Friday, May 30, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I thought of calling this “Bodybuilding” or “Face-off,” but it quickly became clear that the fun was in finding ones own title.  I invite readers’ suggestions for a title for this photograph. What would you title this image?

A reader recently wrote to ask, if the way things looked does not determine processing, how do I choose? The more I do this, the more I try to respond to qualities I find in the image.  Sometimes I know them as I’m shooting.  More often, I only have an idea of possible directions. 

I make choices on processing as I make choices on composition. Everything is subjective. To a large extent, I left the mannequins as they were when Rick Pauline passed them to me. With more time I would have made other arrangements and other images. Perhaps I’ll go back and do that. They are a great subject.  Or maybe this says as much as need be said.

I adjusted the placement of the mannequin on the left and at the front and got down low enough to make the pattern of overlapping necks and shoulders interesting. The height of the camera controlled both the relationship of the rows of mannequins and the height of the entire shot. Thus, best placement was determined to make for interesting overlap and best proportions. 

This image was captured with care to preserve very sharp detail back to front because I liked the course fabric of the mannequins under the strong side light that made it stand out. My intuition as I began processing was to enhance and emphasize that as much as possible. As I began I had only a vague idea in what direction I wanted to develop the image. Though I shot in color, the result was a sepia-like monochrome. Some unnecessary detail on the floor was happily minimized by leaning into the image contrast and the natural vignette. I set the curve of the gradient to maximize contrast while minimizing the detail that would be lost except in the darkest areas. NIK’s Silver Efex Pro is one of the best plug-ins available and allows many ways to gain very precise control over all aspects of grayscale imagery. The treatment seemed to call for the full weight of B&W without sepia softening, though Silver Efex let me experiment with “silver toning” and paper tone..

By moving the vignette’s center to the left side of the screen, my hope was that the eye would be led along the picture’s diagonal and to the “dialogue” of eyeless audience and voiceless speaker.

Military Intelligence

You can tell by the seam of the spine
and the place where a nod should be and a brim for salutes
that these were men who’d heed a call to arms
and never lose their heads in battle.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hartford Metropolis from Colt

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Without us ever asking, our guide escorted us up a broad flight of wooden stairs and through a hatch in the roof, and in a few moments we stood beneath the Colt Dome with the city of Hartford in front of us. You see the closed hatch cover, lowered for shooting, in the foreground.

The image is a high resolution, stitched panorama made from 15 separate images. Usually one sets the tripod and shoots a sequence from one side to the other with 1/3 overlap, but the geometries were strange. Placing the towers of the Metropolis into the space of an opening between columns meant placing my tripod well off center under the dome. To include floor and ceiling I shot at 18mm, but unwrapping the panorama is a bit like flattening the globe into a Mercator projection.

I tried to visualize what the scene around me would look like when unwrapped and recalled a disastrous panorama attempt on the top of Cadillac Mountain at sunset in Maine. This time I shot a hasty sequence and then a bunch of extra “fill” shots so I’d have enough ceiling and floor. With a second chance, I’d be more methodical, but maybe not so lucky in the sky I’m granted.

Getting all the separate images stitched back together taxed the genius of Photoshop. Sometimes photoshop chose to join pieces where the shadow on the column makes a neutral gray. The consequence of this was that sometimes the railings butted the columns at random heights. In the end I discovered Photoshop very much appreciated having as much redundancy as I could give it, and when it was done I tugged on the corners with the skew and distort tools until I thought it looked right. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colt Legacy

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Several weeks ago my friend Lazlo and I photographed at the old Colt firearms factory along the Connecticut River in Hartford, and I am just beginning to learn about the Colt legacy and Colonel Samuel Colt and his wife, Elizabeth.

