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Posts from the ‘Landscapes’ Category

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)

The Dams of the Blackstone Watershed

The Blackstone River, which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island was, and still is, very heavily dammed.  Counting its tributaries it’s easy to find a dam nearly every mile or so along its path down to the sea.  The River falls nearly 500 feet along the way and was the river of choice for textile mill builders in the late 1700’s and 1800’s.  It is considered to be the energy for the dawn of the industrial revolution in the U.S. (beating the Merrimack River by a couple of decades).  I’m currently teaching a course titled “Unintended Consequences:  at the Interface of Business and the Environment,” at Babson College.  I’m very fortunate to be joined in this effort by Professor Joanna Carey, an environmental scientist.  It became very clear early on that she sees a river in a very different way than I, even though I’m also an environmentalist.  To her, a river if far more alive and dynamic.  The dams of the Blackstone River and watershed play a crucial role in the course.  They have changed nearly everything about our landscape.

I wanted to capture a bit of the sense of these dams for our students, most of whom have never set foot in the Blackstone Valley, though we’re about to bring them out.   I initially thought I should really have used a drone for this, but there’s a problem with that approach.  I don’t fly drones.  Then I realized that there is something about these dams that is particularly New England, at least to me.  Their scale is different.  In spite of their impact, which is massive, they tend to be much more approachable, more intimate.  T’hey remind me in some ways of the dams at the Quabbin Reservoir which though massive, are also very approachable.

If you’re on a mobile device the embed may not work.  You can see the video here.

These dams powered numerous textile mills, changed the landscape, and created beautiful ponds.  Some played a role in the expansion of slavery (for another post, but yes, it’s true).  Most impeded the work of the rivers involved by stopping the movement of sediment, and fish.  Some will be removed, though I suspect many won’t.  It’s just too costly.  Dam removal impacts both property values and in some cases can release centuries of pollution.  Perhaps what’s done is done.  Human impacts can be irrevocable.

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?