Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blacksmith Redux


Exhibition: “Brazen Grit”
photographs of Emery Roth
Minor Memorial Library, Roxbury, CT

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: The day in 2009 that I climbed through the broken siding of a decaying farm building in Kent is memorable, even though I didn’t know at the time what I had stumbled upon. There was a hole in the floor right where the siding had been broken into, and beyond that there was barely room to step. I was nervous, not sure if my permission to photograph extended there. I shot randomly and left. 

By the second visit I realized this had once been a blacksmith shop, and by the third visit I had permission and began earnestly to make images. The passage below, from the original post, conceals my earlier entry but makes clear the challenge and importance of understanding my subject.

A decade has passed since I began this blog. Ten ful years encompassing 1,403 individual posts, remain accessible here on Blogger ( Back then I used HDR to control the extremes of light, but I’ve learned other methods since, and I look forward to updating other images from this series. 

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL, April 5, 2010: When I first entered this shop, I had been told it was a blacksmith's shop, but I was barely aware of the anvil and hearth amid the clutter. I read about smithing, made repeated trips and educated my eye. One by one, all of the blacksmith's essential tools revealed themselves to me as if out of thin air. Now when I enter it feels as if the blacksmith had just stepped outside before I entered. Was he out by the barn replacing a hinge and puffing on his Edgeworth? Would he return momentarily and fire up the hearth? The tools he needed would be around him and ready as they were a few moments back. 

Long after his essentials had reappeared, one item remained plainly invisible to the blind man. A note in an old blacksmith's text I found online pointed the way. It said a blacksmith always had a bucket of water by his work to cool or temper the iron. Was there a bucket? My images to that point revealed none. I got back to the shop as quickly as I could. Of course it was there, right where it should be. It's visible here between the blower and the anvil. Someone has let it run dry.

Some readers will look at this and remember an earlier image posted here, not too dissimilar but from slightly further back and a bit to the left. I posted it twice, first as a monochrome and then, "in technicolor." It was the first shot of the shop interior I posted. It was a month or more before I began the series. Several people commented that they liked the splash of light which peppered the room and fell over part of the anvil, but the overall sense of the image was the chaos. At that point, that's all I could see. Now it's clear that had I changed position and angle slightly the order could have been clear, but everything was still invisible to me then.