Drove up early yesterday morning from Malibu where I am staying to Santa Barbara to charter a flight over the fire damage in the towns around Ventura where the forest fires were last fall. We also flew over Montecito where the mudslides were.
Think scorched earth and devastation with pockets of homes completely preserved. Odd.
The fires progressed from above in the hills back behind where the population centers are, but also threatened orchards, vineyards and horse farms, as well as homes.
In places, fire came right over Highway101 to the sea
(the darker areas here were caused by the fire as it jumped over the highway).
The mudslides in Montecito happened because the vegetation burned above the town, allowing the rain to flow down the valleys like a river, scouring and loosening the dirt.
(the lighter line of trees show the path of the mud)
some homes flooded and appearing submerged by the mud. Two story homes with just the roof left.
I found pockets of land untouched, whether from firefighters working to protect or land owners out for hours with hoses and digging fire breaks.
The fire damage looking as if from a blast zone. How terrible to know this was coming towards you and powerless to stop it. All your worldly possessions and the small things: pictures, momentos from an earlier time, an anniversary, a wedding, a funeral. Gone in an instant. Watching your home catching fire and running to escape with your life and little else.
I wonder how many negatives or digital files went up in smoke, how many prints?
My heart goes out to those that lost so much. These two disasters serving as reminders that life and all that we hold dear is fleeting and can be gone in an instant.
I don't know quite what this is. This compulsion to photograph human beings in representational form. Cabelas had some, Mutter Museum yes, in dissected form, Reggio Emilia, yes, and certainly the Monsters work. And now Mannequins also. The latest content for me is in a few banners on Liberty Island in New York, that depict what a new Museum under construction near the Statue of Liberty will look like.
At any rate: to the photographs.
This shown to establish where we are. The Museum under construction, and one of three banners to publicize it. This is what I did:
You can see that things dissemble pretty quickly, as these are just inserted into the file, the same as fake trees or vehicles are imposed into architectural renderings.
Although distant history, preserved as a jpeg, presumably these started out as actual people. Model releases obtained? In the public domain? No idea.
What can you infer about us in our present-day society from these pictures? Just the other night I saw the film 12 Strong. While watching the film I found myself thinking that CGI is now so good that we no longer can tell where actual footage depicting actors on location ends and computer-aided imagery begins. These figures on the banner at Liberty Island are a lot cruder but still where does that woman with the bag over her shoulder exist? What is her story and where is she now? What a remarkably dehumanizing thing to do, to pluck these people out of their lives and place them in a banner like this in an architectural rendering.
Liberty Island, New York Harbor.
I spent last week in NYC. The first post(here) looked at riding from Boston and back on the Acela train to Penn Station. In this post we'll take look at what I did while in New York.
Although the museums were wonderful, seeing the Stephen Shore show at MOMA and going to the Whitney (which I hadn't been to since it moved), I was on a mission to find some material for a new project. This was research. I ended up in the Garment District and was often refused permission to photograph. But I made some important connections so have enough leads to be able to go back in March and do some actual photographing. I also saw my former student Jon Sneden who is very dialed into the fashion world in NY. He lives in Austin, TX now but was back east for a show and said, when I asked him if he'd be able to help me with the mannequins project, "Of course, let me do something for you for a change". Enough said.
At any rate, being a photographer, I photographed.
Mannequins, mostly, although the middle one is a wig form in styrofoam. This probably stems from the Monsters work (here) I did a few years ago, but mannequins are the current passion. I am learning as I go along. I leave next week for California to photograph in a used mannequin warehouse in Oakland. More to come on this soon.
To finish up New York, the next day I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was brutally cold and windy, with a cloudless bright blue sky.... but gorgeous.
I know, these are just a few snapshots from my time there. I found Ellis challenging and look forward to going back to work it some more.
And the Great Lady herself:
Did I make any pictures that I would deem worthy of calling "work"? Maybe. Stay tuned.
I love New York.
Loyal readers, you are forewarned. This is going to be an old guy's post with no apologies.We wouldn't think to apologize for our age at 25, so why at 71? Probably because we don't want to admit to diminished capacity. While I freely admit that's true, look at the increased wisdom, perspective and sheer amount of experience that rides along with seniority. I think I've got that (but I may be senile), so here goes.
In NYC for a few days last week I am struck by how many people live here, how friendly New Yorkers can be, how it all works somehow, how dirty it is, how it seems everyone is plugged in, on their phones, wearing earphones and walking very fast. I know, old guy stuff. One of the things that happens when you age is that your world becomes smaller, closes in to be fewer experiences in a smaller sphere. Well, going to New York is completely expanding, at least for me.
Photographing here can be frustrating as NY has a way of making your pictures seem insignificant and/or touristy. NY is overwhelming to someone like me who gets here only occasionally. Always exciting it is also enervating, as it speaks to a faster pace, to a relentless mass of humanity in a hurry, meaning it seems you have to join the wave. I am always exhausted by the time I leave.
I took the Acela train down and back from Boston, a very nice ride. A little over three hours: no airport, no security, no adjusting to the altitude, no bad air, no abusive public transportation to get into the city, and a reasonably good meal. Plus, something to look as you ride along. I made pictures on the way down and back from Boston.
I claim no originality on these at all for friend Michael Hintlian (website here) is the king of this and it is through his work that I understood the possibilities in working this way.
This requires huge quantity to get just a few. The way down was rainy, the ride back up at dawn was sunny.
Next up, what I made pictures of while I was in NYC.
I love New York.
After 911 things changed for many photographers. Working in a large format in Europe became much more difficult for Americans. There were some tense times att eh airport. Security would invariably want to get inside my 25 sheet 8 x 10 film boxes. They would say "open that". This seldom went well.
Worse, even if I did get to Italy with my film intact, I ran the risk of having exposed film inspected and ruined on the way back!
Digital changed all that. By 2005 I was beginning to photograph digitally and was teaching in Venice in a new program I designed of a study abroad for Northeastern University students.
Many students, total chaos and a great time. And heavy stress. What if I lost a student? What if a student got pregnant? I photographed digitally in color those summers in Venice.
This was a frustrating time, as putting in major effort wasn't resulting in pictures that I felt I could do much with. File sizes were small and so large prints weren't possible, at least in any real quality. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy: my work wasn't that strong because I didn't fully commit because I knew the quality wasn't going to be very high.
This one, above, is from 2005 and was the last year I worked in film, from a series called Vignole, a small island in Venice's lagoon that is mostly agricultural and not tourism-based. The prints were made by scanning the negatives and making inkjet prints. This image shows a marked difference in terms of investment, I think.
By 2009 I was fully committed to working digitally and had switched to using a full frame sensor. That year I was on a sabbatical leave and spent the fall living in Italy, retracing steps made earlier while teaching in the 90's.
1992 in 8 x 10
I made comparative photographs that spanned 15 years or so.
Now I was using photography differently but also using Italy differently. No longer satisfied with just a single frame to speak about a place but working to compare two different times and visual sensibilities. This way of working meant that I was searching in 2009 for the same places I'd photographed in the 90's.
For this one in Trieste, I drove through this large city for hours to find the same place I'd photographed in 1991.
Next up? Italy 3