•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Monday, May 18, 2009

Over the Mow


KARL J. KUERNER: "The way I really came to understand hard work was to make hay with my grandfather. He drove the tractor while I threw bales on the wagon for my father to stack. Grandfather never slowed down to accommodate me. After he was gone, it was even worse. Dad drove and I had to load and stack."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I didn't reach the third floor until very late in the morning. Perhaps I should have taken time earlier to explore the building fully and to construct a mental image of its layout. It will require a return trip to think about and to reconcile what I know of the inside and the outside, but my approach to photographing here was more immediate. I stopped whenever I thought I saw potential for an image, and I never knew if something better lay ahead. My only goal was to move at a pace to permit shooting on all three floors before we quit and to try to move at the resonant tempo.

Looking at my interior and exterior shots now, I realize there are parts of the building I never saw, never figured out how to reach. On the other hand, and whatever the results, my seeing was always fresh, every step was an adventure, and I avoided the perils of returning later to search for a position and a shot that had resonated deeply on first approach but had vanished now. Cook when the fire is hot.

This flight to the third floor is not directly above the flight from first to second. I wish I knew why. I like the homemade hand rail on the left of the stair and the sheer drop on the right.

I took an especially long time in the stairwells; I suspect four distinct light sources is a photographic rarity. Two are obvious in this image. A third is behind us, a bit of glow from deep in the barn and of no consequence here; there is a fourth source behind the stairs, through a door to a room with an incandescent bulb that radiates amber light onto a wooden ladder half hidden leaning against the wall and casting a shadow noir. I made a number of images that tried to contrast these last three distinct light environments, especially the way the white light from the window met the golden universe of the bare bulb.

So many possibilities to compose! So many ways to lead the eye! I took my time, but eventually I could no longer resist the pull of that attic space, my ultimate destination for the day. Gene Logsdon ends Wyeth People by noting that Wyeth, "paints people who have learned this basic lesson of life: to endure. He paints endurance. He paints eternity." Was that what I was doing now, trying to walk through a bit of Wyeth's eternity? Where would it lead me? What might I find?