Topic: Northeast (59 posts) Page 2 of 12


Let me tell you about this past Thursday. 

Note: There will be a few posts on this one topic. This is a project that combines aerial photographs with ground-based imagery.

While Texas was bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Harvey and Donald Trump was about to pardon former sheriff Joe Arpaio I was in Vermont photographing the Connecticut River. Far less newsworthy I admit but nevertheless big in my world. It was quite a day with two distinct parts to it.

Warning: the pictures shown here simply aren't going to do anything for you by seeing them on your phone. I make pictures that are way up there in terms of resolution, sharpness, tonal range and color rendition. When you do get to see them on a good color display you can click on an image and it will expand to a larger rendering.

Part 1

Photographing The River is a project that has crept up on me. There was no thunderbolt of inspiration, no big epiphany here, just the quiet realization that every time I drove over it, or kayaked down it I was fascinated with what it showed me on its banks and what went on behind them.

This harkens back to my project called Tom's Neck from a few years ago. Very often on a shore or embankment on a river, stands a row of trees, acting as a wall or a barrier to what is behind them.

So this summer I've been photographing the river, usually from one shore pointing across at the opposite one, although sometimes from a bridge. Thursday I went up in a plane to get at it from above, starting at RT 2 in Turner's Falls, MA and flying up to Bellows Falls, VT and back. 

My day started here:

at the little airstrip at Turner's Falls.

The day was perfect.

Right away the river opened up to reveal its secrets. Of course, it was magnificent:The Connecticut River is an "old" river along southern Vermont and northern Massachusetts. No rapids or fast water and usually quite wide, with a few islands along the way. The river valley through here is heavy-duty farming country, with large crops of hay and corn but also squash, tomatoes, melons and even hops for beer:

In late August it all comes to fruition. The corn is high and they're practically giving tomatoes away.

As the pilot and I skimmed along at about 800 feet above the water in a high winged Cessna it was easy to follow the river as it meandered north. Since I was in the right seat, I pointed out the open window with my camera at the eastern bank on the way up and the western bank on the way down.

As we approached Brattleboro the river widened out into marshes:

Next up? More aerial photographs of the river and then on to part two of my day. My trip in the excursion boat the Lady Bea with a group from a nursing home.

Turf Farm near Greenfield, MA

Topics: Spring,Color,New Work,Digital,Northeast,Tom's Neck

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2017


I have had a preoccupation with facades, which, for me, includes fences and walls, for a very long time. In fact, in 1979 I made a series of pictures called Fences and Walls that was my first cohesive group of pictures after finishing graduate school in 1973. Fences and Walls was the body of work that formed the foundation for this way of seeing.

From Fences and Walls 1979

This same approach carried through to some of the mall work I did in 2009-2012.That series was called Mallchitecture and looked at buildings designed for a purpose and function practically devoid of an aesthetic.

Facades played a key role here. My earliest awareness of this interest was a show my work was in at MIT called, oddly enough, "Facades", about 1977. This was when Minor White was still alive. I met the white haired photographer and guru a couple of times and was in awe of his reputation and the depth of his approach. The fact that he had deigned my photograph worthy seemed as if from the hand of God at the time. In those days White curated a concept show every year or so with titles like Light (to the 7th power), Octave of Prayer, Be-ing Without Clothes. 

Photographs of facades, surfaces, fences and walls have been part of  my photographic agenda for a very long time. Was I aware in these early career years I was looking at the world through this specific lens?  That I was consumed by an agenda not on everyone else's list? No, I was not.  I wonder how many people new to the arts are so self aware they know their stock in trade or can access the uniqueness of their point of view in those earlier years? Few, I believe. I also believe this then becomes one of the primary roles teaching needs to play. To acquaint the student with just what it is they are doing, how their work fits into the overall scheme, what precedents there are and the relevance of the premise.

