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Posts from the ‘Environmental’ Category

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.

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.

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Earth Day, 2020, Gallery Sitka

Earth Day rolls around again on April 22 and it is going to be a difficult one.  Like nearly everyone in the world, we’re hunkered down and trying to stay healthy.  It is so heart breaking to hear that so many are unable to achieve what was once such a given.  And of course, it’s always the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged who seem to be paying the price, along with those from health care to the grocery supply chain.  I am reminded of lessons I’ve learned from a colleague, an environmental scientist, the put this into some kind of larger perspective.  The point of environmentalism isn’t to save the planet.  The planet will survive, albeit perhaps it will evolve. Nature is stronger than the human race.  We need to save ourselves.

In earlier times, what seems like a thousand years, but was really just a month or two ago, I submitted some work for consideration for an Earth Day Exhibition, at Gallery Sitka.  The juror is Melissa Richard, a mixed media artist and educator.  I’m grateful to have been chosen to show in the exhibition, but now of course, the exhibition will be going online.  I’ll pass the url along when I can.   Thanks to Melissa and the folks at Gallery Sitka.  I’ve mentioned this before, but the power of water is awesome (as in inducing a sense of awe, not as in being really really cool).  Perhaps we should pay it more attention.

Erosion, Croatan Sound #1, 2015

Erosion, Croatan Sound #2, 2015

Erosion, Ocean City, New Jersey, 2010

Under the Highway

People don’t tend to know what’s going on under the highway.  Neither did I.I had driven over this location for nearly twenty years before I looked. I’ve mentioned this area before, this is near the head of the Blackstone River in Worcester and Millbury, Massachusetts.  The River winds, looking rather tepid at times, along beside the Providence and Worcester Railroad tracks and under Route 146, the main highway that also, like the River, goes from Worcester to Providence.  Beside the River there also winds a Bikeway, part of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor.  The Bikeway is lovely in most spots, down here, it is more interesting.  Here’s a short journey.  (My apologies, if you are on a mobile device, you probably can’t see the embedded video directly.  However, go here, and you’ll be able to have a look.)

I’m grateful to have found my way down there, with Chris’s accompaniment of course.  FYI, the sounds you here are the combination of falling water and the echo chamber effect from the semi’s going by overhead.

I find this location to offer a powerful look into the quandary that is our relationship with nature.This is in fact a very beautiful river further south.  It has its own beauty here.But, it also been abused for several centuries.  Now there is a real interest in cleaning it up, and that is happening.  But you can’t go back in time, you can’t reset the clock.  The question is I think, what can we learn from our shared experience?

Mills and Dams – The Bernat Mill

Chris, my wife, remembers going to the Bernat Mill store in Uxbridge, Massachusetts to buy yarn.  She certainly isn’t alone.  If you were into knitting, that was what you did in this area.  At one point, the mill was the third largest yarn mill in the U.S.  (Note, the brand still exists and is in use by another yarn manufacturer, Bernat.)  The mill itself had a long and exemplary career in the Blackstone River Valley.  The first iteration of the Mill was built there in 1820 by John Capron.  Why that location?  Falling water.   This is the current dam along the Mumford River that creates Capron Pond.  It’s quite a lovely place with a very nice park, a nice place to think, or have a picnic.

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Capron evolved to the Backman Uxbridge Worsted Company.  They were the first manufacturers to utilize power loops in the U.S., a staggering change moving the industrial revolution forward.  Their ability to engage in mass production doubtlessly lead to their ability to land contracts for the production of Civil War uniforms, World War One Khakis and World War Two U.S. Army uniforms.  Those familiar with the U.S. Air Force dress blue uniform can take note, it was probably manufactured in that mill.  That blue was chosen from the Backman Uxbridge catalogue.

As it did with so many large manufacturers in the Valley, the bust stormed into town in the form of international competition, technological change and an aging plant.   In 1964 the assets were sold to the Bernat Company which refocused the mill on yarns.  As manufacturing declined, the mill was repurposed over time in what was actually a very successful conversion.  The class mill repurposing involves creating small spaces for retail, office and creative studios.  They must have worked quite hard on the conversion because by the night of July 21, 2007, something like 400,000 square feet which had been devoted to manufacture was productively employed by numerous small businesses.  Hundreds were employed there.  Unfortunately, that night and for several subsequent days the mill burned.

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Hundreds of firefighters fought the blaze.  The complex was almost completely destroyed.  Most of the businesses, worth millions, were lost.  There are I would stress still a number of businesses remaining in a portion of the mill complex, but nothing like the number there prior to the fire.

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The damage is still stunningly visible.  Government on several levels planned to help but those plans seem to have floundered.  This is of course not the first mill to burn in the Blackstone Valley.  Many of those mills absorbed a century or more of a variety of chemicals.  Some thought the fire at the Bernat Mill was almost inevitable.  The bust of an economic surge, particularly one that lasted as long as large scale manufacturing in the Blackstone Valley is extraordinarily difficult to manage.  These were very big businesses, not just for their time, but for any time.