The U.S. Clean Water Act was inspired in part by the Blackstone River, which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island. It was really the home of the industrial revolution in the U.S. because of the 500 foot drop in the River’s elevation between Worcester and Providence. It was dammed no less than 49 times along the way, to create water wheels and power for the many, many mills that began to populate the region in the early 1800’s. That was a long time ago of course and the mills have largely disappeared, chasing cheaper labor first to the south, and then globally. Meanwhile, the River, which was once known as the hardest working river in the U.S. became known as the most polluted. Keep in mind that the Clean Water Act was signed into law by a Republican President. There were other equally polluted rivers of course, but the Blackstone was up there.
Things can change. Out in the River, “rebranded” the Seekonk River at this location for some reason, just south of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, with the RiverTours Blackstone (highly recommended by the way, hit the link if you’re interested) we could see evidence of the change all around us……fish and lots of them. Hard to see at first because of the sand stirred up by the boat, and the fact that I didn’t have a polarizing lens with me to cut down the glare in the water, but they were there.
Their relative invisibility however, was also defensively useful. They were far from alone. The bird activity was intense and impressive. I’m not a bird photographer, but though I’d share a few examples.
The fish now face the challengers that they have always faced, as it should be (I’d include fishermen and women on that list as well, but not yet. You’re not supposed to eat fish from the River, yet.)
During these extraordinarily difficult times I think it’s very important to keep in mind a few successes. We can make things better, if we care to. The Blackstone River is getting cleaner.
I’m pleased to announce that one of my “Holding Back the Water – Quabbin Reservoir” images has been chosen for inclusion in the Providence Center for Photographic Arts upcoming Exhibition, “Unseen Photography Beyond the Visible.” The Exhibition features work from the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the visual spectrum, revealing structure, shape and light that we don’t normally see. I was drawn to this kind of photography particularly in my efforts to understand the interaction between the great dam and dike that hold back the waters of the Quabbin Reservoir, and the New England countryside. Engineering melds into foothills, and beyond. This is the spillway through which overflow water from the Reservoir flows. You’ll note that there wasn’t much flowing when this image was created, and there still isn’t much flowing now. The level of water in the Reservoir is higher, but still not at 100%. We will have to learn to live with more uncertainty about what keeps us alive, particularly in the current political, dare I say, climate. There will be a opening reception at the on April 20 from 5 – 9 PM. You can get directions from their web site, by clicking the link above. Thank you.
View of the lookout from the north, dry spillway below
I want to invite any readers in the central Massachusetts area to an group exhibition and opening to be held at the Sprinkler Factory Gallery this coming Saturday, April 8 from 6 to 9 PM. The exhibition includes the work of eleven photographers who are all members of Ron Rosenstock’s Sunday Night Group. Ron’s Sunday night group has quite a history, going back three decades. Ron was a student of Minor White who taught the importance of what to me is a more contemplative approach to the experience of looking at and taking photographs. One tries to look at the image in a completely nonjudgemental fashion and experience what the photograph provokes in you. It is actually a disciplined process that is I have to say easier said than done. My recent series, “Lost in the Water” will be on display as well as the work of a terrific group of photographic artists. Stop by if you’re interested, refreshments will be served (Though I think it’s a cash bar. Hey, nothing’s perfect.) You’ll find directions at the link above.
The Sprinkler Factory Gallery by the way is a fascinating place, a wonderful repurposing of an old mill. My hat is off to the developers and proprietors. Well done. Note the closing reception April 30. You’re invited to that too!
On display in the Winter Solstice Exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, Massachusetts, from December 8 through January 1.
Blackstone Canal, Uxbridge, Massachusetts – 2016.
I’ve been striving diligently to simplify my images. I can speculate as to my motivation for doing so, maybe it has something to do with how messy the world is these days. I also have a tremendous fondness for the work of folks such as Michael Kenna. (If you’re serious about photography or art, please hit the link. You will not regret it.) More pragmatically though, this effort requires reducing the number of elements included within the frame. Turns out this is not as easy as it might sound. Life around us is filled with complexity. It is in fact messy. So, much like creating sculpture, you have to keep taking things out. Unfortunately, unlike when working with sculpture, you can’t just pop out a tree. OK, you could with photoshop if the tree is positioned just right and if you’re really good at doing that type of work. The result though still frequently looks as though the image is missing something that was popped out in photoshop. Alternatively,I find that I have to think about a potential image in a new way.
Recently I’ve been spending time at the South Natick Dam along the Charles River in eastern Massachusetts. I find it very restful there. It is also a wonderful place to photograph. On one side of the River you can even sit in the shade while photographing the River in bright, hot sunlight. It’s almost too easy.
But it is not a simple place to photograph. Again, there is a great deal going on. So, as Bill Neil says, you have to edit out reality, often by using a telephoto lens. I once had an exchange with Bill in which I asked him how he might go about managing some issues in a wide angle shot. His answer: “I’d never take a shot like that. Too messy.”
I’ve posted many pictures of flowing water here including in my most recent post. Typically, I want to give the viewer a sense of place by providing the context for the water’s flow. What if you ignore the need for a sense of place, and just explore the water? What you find are structures in the water’s flow. Every photographer who photographs water knows this of course. You can see structure if you shoot at around 1/4 of a second to maybe two seconds. After that, the water just glows, which has a beauty in itself. I’ve become interested in the structures that emerge with just a bit of a slow shutter. What do they reveal? I’ll let you be the judge.