•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Farm Noir


MAXWELL BODENHEIM: "Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Every old, working farmstead has at least one old, rusting truck ready to drive me off into a 1940s sunset. Some of them have stories attached, but most are mute like this one. Brent, often full of stories, shrugged at my inquiry. "Gee, Grampa's International's always been there." I returned last week to discover he'd removed the Weber barbecue that had been snuggled into the passenger's seat for almost as long. It couldn't have happened at a better moment; the light was perfect.

Even by published standards for decaying farm vehicles, this one is a prize. There is much beyond what I photographed here. Where exterior surface remains unrusted & uncrusted, it has patina that ranges from cranberry to custard but which is mostly variagated slate. Where it has not been colonized, the finish is sometimes as smooth as egg-tempera paint. But much of the old International is teeming. The swooping fenders are a cornucopia of multicolored lichens and rust. Since the light is pretty good for much of the afternoon, one can compose these elements into compositions for hours. But best of all, the setting sun shines directly into the windshield. That's great for shots like this, but it also creates a glancing light across fenders and sides that is image dynamite.

The light pouring through the windshield was irresistible, and the window on the driver's side was long gone. I set my tripod there, by the driver's side door. I wanted to get close, but debris made it difficult. It took me awhile finally to get this close. Alas, as the photo shows, even at f22 I was too close to keep both wheel and windshield in focus. Sometimes a technical flaw is a compositional virtue; does the soft focus dash suggest the view of the last groggy driver, slumped on the wheel, opening his eyes momentarily, shortly after his last accident?