There is another prevailing aesthetic I can track over my career and that is what I call: "Planetality". I know, I've even made a word for it. This is the need, desire or prevailing characteristic of making pictures that exist in planes, most prominently in parallel planes. Stand in front of a building or flat surface, preparing to make a picture of it. Will you make the picture at an oblique angle or point up or down? What drives this in you? Do you not care care that lines converge or that one edge of the building will bow out or in? Or do you wish your pictures to reside in the relative neutrality of not having imposed a specific directionality to them? Again, stand in front of the building, keep your camera level and center yourself so the left and right sides are equidistant and parallel to you holding the camera and you have a picture that is far more neutral, thus allowing the building to dominate, not the signature of the picture of it. Imagine in current times this being a concern! But how you do this affects the outcome.  If the building is too tall or there is too much foreground in your picture? Well, that's what a view camera is for or, in these days in the digital world,  "lens corrections" in Photoshop or, last, a PC lens. The principle is to keep the camera parallel to the surface and shift the lens to raise, lower or slide left or right.

At any rate plane to plane is important to me, not always, but often.

Most of the photographs in this post are from the series called Mallchitecture.

Topics: Digital,Color,Northeast,Vintage,Analog

Permalink | Posted May 19, 2017

Delaware Water Gap

Looking for someplace to photograph? Consider yourself a landscape photographer? Live within reach of southern New Jersey or upstate PA? Take a look at the Delaware Water Gap, about 20 miles of exquisite river valley along one side of the Delaware River in New Jersey. Wikipedia is a good place to start your research: here.

I just came from driving along it, starting  from the South in the Poconos in PA heading home to Boston in the first week of May. After several days of rain, I can't imagine it being more beautiful.

The primary road is along the western side of the river, which allows frequent access to the water itself, with several campgrounds and put-ins for canoes and kayaks.

Hitting it off season is best for me as this is a very popular place in the summer and can get crowded. Rimmed on either side with high hills, cliffs and waterfalls, the whole area is a National Park so no strip malls, motels or gas stations. I have driven through it in the winter, spring and fall and they were all very beautiful.  

I find myself thinking of the Water Gap in terms like Eden, paradise, oasis, heaven,   utopia, and Shangri-La while being aware that these are reactions that may be a result of my post WW 2 birth, upbringing and education. Which, of course, calls into question just what our definition of paradise may be. For me, as a New Englander, it is the Water Gap. Who's to say what yours is? However, it is fair to say that the Water Gap represents a respite from present day USA and contrasts powerfully with the commerciality of the Poconos to the south and present day New Jersey with NYC close by to the north. My definition of paradise includes things like: respite,  quiet, serenity, privacy, beauty, isolation and even intimacy. Clearly a manifestation of things like getting a break from the: rat race, treadmill, production, deadlines, multi tasking, social networking, to say nothing of threats to our national parks and  walls on our borders. The other day while driving through it, and stopping frequently to photograph, I was in a sort of reverie or suspended reality, separated from the world that surrounded the park, early morning on a Saturday in early May. 

If you are a serious photographer and/or intentional it is worth being nearby with access to the park for several days. You'll need to bring your A game as it necessary to turn up your sensitivity to the light, the time of day, the air and the uniqueness of the time of year. Not for the feint of heart, real substantive landscape photography, for the majority is crap, over the top sensationalism these days, kind of like our current president. And so, I find the Water Gap a real challenge, to make pictures there that are expressive and evocative,  embodying a faithfulness to the content before me but also able to convey depth of perception and an acute sensitivity to our surroundings. On the other hand, maybe someone can point their smartphone out the window at the Water Gap at 50 mph, click the shutter and convey all that too. But not me. I need to stop, get the gear out, look around and slow the f___  down.

Postscript: After I'd shot the last frame of the day along the Delaware River, with my mind moving on to visiting my sick friend Keith Johnson in a rehab hospital in New Britain, CT that afternoon and then heading to BT's in Sturbridge for the region's best BBQ, then back to home, I looked down to find this:

staring up at me from the edge of a mud puddle.  I'd have to be brain dead to not regard this as a sign, a message from the photo gods shining down on me, approving of my efforts this early Saturday morning, rewarding me for making some good pictures along the Delaware Water Gap. I don't know if  I thought it to myself or said it out loud but out came a sincere "thank you!" I picked up the coin, put it in my pocket and thought, "Damn, this is good." Then second, "maybe this needs a blog".