The cupola on the surviving East Armory is the most distinctive and recognizable feature of the Hartford Skyline for those approaching from the south or east along the interstates. Every child who thought about being a cowboy or cowgirl knew about Colt revolvers. They rank alongside the cowboy hat as icons of the Wild West, but they were invented and made here in the Upright East.  This description of the Colonel’s funeral was a pretty good teaser to make me want to know more:

The buildings are survivals from a very different era that are being carefully restored and repurposed as “Colt Gateway, A Community Inspired by Imagination.”  They gave us a tour and permission to shoot in areas that had been cleared but had not yet been restored.  The rampant colt atop the cupola is a duplicate. The original is on display at the Museum of Connecticut History. Colt Gateway provides an excellent background history here:

Monday, May 26, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I’m trying to get back to the factory once a week for as long as I can. No power means no lights. It’s not good; it’s not bad; it just is. As I photograph I’m often aware of work going on in some distant corner. Occasionally Charlie passes on one of the little factory tow tractors, but most of the time I feel solitary in my mission. Here and there on various benches I can see where parts have been gathered. The annealer lies like an eviscerated beast, pipes and rollers that might as well be intestines have been pulled out and lie sprawling every which way in the passage.  The extruder’s great ram has been disarmed, but more often than not things are as they were left when work ceased last winter and calendars stopped turning.

Work at the foundry stopped first, and I found it too painful to photograph the great wheel coming to rest. Now that work has ceased entirely, the factory is already taking on the aura of a historical relic or archeological site, and I'm back. Without the constant motion of the working factory and men as subjects for photographs, I have the leisure to focus on what has been left behind as it is slowly dispersed and discarded and as bit by bit the purposeful actions of men pushing back chairs or setting down tools succumbs to irreversible entropy and Brass Valley and 200 years of evolved culture passes into history.

Some special photos must be saved for the book, and so I zoom in close and look for new directions.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another Old Saw

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: - Photographers’ Voice, Part 2

For most of my life I photographed things. I photographed as a traveler to remember my travels, and I photographed friends to remember our times together. I photographed as a student of architecture to study a site and a neighborhood. I photographed as a reporter to document events I thought mattered. When I retired I stopped photographing things, and then people said “Oh, you’re an Art Photographer.”  

Art photographer! It’s a term I dislike because it suggests that my pictures are aimed at audience who possess an occult knowledge that allows them to unlock secrets the rest do not see. To the extent there are secrets, I think they are only unlocked by looking and doing, and there are no authorities, but that’s another discussion. For others, it is a term for things that are decorative. I freely admit my photographs are a self-indulgence especially in a world overwhelmed with photographers and photographs; that there are too few people to look at all the photos being shot, but my aim is not decorative. My only answer is that photography is an addiction that gives me pleasure and harms no one, and that in my wanderings I occasionally stumble on images that seem to move others, that I’ve done it long enough that maybe, sometimes I see things others miss, but mostly I’m dogged in my wanderings, both at home while processing, and abroad while shooting. 

If I don’t photograph things, what do I photograph? It’s a reasonable question. I photograph what catches my eye, and sometimes I see what I feel. So it’s really my eye I hope you feel when you look at my photographs. And why should you care to feel my eye? All I can say is it’s different, which is a truism. A few days after I took this photograph of the old saw, it was packed up and shipped to another country, but I didn’t photograph in order to remember it when it was gone. No, it was something else I saw, a pathway for my eye, cheery colors, textures, forms; the timbre and pitch of the light, the passage of time; qualities that resonated inside me as I shot and processed.

Be sire to click and view it large.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cutting Edge OK

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: - Photographers’ Voice, Part 1

I suppose I will never cease to ponder the role of subject in my photography, nor do I expect my approach to be consistent. What remains consistent, regardless of the part played by the photograph’s subject, is the primacy of composition, and the need to let each exposure shape the processing it receives.

There is a school of photography that believes that the entirety of the photographer’s art occurs at exposure and that processing should play a minimal role in the ultimate expression of the image. Some photographers go so far as to claim that emphasis on processing is an admission of a weakness or failure at exposure. I learned long ago that there are many ways to be a photographer, and I’m more interested in exploring the expressive capacity of photo images irrespective of time/place fidelity. Even so, pholography is always about a real subject, but it begins with an act of abstraction.

When I began processing this image my goal was to treat it in such a way as to make it a companion to the previous TODAY’S posting. The subject of both images is the same; they were taken on the same day as I studied the saw for its photographic potential. They are 3109 (previous TODAY’S) and 3117 (above) in the sequence. I’ve clearly moved my lens to a less obvious and more abstracted angle.

