•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hilltops

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Where are you? A few weeks back I wondered about the process by which a place becomes just space. Now I have some other thoughts and questions.

1. Is space always defined by measurements and coordinates? Is place always defined in spite of measurements and coordinates?

2. I know the hilltop birch in this picture and how the field falls to the farm on that shoulder of land before it tumbles over into the next valley and how the water that flows there finds Bee Brook before reaching the Shepaug River, and I know the hidden hill behind this one as well and how on the hill beyond that there's an old farm that looks back at us. I know that from the top of the hill behind me I can see all the way to Mt. Tom and where my house is and town and the valley where the state road runs. Does the motorist know place in the same way the hiker does? or the pilot? or the astronaut? When they gather together around a table for dinner, are they all in different places?

3. And those people who always turn the wrong way when they come out of the elevator even though they've done it dozens of times.... Is their difficulty spatial? or platial?

4. Sometimes the world is flat. How come? Growing up on Manhattan Island, I knew the hills. I've walked the city since I was 8 and I've climbed Lenox Hill (Though I never knew Robert Lenox ran a tenant farm there), and I've climbed Murray Hill (Though I never knew there was once a fancy estate with stony soil masquerading as a farm there), and I've enjoyed the view from Morningside Heights and walked in the streets below (Was there really once an insane asylum where Columbia now stands?) and I know how the subway rattles overhead where Broadway takes a dip too deep for the IRT to stay under, and I've even been told that the word, "Manhattan," means "Island of Many Hills." However, words can lie; there's no hill at Curry Hill. My preferred means of travel in NYC has always been walking; I know the hills in my muscles, but no matter how I may be puffing on my way up to see Tulip Trees in bloom in Inwood, no matter how often they may tell me the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, I still know the Island of Manhattan is utterly and totally flat. How did that happen?

5. And when you wake in the middle of the night, and you don't know where you are, where are you?

6. Are you sure you're awake?