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Medfield State Hospital

There seem to be two kinds of time management problems during the pandemic (at least, probably more). Some folks, think parents working at home, have zero time. They are multi-tasking every step of the way. Then there are those who, once their work is done, have time. Lots of it. And of course, no place to go that’s safe other than hikes. Hiking is a Godsend, to be sure. But you can’t hike all the time. I like to go for drives and Chris is willing to put up with them. So we drive.

We happened to be exploring around the Charles River Valley in Massachusetts and drove through the town of Medfield. We turned down Hospital Road because Chris used to work at Medfield State Hospital. It was her first job after nursing school. Driving by the Hospital grounds, we were stunned to find that not only was it still standing, but we could go onto the campus and walk around. The town and the state had turned it into a park, quite an interesting one.

The 19th century saw the rise of the “great institution.”  Massive structures were built for work (mills and factories), education (colleges) and the treatment or containment of those who were, or were thought to be mentally ill.  By the 20th century nearly five percent of the population of Massachusetts, as one example was housed in a state run mental health institution.  While some desperately needed care some ended up in those institutions because of family and or social/economic disadvantage.  Some received genuine care, some were warehoused.  

Medfield State Hospital was founded in 1892 and at its height could hold 2200 patients.  It was considered one of the best of the state hospitals.  People received treatment there, for the most part. On the Hospital grounds, one can see evidence of what was once a large, self-sufficient working farm.  Very ironically, the cemetery there was created to inter patients who died in the great pandemic of 1918.  The Cemetery is located at some distance from the campus itself, but is clearly marked and visible from the road. It is touchingly well maintained.

The Hospital closed in 1988.  Over the years, most psychiatric care moved to the community and away from the institutions.  These massive hospitals (there were about ten in the state) fell into ruin. They have largely either been fenced in, demolished or repurposed.  Medfield State was actually converted into a park by the state and the town.  It’s possible to go there, walk around (you can’t go inside and probably wouldn’t want to), walk your dog, and think. It’s hard not to think about being there, at times like these.

All images copyright 2020 and 2021 by James Hunt.  Click on the images for a larger view.

Season’s Greetings

2020, what can one say that hasn’t already been said? Nothing that could be shared on a family site, that’s for sure. Like nearly everyone else on the planet, my life was turned upside down in March of this year. My day job, which I love very much, is that of a professor, really a teacher. I am fortunate enough to have the chance to work with some truly terrific students. In March, they rallied in spite of everything that was going on, and we, the faculty, tried to keep up with them. Actually, most of us tried to help them which was tough because we were caught in the same fire storm.

When you are trying to teach or learn (or probably do anything), everything on line is more difficult than it is face to face. Everything takes more time. Everything takes more energy. You are much less sure of whether or not you are being understood and whether or not you are understanding your students. There is almost no time for “chatting” which turns out to be one of the most important activities in which humans engage. Chatting is where we really find out the truth, what is going on, how someone else is doing, and how you’re doing. You can’t schedule an accidental chat on line.

I have had 110 students in the fall, 85 or so more this spring. Luckily, the spring folks are people who I got to know in the fall. We did a sprint in the fall semester, August 24 till the day before the Thanksgiving (U.S.) break. No vacation days, no holidays, just keep at it. But we got some good work done and we got to know one another. Now we are in the middle of a two month break before we go into another sprint. I have to say, I miss them, most of the time….

But I’m OK, the family is OK, no one who was close to us got the virus….and hopefully we’ll keep it that way. We were blessed with a new granddaughter in January, before the roof caved in. We can all whine with the best of em, but we really are very fortunate. There but for the grace of God go I. Some of my students (my students are all online and all over the world) did get covid. They have all survived. It’s terribly real and terribly frightening. Don’t believe for a second that some young people as well as their families don’t become terribly ill. They do. In the U.S. we screwed this up royally. It didn’t have to be as bad as it has become. Help, as everyone knows, is on the way. Everyone in my world is anxious to take the vaccine and get on with life (though we all know that it won’t be that simple or that quick).

So the photographic work had to take a bit of a back seat. I do have two large projects underway and hopefully the galleries will be opening by the fall. I will be returning to blog writing from here on out, as I love it, and I don’t like the limitations and craziness of Facebook, etc. The two projects I do have underway have some serious angst attached, not surprisingly, so they didn’t seem right for the season.

Fortunately, I had an alternative. If you’ve read this blog for a while you may recall these images. They are from a series titled, “The Color in the Grass.” These are very high key images of fall grasses taken at the Broadmore Audubon location in Natick, Massachusetts. On a lark, I entered them in a juried exhibition pool at Photoplace Gallery in Vermont, the exhibition being appropriated titled “Botanicals.” Amazingly, one of them made the cut.

Those of you who like botanical/flower imagery should take a look at the exhibition, which is posted on line. You can find it here. The imagery in the show is amazing. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my image was chosen, but nevertheless, I appreciate the honor! Here are some additional images from the set, a seasons greetings to you all. Here’s to a much better 2021!

Erosion and the Power of Nature

I’ve restated the obvious a few times on this blog. Nature is more powerful than we are. Does anyone still need convincing? Probably, I’m afraid. I don’t.

A now more subtle case in point of course is erosion. Wind and water overpower the land and our human dreams of the conquest of nature. Like many nature photographers, I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to capture erosion, with mixed success. Last fall I was honored to have a number of my erosion images featured at the Aldrich Gallery, Whitin Mill in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. They are now working on creating an online platform for that exhibition.

The move to the creation of online exhibitions in the times of Covid is a most interesting one, saying something about our resilience. We can’t have real exhibitions, at least not quite yet, but we’ll see if we can come up with something else. It’s actually a very creative process, pushing me to move ahead by going back to the creation slide shows, just like the old days. Slide shows offer you an opportunity to expand the narrative to include sound, as well as more imagery than you’re likely to get in an exhibition. I often think about trying to create immersive experiences, without the excessive use of technology. Audio helps (so turn up the volume on your device to about 50%). I’ll leave it to you to be the judge. If you are on a mobile device and can’t see the thumbnail below, you can find the slide show here.

Black and White Magazine

I’m very gratified to announce that Black and White Magazine has just published portions of my “Deindustrialization Portfolio.” (June 2020 issue)

Earth Day 2020 Online Exhibition

I’m grateful to have been included in “Earth Day 2020” hosted by Gallery Sitka. As mentioned in my previous post, this exhibition was to have opened this week, but things have changed, as we all know.  Art continues however.  This is a mixed media exhibition.  I am a huge fan of photography been shown with other forms of visual art.  Melissa Richards, the curator, has done a great job of curation.   I particularly drawn to her use of color.  You can find the online gallery here.