Topics: Color,New Work,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 10, 2017

Shrink Wrapped 4

In Shrink Wrapped 1,2,3 we've looked at the early phases of a new project and then what happened as it matured.  I've worked through various issues in the effort to make  pictures that are involving and expressive from boats wrapped in plastic during the winter in coastal New England.

Shrink Wrapped 1: here

Shrink Wrapped 2: here

Shrink Wrapped 3: here

In this, the last post on the subject, I am sharing the most recent pictures made on a warm and very foggy day in Maine in late February.

Once again, I learned things and was surprised everytime I turned around.

The fog was a friend that day, before it started raining. Levitating these heavy objects free off the ground, floating them up into space, freeing them of their weight, constraint and even their purpose.This time on this shoot in the fog things went pretty far out there. Odd shapes, new forms, juxtapositions, feeling like a movie set with the fog machine turned up to high. Remember the maze scenes shot at night towards the end of the Kubrick film the Shining? Like that.

Once again, the project now had gone someplace else, this time into real abstraction, no longer bound to the ground or anything real.

What a completely haunting and mesmerizing experience, walking around these boatyards in the muffled quiet of a still and foggy day along the coast in Maine in late February. I felt alone, very small, isolated in these shrouded spaces.

The whole time on this project I've sought to elevate these things, these expensive, heavy and often massive boats, held in stasis, preserved, protected, wrapped mummies in plastic sheeting stretched tight. 

I now believe the photographing part is done. To give you how this works for me:  I've been editing the files and making small prints (19 x 13 inches) to see what these pictures look like. There are over 60 prints this size. I try to make the prints first quality at this stage as I think there is no point in anything else.  I then live with these, shuffling them around, categorizing and sequencing, making chapters or headings or sections. But in this case I don't regard Shrink Wrapped as a series that has a necessary flow or narrative, meaning that I think of these as single pictures put together into a group.  From those, taking the ones I believe are worthy and/or demand attention, I print  larger on 30 x 24 inch  paper. This at times is ludicrous as here I have to reprint sometimes and then, a humbling admission, print again to get them right. So far I amclose to 20 of these "finals" and have begun to show them. This is a phase of projects in the making for me. This week I showed the big prints to Susan Nalband, who is the owner of 555 Gallery where I show my work, and to my long time friend and colleague Andrea Greitzer, who has designed most of my books. Just a few days ago I showed them to Hanna Richman, my studio assistant. I value these opinions a great deal, indeed, opinions from everybody. And so it goes. I listen hard to people who look at my prints, shuffling them back and forth. I watch carefully too, their body language telling me about boredom, excitement, engagement, frustration. This is seeing  work through other's eyes, and is tremendously important. In between, when I have time, I go back into printing again after seeing some prints flawed through their reactions. This most likely means that I compromised on a print when I shouldn't have. Particularly true with this project I feel privileged to have the time and resources to dedicate to this work, to refine it and to mold it into just what I want it to be. How I ever managed to make concentrated bodies of work when I was younger, being a dad, working in a demanding job, I don't know. But I feel very fortunate now to be able to give a project like this total concentration.

One more thing before I close and that is my tremendous admiration for the quality of tools we now have. This, quite simply, is a project I believe would have been impossible in the days of film, chemistry and darkrooms. The smoothness of transitions, the capture of exceptionally subtle tonalities and distinctions in color are outstanding. These large inkjet prints are magnificent; subtle, luminous, expressive and evocative. 