As I worked at processing this image to be like the earlier image, the more I was pulled in other directions. I sent contrary pairs to a few friends for their reactions. They came back mixed but with comments that often helped, adjectives to distinguish, details that stood out or were suppressed. Knowing my friends’ reactions helped me know my mind, indicated what connected and what missed. 

In the end I chose to follow the lead given by the image itself, made a new image that epitomized what I had discovered in the non-matching image. Whether that makes it a worse or a better partner to the first image I’ll leave to potential purchasers, should they appear. Is it possible that though mismatched, they may speak with a single voice? Where is the photographer inside the image?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Henry Ford: “Competition is the keen edge of business, always shaving away at costs."


How close is the cutting edge to the edge cut?
Sometimes closer than a butchered buzz cut is to scalped.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Untitled Factory Building

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Benedict Street! What's in a name? A family, power, genius, management of vast enterprises that blossomed new corporations as trees sprout fruit, though Benedict Street was never more than three blocks long. To the north it once ended gracefully where it split, and one could turn left and reach the tall, prosperous shops and establishments of Bank Street. Today life ends at Meadow Street; there is no meadow, only the hard wall and underpinnings of the interstate highway that sails by overhead, and nobody remembers meadow though once there must have been one.

Three blocks south Benedict Street ends at a gate. Those with no business behind the gate may detour via Jewelry Street around the enclosed campus. There’s little jewelry on Jewelry Street, and fewer people go through the gate to a land of furtive visitations, but I’ve heard from those who have made it to the giant stack that stands beside the Naugatuck River (anonymous masterpiece of bricklayers’ craft), that the sign is still there on the wall of the old powerhouse, the giant, faded letters that spell out, “Benedict & Burnham,” and those with eyes can see through time.

Back then Aaron Benedict had a house high up on Prospect Street. It's still there on the other side of the interstate. His son, Charles, laid out Hillside Street above his father’s house on Prospect Street, and then he set his own mansion high above Hillside Street with porches and balconies running three floors up from which one can survey the whole valley, watch the traffic cross it on the interstate, and at a time before the interstate was built Charles Benedict might have watched Benedict Street to see who came and went through the gate at Benedict and Burnham had he lived to see his house finished.

This is Benedict Street near its midpoint where the old fabric of warehouses was rent to make space the squat, orange Home Depot and acres of parking. It is architecture for a world that does not see and does not walk.  Here the world of auto commerce meets an empty place scaled for people, horses, wagons and the railroads steam and smoke.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

La Primavera


Rebirth of Pentameter

Spring's scrim still as pale as breath
until the leaves unfold, a curtain drawn
to me and other budding Botticellis.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Waterbury from Holyland USA

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Holyland closed in 1984. Although the cross has been replaced three times and is bigger and brighter than before, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and the manger itself have been battered by vandals and the elements. The Holyland U.S.A. sign which was once lighted and could be seen from all over the valley can only be seen when the leaves are off the trees, and even then only if you know where to stand and look.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Brooklyn from Washington Hill

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Just north of Washington Hill is Pine Hill, and near the top of Pine Hill was Holyland USA. Everyone who drives I-84 East knows the giant cross that has marked Pine Hill for travelers since 1956 when John Greco put it there and opened Holyland U.S.A. 

Theme parks and motoring were just catching on. On the other side of the country a year earlier, Walt Disney had taken his personal miniature railroad and expanded it to link 4 new continents, and thanks to the synergy of motoring and television, all children of the fifties have forever scored 100% on the geography of Disneyland.  

Holyland became a hit; at its peak 40,000 people a year visited the chicken wire and plaster models of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and of stories from the Bible. They came as motorists from all over the country to leave their cars and walk through the park created by John Greco and the Companions of Christ.

The brick factory near the center of the image was built for Holmes, Booth and Haydens, one of the pioneering brass companies that became American Brass. The last vestige of American Brass was operating there as recently as this winter and has now gone out of business forever.