Acting on a tip from a friend, I found myself with my camera on a tripod in front of a long row of sand sculptures at the beach in Revere, MA the other day. It was just about to rain. That can make you hurry.
This is what I got.
Of course, and this has happened before, when confronted with so much sheer talent and skill, are my pictures about anything beyond just documentation or, should they be? It seems an ultimate form of pretentiousness, doesn't it, to say nothing about being presumptuous. To think you could make your own art off of someone's else's?
Mess with it? Alter it? Record it? Just get it in the camera?
I don't really have the answer here. But it often seems that photo projects, or perhaps art projects are a problem to be solved. Part of our fascination with the world as we work to render parts of it with a camera is how to get it to do what we want. Or, more accurately, it's first to define what we want it to look like THEN get it to look the way we want.
Artists are born, not made(?) Partially true and partially not true. Yes, artists are born with some proclivities towards creative processes. But everyone's creative. Perhaps with artists that door is swung a little more open. I for one, can't not make art of something. I can't turn "art" off because I am in front of someone else's art with a camera. Making art is, after all, what I do.
Of course, one of the things I loved about these incredible sculptures is that they were decaying, in decline. The sand sculpture competition had been back in July and here I was photographing them in mid August.They were being eroded by wind and rain and, yes, by people.
Decay has been big for me for a long time:
I made this of erosion in Highlands , North Carolina in about 1988 in 8 x 10.
and man made:
from Peddocks Island shot in 2005.
This post will break with precedent. This post and a few that will follow will attempt to fold you into process, how this career artist makes his work.
All the posts in this blog's past have presented final projects, mostly series work that has been shot, processed and printed; then written about here. "Something New" will take you and I through a project in the making. You can see early attempts, experiments at how I am planning on working, failed efforts and bad decisions (that hopefully get corrected), shoots that get rained out, new approaches and good outcomes. I will try to write about all of this as I go along. So far this new series is planned as a summer project but may need some autumn in there as well. Finally, I have written in the past and taught students about the idea that original definitions for projects very often need to be quite fluid as, when you're inside the work, understanding increases as well as focus and this may change things fundamentally.
But let me show you some preliminary pictures of the facility or "campus". This is the Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, MA. Although you may not go in the buildings the exteriors are wide open with public access. That is rare and really wonderful. Thank you town of Medfield, as the town now owns the whole place.
These are from the first drive out there and are made as a way of "taking notes" or, essentially, made on a scouting trip. Good camera and nice day but made just to begin to see these wonderful structures rendered in photographs.
As it turns out I have a friend who just moved to Medfield and she went to the town meeting that was held to discuss what to do with this large place that the town now owns.
After riding my bike through the campus and then driving through it I have a couple of ideas. One is that sunlight shouldn't be the light for the majority of what I shoot. Also that late light will work better. Sorry for the logistics but I will photograph with the camera on a tripod and will use, mostly, the 24 mm PC lens.
There's lots of documentation about the Medfield State Hospital which was a state mental hospital founded on the principal of work, mostly farming, to improve mental health. You could start here, J.W. Ocker's blog called OTIS (Odd Things I've Seen). There is also a film, somewhat long and a little dated, that gives the history of the place on You Tube: MSH.
So join me as I begin a new project and work to make pictures that resonate with the place, respect its heritage and perhaps straddle the fence between documentation and making photographs that I find fulfilling as an artist. Challenging.