Topic: Thompson (2 posts)

Part Two: Thompson, CT

This is part two of my writing about a series I made in 2006 called: Thompson, CT. In that first post I wrote about the photographs I made mostly along the first row of housing and then stopped with a picture at the end of the row.

Here I'm almost in the same place and show, for the first time, by turning left slightly, what is behind the row of housing. Beyond the sheds in the backyard you can see that the view opens out with some sort of field and then there are trees in the far background. I've tried to contain the picture by channeling you past the tree on the left and the edge of the back of the building on the right to take your eye farther back.This picture is predictive, in that I am photographing where I am heading.

This one looks back slightly to show a shed intersected by a diagonal tree and the back of one of the housing units on the right side.

Here, for the first time, I have left it all behind and am showing the river, the row of trees on the far shore, a little bit of the edge of the baseball field, and the fence that contains it. This was something of an experiment, to try to move into a separate subset of work within the larger series, a little like some music in the middle of a song that is hugely different, perhaps a different tempo or rhythm. In more recent series I have done this with a switch from black and white to color as in: 'Sconset, Nantucket 2012

Another tree trunk prominent in the frame, large enough to block the scene a little. I love the texture of the tree itself and the early spring sunlight.

And here, finally, some purity of form, simply the water and the trees:

After this recess, this respite from the rigor of the row hosting, it is now time to get back to it, so here, again, in a picture that is somewhat confrontational, is this:

Perhaps slightly more contextual than the last one but I felt it was important to bring the viewer back to the overall series.

So, for the rest of the Thompson, CT series we slide along the third row, the pictures showing things that interested me along the way:

Remember what I said in the first post (Thompson) about this being a series that refers photographs to photographs within the series? This one does that.

For me this is another "reality better than fiction" picture. The beater Cadillac, as large as an aircraft carrier, glowing in the sunlight with a simply gorgeous and climactic tree shooting out behind it is just about the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. I know, severe hyperbole will get you nowhere but come on, you  have to agree. Love that tree.

We are beginning to wind things down here in this very large, for me, series of 37 prints. But the "bunny on the door" picture is the image that is closet to its subject, and for good reason, as it speaks to Easter, which is over. The bunny is hung there as if at a gallows, with a noose around its neck. I remember moving to place the  building's reflection in the window to reference this picture in the contextt of the overall development.

This picture refers to the fourth in the series and signals that I have now come back to the same area where I began. It is a "same but different" picture in that the structure is the same but it is now flipped, as in a mirror image.

Finally, in the last photograph, this is the same scene that was partially obscured by the circle in the first image of the series, here: 

This gives you the full view without the intrusion and is my effort to try to bring to resolution and rest the situation of the housing development and its existing three rows of buildings clearly seen here.

Were I to critique the series I would most likely focus on its ending in that I am not   sure it gives the resolution one would hope for. I remember wrestling with the concept back when I made the prints. Is this sufficient, to leave some questions unanswered?  I know I felt so at the time. I put this series to bed over 9 years ago and would not go back to rework something to far in my past.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Before I finish I want to mention that the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA is holding its annual Focus Awards this Saturday, October 19. (Focus Awards)

This is a big event for the museum but also a very big event  for all of photography. If you can, please come. It is best to reserve space beforehand by calling the museum.

Topics: Thompson,Series

Permalink | Posted October 16, 2013

Triple Play Thompson, CT

Being an artist photographer can certainly feel like gambling at times.  Throw some pictures out there and you take your chances. I did promise a look at and analysis of three black and white, film-based series I made. This is the third gamble of looking at a body of work now posted on the site but never written about before. Actually, Thompson's only been shown once, in a one man show at Panopticon Gallery in 2006 when the gallery was in Waltham, MA.

First up was Billings, MT, then Vignole, Italy and now Thompson, a northern Connecticut rural town with a housing development smack dab in the center. This one has a mid-eighties feel to it, and clearly was a refresh of housing which was much older. 

Here is the part of Thomspon that I photographed:

You can see three rows of  buildings in the center of the frame, with a river snaking by to the left and some open land  which might be a baseball  field at the bottom of the frame. Clearly this had been mill housing in a former life.

