dark, or that seems to have an unusual color cast to it. Notifying me of such possible issues will help me considerably.

Finally, after the last TODAY'S Jane asked to be associated with Jonathan's viewpoint, and Jonathan wrote to indicate that, as I expected, the particular photo would not be desktop wallpaper. It is a decision with which I fully respect. On the other hand, Jonathan's wife Wendy, an artist, wrote in to say how much she liked the image. For my own part, I feel a bit awkward in ascribing the word art to anything I've produced. Rather, I only claim that my interests are aesthetic rather than documentary.

The issue for me isn't what one might or might not hang on one's walls - one should hang what one likes - but what is the proper domain of artistic discourse whether in photography or any other art form. Was it Edvard Munch, painter of "The Scream," who wrote that the camera would never be an instrument of art so long as one couldn't use it in heaven or in hell? I once had a friend who lost his balance and swerved sharply right. He began collecting reproductions of great works of art in order to scrapbook the angelic penthouse portions. At one point, knowing my interest in art, he offered me his nether leavings. In fact, Munch is right in suggesting it is essential for art to plumb the vast personal and collective abysses which underlie all human experience. It is only in touching both pleasure and pain that art transcends the decorative and touches the sublime. The field of photographic discourse, whether it lands on Jonathan's desktop or Jane's wall needs to touch ALL those things inside us that matter. As to my car photo? It matters not at all. It was about Hollywood.