So here we are at the end of four posts about this new Shrink Wrapped project. I thank you very much for coming along. Good work? You tell me. Done with it? Won't know for sure for a while yet, but probably.  Plans for the pictures?  Again, not sure. Usually the amount of effort I spend on getting the work out and seen is proportionate to the degree of enthusiasm I have for the work. In these I have once again stepped off a cliff, as in series like the Mutter Museum pictures, the Cabela's ones, Monsters and so on. Taking risk isn't new, in fact, I believe we all need to do this, take a chance, push ourselves out into unexplored places, whatever our field. I will continue to refine these pictures, showing them to people and gathering information about them. But, at some point and not too far away, I will need to leave them, say to myself, they are now done, box them and move on. This is the hardest part as to give up something you've worked so hard on and immersed yourself in so much is difficult. I need to lean on experience in this phase, to allow myself the permission to let go. When something is finished it is an emotionally hard time for me as I thrive on being in my projects and to be without one feels weird and disorienting. On the other hand, working on something like Shrink Wrapped is all consuming, where what I see is like tunnel vision, only looking for this one thing, therefore missing so much else. So soon, coinciding with the remarkable thing in New England called spring, along with nicer weather, I have plans to try some new projects, to point my camera in some different directions, to become a student again, to do something new.

I hope you'll come along.

Stay tuned.

Note: When I originally wrote this blog, I hadn't placed Shrink Wrapped on the site yet, but it is there now. I am showing some of my portfolios at 555 Gallery in Boston the afternoon of April 15 and pledge here to bring these along if you'd like to see them.

Topics: Northeast,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted March 28, 2017

Shrink Wrapped 3

I thought I had it all packaged, a known methodology, a series virtually completed, the work and manner of making predictable, all planned, really.  Wrong.

First, a day with strong light, wind and blue sky clarity. I thought I'd head out to just see what I could get in the mid to late afternoon, as many of the past shoots had been in the a.m. What I got was a surprise, what turned into big deal instead of just an afternoons' diversion. Not so much what was in front of me but in how much my thinking had changed, being so all consumed with the thoughts and feelings of this new series. This is obsession, of course, and it is often what we seek but comes with its own penalties too. Last time I shot on the Shrink Wrapped project had been ten days before these. It's as though my mind worked the problem over and over, took me through possibilities and iterations, allowed me to arrive along a path without even making pictures in the various versions, then took me to here, someplace else. This make any sense? Because I am in a very different place now having made these recently.

As I said, someplace different now.  This is new, this phase, and this is the part where I don't know where this comes from as these are from a far more subliminal place.  I feel like a passenger along for the ride.  This is good but a little like vertigo as I am not sure quite where I stand.  On the other hand, this heady feeling I have about these pictures means that I am no longer bogged down with some sort of base, some sort of foundation upon which the pictures reside. Oh no, not at all. So, faced with this new what I did a few days later was to is head up to Maine to find more and, as it turns out, very different boatyards with shrink wrapped boats.

Imagine allowing yourself the permission to strike out on very new ground. Granting yourself the luxury of thought in something new and unknown, taking a leap to jump ahead several steps in some sort of trajectory, a progression to some place quite simply, new. Progress forward without restraint.This bears some relationship to how you define your earlier work, of course. One of my teachers said that it all exists as a continuum, your early work compared to your latest. Easy to diminish the earlier and place the latest on a pedestal as you like to think you know so much more now. But it is all your work, the older and the new, and so as valid and relevant as anything you've done. This is not easy as you really can't negate the time it takes to get here. This is simply paying your dues, putting the time in. But this can be something very new. Giving yourself the permission to take the leap. You want to jump ahead, don't you? You're impatient to be there. In one sense you can do that through study and looking hard but in another perhaps not, no substitute for time in. I think of this as arriving at simplicity, something a younger or less experienced artist might not see as he/she is looking for significance and "meaning". Well, by pushing for that you may find it inaccessible. 

Remember when we started out on this shrink wrapped journey I said that I wanted to delve into the anatomy of a project? Well, we are know in the evolution of the anatomy. 

We will have one more blog next about these stupid shrink wrapped boats (yes, this has become a love/hate relationship). The last one, I hope. Why? Because I did go up to Maine on what turned out to be just one day instead of several. One day because it started to rain which effectively shut me down. Where I found truly epic coastal fog as snow melted and the temp was in the 60's. Where I found whole new kinds of wrapped things I'd never dreamed of. Where the sky and the plastic all melted into one, like being inside a ping pong ball. 

Want to put a little mystery into what you shoot? Wrap it.

Next up: Shrink Wrapped 4.

Topics: where I live,Color,Digital,Northeast,New Work

Permalink | Posted March 21, 2017