Monday, December 30, 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


A very happy holiday to all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bottom of the Shaft


Factory Lift Part II

I'd like to be the guy that unwinds time.
He sits above the stars and sees time fall
like a blizzard sweeping across an empty plain.
or sifted flour to raise daily bread.
It's only pulleys and weights, that's all it is.
a trick of leverage, tomorrows and yesterdays.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Silk 'n Style

by Emery Roth II

with Rick Pauline and Dawn Dingee

discussion & presentation

The Klotz Throwing Mill in Lonaconing, Maryland, is an accidentally preserved, "gilded age" silk mill from the beginning of the 20th century. View it through the eyes of eight photographers who traveled there in two groups in the past year. Consider how different eyes convert the experience of the mill into still images, learn about the region, and join a discussion as we consider whether Style matters.

WHEN: Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 7:00 PM

WHERE: The Housatonic Camera Club

Noble Horizons, 17 Cobble RoadSalisbury, CT



Orchid Lust

Silk is slippery.
It murmurs in 
plush, Victorian syllables
that shimmer like gossamer.

Swaddled in purple velvet's 
downy cushion 
we remember that silkiness begins in the guise of a moth 
or a burrowing worm or tentacled arachnids, poised and still.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In a world of Victorian spindles and knobs, gears and sprockets, these pressure cookers look out of place, and, in fact, I've seen no other photographs of them despite the number of photographers that have passed here. Why is that?

They might be Gothic instruments of torture in a Victorian silk mill mystery, Holmes arriving before the pressure meter that runs from minus 30 through plus 60 has fully reset to an ambiguous zero, and only he knows if the sad victim was steamed like a lobster or slowly depressurized.

How did these serve the more acceptable aims of the silk barons?  Did they set the dyes, or did they shrink and tighten the silk fibers the way the annealer uses moist heat to repair the crystal structure in stressed brass? How little I know about the ways of raw silk! Where would we need to look to find someone who would know how to use this equipment today? The rust and stillness of the mill beg the question.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Factory Lift


Factory Lift

I'm not sure I ever noticed how 
much elevators are a lot like clocks.
Pulleys and weights, that's all they are, 
and the right grease to make them glide. 
One is set to lift a load. 
The other leverages our hours. 
if we can buy them back 
at the end of the haul. 
Four hours in two shifts plus food stamps. 
Of course, we can always use the stairs. 

I'd like to be the guy that drives the elevator, 
propped on his stool, floor numbers in his head, 
with his wrist twisted around the handle that levitates us. 
He knows to within 30 trips 
plus or minus 
how many trips he makes each week, 
and figuring market cycles roughly, 
he can tell you how many trips he will have to make 
'til his last ride in twenty-three years, 
so many months, weeks, days hence. 
He's steady, and he never uses the stairs.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gilded Age Gilding

PHOTGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I think Charlie was the first to put the shoes by the chair, maybe the umbrella as well, but there are always new still-life set-ups appearing here. As I got to the top of the stair, Charlie's still life was in front of me, though Charlie was gone. He appeared as I began to play with the elements he had left, rearranging them to make use of what I liked in the excellent southwest light. Rick and others followed later as we all selected from three floors of silk mill factory that had become a time-capsule sealed in July of 1957 and only recently opened. Time stopped here, and we had come to photograph it and compose it and process it into finished images.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bespindled and Bebobbined



It is a silken circus
bespindled and bebobbined
of Victorian, industrial clatter.
to capture the whole, 3-ring show-
silken filament streaking
bobbins bobbing,
flywheels winging,
and the steam calliope!
and to also eyeball every sprocket,
savor the nattering and shuttling
of the tiniest cog
in the unbroken linkage
between initial cause
intermediate event
and ultimate purpose,
and to show it in a photograph.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Something of their World

"Work benches, tables, and chests of drawers are stocked with sundry medicines like eyewash, mercurochrome, and spirits of ammonia. Even the workers' toilets suggest something of their world: eight stalls shared two rolls of paper, mounted on the outside. Faded, gaudy, umbrellas are tucked everywhere and women's shoes—perhaps thirty pair-—are hung on spindles and tossed into tag bins. They are all early fifties style, with pointed toes, chunky heels, and well-creased insteps, thrown aside by workers after eight or more hours of moving up and down the mill aisles. What took place here?" 

