Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stowing Hay


PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: I arrived one afternoon at Twin Elm Farm to find them unloading hay from one of the hay wagons. I'm told that the square bales must be put away quickly before they begin to rot. The roll of the round bales gives them protection. The water can't get in, and I've seen some left in fields over the winter and used in the spring, but this is not a blog on the technology of baling hay.

I would have liked to have included the head of the man in the hay wagon. I shot the photo from two angles. Two of the images caught him standing upright, and the back of his head completed his form. In the end, it became a choice between showing the back of a head or showing the two bodies' tensions engaged together in work.

Equally important to the composition: In the alternate angle, the barn is more foreshortened, and the whole hay wagon is included. Instinctively, I knew it was the wrong spot, but I might have "unbeheaded" moments if I moved there. Looking at the two compositions now I see clearly why the move was wrong. Here the action begins with the man feeding hay onto the convayer; there it begins in partly empty wagon - we stumble. Here the receding roof line of the deep barn is at an angle to continue the movement of the men's work; there, the cupola is directly above the front corner of the roof, and the diagonal of the receding roof is clipped, compressed before it can develop any force; the cupola no longer "crowns" the composition, it stops short. Whether one likes the shot or not, here the full diagonal of the composition is put to work; there it is wasted.

I experimented with closing in more on the wagon to make the "upstream side" proportionally much larger, but doing so sacrificed much of the old barns and the sense of place.

The import of all this is to again recognize the need to give oneself room to respond to instincts whose motivations may be obscured. A few quotes return to mind from earlier posts:
MINOR WHITE: "Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence."
EDWARD WESTON: "Composition is the strongest way of seeing."