Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Holyland from Brooklyn

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  My photo walks this spring have moved from the Northwest Hills and the Great Hollow to the hills and hollows of Waterbury. I call these clothesline views; shot through fissures, gaps and  crannies, they are framed by weeds, wires, phone poles, and laundry of the communities that grew and flourished when the factories were active. 

St. Francis Xavier, the church on the far side of the valley, was opened in 1896 and serves residents of Waterbury's South End. Back then, if you lived there or here in Brooklyn, chances are you worked in the mills or served those who worked in the mills that turned the ore of the earth into buttons and clasps, handles and faucets, clocks and cameras, tubes and rods, wires and sheets, bicycles and grand pianos that played the smokey music of the valley in bars, parlors and churches near and far.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Absolution #1

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Back making photographs at the brass mill today though the power is off, and it's quiet enough to hear the roof leak. Along Route 8 on the way home I listened to NPR discuss, "insourcing." But the jobs here are never coming back.  At the factory, I photographed while specialists were testing to identify possible contaminants that would need to be dealt with. Removing the stain of 150 years of industry on the site--- How much simpler than repairing the damage of 35 years of deindustrialization in Brass Valley and the nation - lost jobs, lost neighborhoods, lost families, lost skills, lost cities, lost purpose!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014




anchors in space
windows through time 
bidden or not
like the morning 
and cinnamon
scent of the bakery 
on the corner
no longer
and the long sigh of the factory whistle 
when shifts changed, 
and the watchful clock at Union Station 
saying no one should ever be late
and the world was rolling on.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  How is it that our noblest aspirations so easily fall victim to meanness, greed and abuse - become magnets for it? Or were predatory instincts driving things from the start? For the first time I find myself counting on two hands the number of similar campuses abandoned and shuttered that I've photographed or tried to photograph. We hope the laws that closed them offer protection against similar abuse, but we close such places even as we deny liberty to more people than ever before in history, and we use a more blunt architectural style to confine them. Does the change in style reflect any changes in our values, and who is the "we" that can make a difference?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ball Game

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: There is little left at Pennhurst to tell of the way lives were lived there. Though in the last of the three buildings I visited, there was enough furniture remaining to distinguish or characterize areas that might have been rooms, wards, lounges and labs. Beds were sparsely distributed where once they must have crowded the floor. Some of my colleagues wore face masks to block mold, but the old stanch has faded with time, and earplugs aren't needed anymore. I worked in solitude among large lounge chairs and sofas of inhuman rectilinearity. Moldy hulks with no crevices to lose your keys, no place for dust bunnies to roost. They were unmoving presences like an alien life form waiting to resume conversation. 

In another lifetime between then and now, it seemed, the buildings had been the handiwork of vandals who painted their own graffiti shrieks through the abandoned halls, and some of the walls were gardens of mold. I found myself constantly photographing the windows and thinking of the people confined in these rooms always wanting to look out, and yet all the views at Pennhurst continually look back in.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  More and more I am interested in making photographic images at the extremes of light: that point where brightness becomes specular blindness or where darkness becomes still. We are zoned against these regions, but they are the realms of mystery. Who among us doesn't remember a time in childhood lying awake at night alone in a darkened room?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pennhurst Asylum

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I went uninformed, nothing more than a gawker at an accident. I knew a bit about the scandals of Pennhurst Asylum and thought I understood the process by which such places, however good the initial intentions, become underfunded warehouses of abuse. It's not my habit to gawk.  I like to understand the places I photograph, but circumstances and time and there I was. It didn't help that at a certain season it drew crowds from far away to see it ghoulishly costumed as a Halloween haunted house. The haunted house remained set up in the administration building and was simply refurbished each year. Otherwise, what struck me was how ordinary and respectable Pennhurst seemed. 

It could have been the campus of a college or a prep school, but for one odd feature. Because my first visit took me only around the perimeter, it took awhile to discover it. Paths lead through quadrangles between the buildings, but unlike the paths on most such campuses, Pennshurst's paths were all four or five feet above the land around them and lined with railings to keep one from falling off. I learned later that the paths were, in fact, on top of windowless, concrete tunnels that connected all of the buildings. They were not merely service tunnels but the daily passageways used by inmates and staff.

Places such as Pennhurst thrive by looking ordinary and respectable, Horrors and heroes are hidden by brick and ivy; it is for that reason hallowed ground. What does it mean to photograph respectfully here?

I recommend visiting this site to learn more:

NOTE: For some reason this image always looks different after upload here than it does in any other forum. My monitor is calibrated, and this image is meant to have considerable shadow area. When posted here the shadows are brighter. I have adjusted this version of the image to compensate for Blogger's effect. If anyone knows what's going on here, please leave a note.  The image was uploaded in sRGB.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ruins on Mill Street

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In the summer of 2013, the old dye works, abandoned for a decade, magnet for people left homeless and unemployed erupted in a ball of flame that burned for days.

Hand Made

Along the web where thumb folds into finger 
brick cadences resound as loaded piers
piling and arching against the weight of time
The meter of the module is a loom
to weave a wall of petit point perfection. 
A cold caress, to stroke it with your mind.
What ancient mason's hand? What royal tomb?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014