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The bathroom was excessively dark, almost beyond shooting. For that reason, I dismissed it when I discovered it late on my first visit. However the rusty doors were interesting, and with time now, I decided to try to make something of them.  There  was a grungy beauty about the place, but it was an awkward space to shoot, and in the end, it was just a bathroom.  

To catch a shot that added context, I squeezed into the corner of the room, my unfolded tripod creasing me into the corner while I tried not to think about what I was squeezing into. This was the second floor on the leaky corner of the building. The roof was failing just here above the third floor. While shooting I used a flashlight to paint a bit of additional light.

The shot speaks well to the quotation.  Whether it has anything of its own to add to the conversation, I'm unsure.

Friday, November 29, 2013

September, 1957

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Klotz Throwing Mill closed by a strike officially on Jul 7 1957, though the calendar in the photograph says September. The sweater has hung so long it comes away in the shape of the chair. And the silken thread produced here winds backward through Gilded Age parlors and underthings to New York silk barons who sited their mills here where coal, transportation and labor were all cheap, and the mills were like schoolrooms where the wives and daughters of miners worked in silence to the clattering machines, and when it was time for break, the lights were turned off to save electricity.

for a complete description read Rebecca Trussel's excellent article, "Opening Tut's Tomb."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Corn Light

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I'm thankful my family and I are all well and that the nation is not at war in Syria and that frequently hostile nations are talking. May the talks lead to a harvest of good will and peace and an end to world hunger.

*click to enlarge

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Plume & Atwood Dam

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  What value could these old mill buildings possibly have? Friday's Waterbury Republican-American carried the news of their demolition.  A link at the end of this note connects to a short slide show of the demolition and some notes about the site's history.

The buildings, in Thomaston, were built before the Civil War by Seth Thomas for his clock company. Seth Thomas was a joiner and a pioneer manufacturer of wooden clocks. Affordable clocks were changing time, and by the 1850s the times demanded clocks of metal. My understanding is that the key building of the new site was a rolling mill to roll brass for Seth Thomas clocks.

The buildings had been decaying for years. One had fallen before I began photographing here, and another fell at the beginning of the summer. The end had been coming for many years.

I'm not privy to the plans for the site where the buildings stood, and there may be a wonderful vision I'll welcome, but I'm mindful of Henry James warning that it takes a lot of history to make a little tradition, and I'm aware that every brick in this old factory carried the measure of a bricklayer's hand. 

Places that connect the region to our Brass Valley past are quickly becoming as scarce  as ironworks in the hill towns. This mill, situated next to the Naugatuck Railroad Museum and with access to a beautiful riverfront and nearly adjacent to Thomaston restaurants, seems to me to be an opportunity sadly missed at the picturesque, historic mill town with the distinctive towers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tones of Gray

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Urban canyon, lacework of silk, tiny spinners ignorant of spindles and photographers cautiously preserving dust.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

No Springs

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What does silk weigh? Unlike most cloth which is sold by the yard, silk is bought and sold by the pound. The silk worm which secretes the thread also secretes a gummy substance which helps to bind the cocoon in place. The manufacturers who buy the raw silk must remove this paste in order to make silken thread from which fabric will be woven. They paid for the gum discarded, and they viewed the loss in weight as lost profit.  In order to recoup that loss, manufacturers took to soaking the raw silk in metallic salts of tin, iron, or lead. These readily bonded with the silk and returned the lost weight and sometimes more.  However, the salts also caused the silk to wear badly and become brittle in time. 

Even without silk manufacturers weighting their product, the weight of silk changes significantly with humidity so product weight was always somewhat subjective. Of course, in a business based upon the weight of the product, it's not a surprise to find a precision scale such as this just outside Shipping & Receiving to assure weights are accurate and profits are maximized.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Shipping Dept. Dreaming of Vermeer

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The painter methodically fills empty space with shapes and colors to touch truths truer than facts. The poet strings his poem with choice words, one at a time until it is filled with music that sings beyond language. The dancer moves, fills the stage with gesture and the body's song; muscles arch, stretch or spiral like a star. Arms, legs, torsos saturate the air with a primal beat. 