My pictures begin at the top, where mail is delivered and there seemed to be a common room used for meetings:

The above circle is spread out as I am standing very close and making the picture with a very wide lens. More on this farther down.

We'll see the circle again as I photographed the housing development in a loop so that I finished where I started from.

(As usual, I am not gong to go though each photograph here but ask you to take a look at the full series on the site: Thompson, CT.)

For the most part this was classic row housing:

The series is as much about detail within a larger framework as anything else. The Hasselblad Superwide (SWC) is once again the camera, a fixed focal length camera with a 38 mm Biogon lens, which is very wide for the format. Notice here the front of the building looks relatively normally rendered, straight lines are straight and so on. But then look up to the two small  dormers on the top. All hell is breaking loose with these as they are spread apart and we are no longer looking at them head on. Of course, this is the wide lens doing this. The SWC is a camera that can be very sneaky in the way that it images for, kept level, it can look deceptively "straight" . Hasselblad knew this all too well, as they  provided a bubble level mounted right into the top of the camera with a prism on the finder so that you could see the level as you shot. I am a little biased here, but this is probably the coolest camera of all time.

You can see the level and the small prism in the illustration above.

I thought it might help you understand the pictures better if you knew what a  unique tool I used to make them with. 

Back to Thompson:

Each building had a gap between it, used as a car park. A tree in the middle of the frame? Of course. Used as a visual tool or device to split the square frame to make, in effect, two pictures, one planal and rigorous and one open and spatial. Notice again how "fast" the lens is - meaning how much space is rendered here from foreground to background. Look at the concrete walkway as it pulls back in space. Fast.


Another classic device being used here by me, the photographer. Photographing the space between the forms, not the forms themselves. Why? To comment on how the buildings occupy the site and to draw attention to the unique rendering of the lens once again.  I learned this from my teacher Harry Callahan who did some wonderful things with  buildings later in his career in Peru. Buildings as book ends on an almost  empty shelf. Notice the screen of the foreground tree branches. Deliberate, and I could not have made this series with leaves on the trees.

As I walked down the row of housing on this early spring day with bright sunshine, I saw many cases of "individualization" (I have no idea if that is an actual word but it fits).

Much of this series is about making a statement only to reiterate it later in the same series. Notice the parallel structure of these two photographs.These very black doors always seemed a little ominous to me.

Individualized or just junk? This one directly above just slays me as the birdhouse floats in space, the smiling cow and the American flag on the lower right. Who needs fiction when reality provides richness like this.

So, as I went down the front of the first row things begin to open out and, as I wrote in the beginning about these three series, Billings, MT, Vignole, Ialy and now Thompson, CT, these are late career, mature, flat-out series, loaded with everything I know how to put in them. In car buying lingo, this series is fully optioned out.

Here is the door idea moved to the other side and in white instead of black. Where am I headed? Around that corner and out, way out.

Bang on! Standing square in the middle, pointing up a little, no correcting for converging parallel lines; what you see is what you get. Excuse my enthusiasm here for my own picture but: love that! Also, what the hell is going on with no window in the bottom left row? A kitchen in back with cabinets along that interior wall? We'll never know.

With that small mystery unsolved it would seem to be a good time, yes, it's true, to stop Thomspson, CT in mid stride, so to speak. 

What's next in part two? I will leave all this behind and walk into another world right next to this, of trees and flowing water, that seemed at the time like a parallel universe and something I had never done in a series before, then come back to the the second and third row of  housing to finish up.

Will it be as good as this was? You'll have to wait and see.

BTW: I thank those of you that are new for subscribing. The list is getting longer and longer. I hope you enjoy the blog. 

Yes, if you are reading this, you may subscribe and will get all my posts as I publish them. That way you won't miss even one. Finally, don't be timid about responding via email. It helps me to  hear from you as writing this in complete isolation is just plain weird, like sending out a signal on the radio never knowing if there are listeners out there.

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Topics: Series,Thompson

Permalink | Posted October 14, 2013