The photographer doesn't fill anything, he plucks with his lens shards of light and shadows cast, and he fixes them with a click.  It's a short time in which to fill eternity.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Yarn


56 yeara after the Silk Mill Closed

Yellowing in yellow light,
A dress never made,
A wedding awry,
Spinning its yarn,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Idle Bobbins at the Silk Mill


Bobbins bundled in barrels and stacked in boxes
As we search for the thread.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Climb to the top of the grand stairs of Failinger's Hotel Gunter, and you'll find behind crystal doors a glittering feast is always set, and along the wall beside the Christmas tree, the eyes of hundreds of dolls, marionettes, mannequins, fantoccini, and strange animals, creatures and even, perhaps, spirits of the hotel's past watch for the festivities to begin though it was October, and, except for the clicking of our shutters, silence prevailed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Frostburg Noir

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: From the balconies on the third and fourth floors of the Hotel Gunter there's a good view up and down Frostburg's Main Street. It was the National Road over which prisoners were frequently transported, and at the back of the men's room in the basement of the hotel, there are still two prison cells where prisoners were locked up overnight while accompanying marshals slept upstairs. 

The Hotel Gunter opened originally in 1897 as the Hotel Gladstone, a place for businessmen to stop and get big city service from bell hops in brown uniforms. It was the biggest place in town with 100 rooms. The grandeur and lace of its lobby lent an air of super-respectability to business conducted there; shoeshine boys waited and barbers patiently stropped gleaming razors, should a businessman need the civilizing influence of hot towels, a shave and a bit of tart lotion before displaying wears in the hotel's "sample rooms."  

When the business failed and was sold in 1903, William Gunter, the new owner, made the bar room sing steamily with mahogany and marble and brass, and he added a tin sealing painted pea-green and a room in the basement for cock-fighting. During prohibition, they say, the noise and commotion at the front of the building was just enough distraction that liquor could be brought in safely at the back. In 1925 Gladstone officially became Gunter.

The passageways that wind through the basement are a trip through time. They are a museum of culture and technology of the industrial age. There's everything from a washing machine to a stuffed bear. The winding passages are crossed by rails that carried cartloads of coal to heat the hotel's 100 rooms, and around a bend and down a ramp one finds the coal cart looking as if it were heading into a mine shaft. Beside it are miner's lanterns, picks and other tools. As I recall, the cock fighting ring was nearby.

The stair flows from the second floor into the center of the lobby of the fully restored Failinger's Hotel Gunter ( It is usually decked in flowers and sometimes in garlands, and it spirals past high-back, cushioned chairs and lace and an organ and down into the basement passages, and as I was spun, I sometimes forgot when I was from, but each time I returned to my room a brass plaque on the door helped me find my own century. It told me that Roy Clark had slept there on Aug. 4, 1990; it made me feel as if I ought to look under the bed, but the room and hotel were a pleasure to stay in and a trip in themselves whatever century they were in.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dan's Rock Oscillations



Wood warps after death
Other motion ceases
The oscillating spirit becomes the forest

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dan's Rock

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: We arrived in Frostburg, Maryland, late Friday afternoon after a full day of driving. Of those so far gathered, I was the only one interested in waking early, and I was out before seven prowling for photographs. I saw the full moon set and drove the road past Lonaconing, looking for side roads to explore as the sun rose. I  followed many narrow valleys where houses clung to steep slopes and the banks of rushing streams. Some were immobilized mobile homes and some had turnings and gingerbread that suggested another age and more steady times. Few had seen a coat of paint recently. The roads wound into the valleys like mine shafts into veins of coal, and all eventually gave out without ever climbing, though one led me to a hilltop cemetery just as the last hope of sunlight was being muffled under clouds. I must have passed over a hundred small bridges as roads crossed and recrossed rushing brooks. Then, on the way home, I saw a sign: "To Dan's Rock Overlook." I had just enough time, perhaps, before I was to meet my friends at 10.

The road led unpromisingly toward a cluster of homes before pointing me left so that by the time I moved beyond the homes I wasn't sure if I was still on the road to Dan's Rock Overlook, but the road kept climbing.  I passed houses and scrub land and some sort of large tank, and the road went on much further than I expected without a sign of getting ragged, and it kept climbing, and it was still paved and finally reached a small parking area. To one side were thin woods and a valley beyond.  On the other a large outcropping of rock blocked my view. The rock had been almost entirely covered with people's names and declarations of young love in bright colors sprayed from aerosol cans. The outcrop was topped with numerous telecommunications towers, and I guessed I was nearly on top of something. I later counted sixteen towers in all. Stairs had been cut into the rock outcropping. I remembered, this was a region where men were used to cutting into rock, but the steps were crudely cut, strictly an amateur affair. 

The steps led uncomfortably up the rocks to a metal structure, metal stairs and a bridge that eventually surmounted the rock and led to two lookout platforms and the scene recorded in my image. The name, "Dan's Rock," had been welded into the structure. I'd finally gotten out of the valley. Messages continued covering every rock surface  even at the top, and it was clear that youths squirming in their immortality had risked everything to leave unrecognizable dabs of paint in dangerously inaccessible locations.

I returned to town and my friends, and after breakfast we all visited Dan's Rock for our morning shoot.  We were due at the silk mill at one.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Oxblood Cogitations


On Machines

The essence of silk manufacturing 
is continuity, the continuity of 
the single thread 
wound first by the silk worm and 
finessed by seasoned fingers 
touching and following 
the fiber, unwinding 
and washing without breaking 
conscious attention, 
wound and unwound and 
wound again and 
on to where jiggered spinners jitter and 
silken thread flows
from swift to swift 
and bobbin to bobbin, 
and the most common task described
by the women managing twenty machines at a shift: 

Catch the broken thread, and tie it properly, 
and be sure the dye lot matches. 
Continuity is everything,
hum of continuousness.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holding On

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  In the middle of October I returned to  Lonaconing, Maryland, and the silk mill where the past clings like dust.  I was joined by two friends from the first trip and three friends from Connecticut, and we photographed one afternoon and the next morning, four hours each shoot.

Holding on: The mill is holding on, but not quite.  Though it has been under six months since we photographed the silk mill last, the building was in noticeably worse condition. Where armies of buckets caught drips, the roof has begun to fail and temporary posts have been inserted to support what's left of the roof.  There must have been a mess to clean, but you can't clean antiques. The spinning machines are still in place but missing beneath them is the clutter and the patina of age. It is as if someone had just dragged a damp sponge across a picture, wiped away decades, smudged dusty memories. More importantly, the fix is short term. The factory is letting go, though we could still almost hear the gossip and  footstaps in the old stair. and try to turn whispers to photographs.

Winding & Twisting

But for the bobbin boy
and the machinist,
on the third floor
the winders were all women.
That's just the way it was.

For fifty years
river of steps
up and down
and fifty more
when the stairs creaked

though no one passed,
- shoes and umbrellas
on the third floor,
and the lift stuck in the middle.

no reeling or coning there,
by the steamers,
nor the men downstairs 
through the night,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Scroll, part 3 "Quenching"


Spiraling Consequences

So much depends on things we can't see. 
Will dips the tip and the scroll is hard like 
spring that resists and resists until it breaks. 
Because he knows the metal's  touch and color 
he sets orbits in the molecules in the spiral of the scroll
and aligns the universes that spread between.

And I wonder:
Might casual violence 
fall in every footstep
ever taken?

And then I squeeze the shutter.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Scroll, part 2


Will's left hand rocks in a smooth arc against the anvil's hard steel. "Anvil!" It is a sturdy Old English word adapted to name stuff as delicate as a singing ossicle and as ferocious as a cyclone-spawning cumulonimbus.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Scroll, part 1

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  It's been a few years since I last photographed Will Trowbridge in his shop, and my visit last Wednesday coincided with work he was doing on a commission for a window grate.  It was an ideal task to photograph as it required making a number of identical pieces which allowed me to familiarize myself with the process and then explore all the likely angles and compositions.  

Work begins at the tip where the metal is most delicate and where Will delicately forms a bit of a hook.