Like many, I’ve spent considerable time reacting to the thoughtlessness with which our elected officials in Washington ignore the truth. Most recently, we were told by our Secretary of Energy that carbon dioxide has nothing to do with the warming of the planet, which is fine because he also feels the planet isn’t warming. But of course it is. The growing season is longer, ice out is earlier and far worse things are happening to places like Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay (it is disappearing) and all over the world. Carbon dioxide and methane are the two gases in our atmosphere responsible for the warming of the planet. That is not a particularly controversial scientific statement. I could go on and on but the bottom line is that the assault on reality seems overwhelming. What does it mean to “resist” that assault?
I have always experienced the power of nature as inevitable which explains my interest in erosion among other things. On a recent trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, thanks to the advice of a friend, we drove along Ocean Blvd., Rt 1-A, new Odiorne Point State Park. New Englanders are pretty used to two kinds of coastlines: sandy beaches and granite. This beautiful stretch of highway has both, in the same location. You can see eroding sand, and massive granite formations touching one another. That granite isn’t going anywhere. Sure, granite can be moved, by glaciers. Anybody, other than the Secretary of Energy expect to see one of those in these parts anytime soon? Probably not. It will indeed erode over very very long periods of time, but so slowly, the water doesn’t represent a tremendous threat. It faces into the sea and the wind, regardless.
I remember once hearing Pete Seeger talk about resistance. He was reflecting on all of the painful times and threats he had witnessed over the course of his life. He didn’t seem to be the least bit deterred by the persistent nature of the forces with which he was engaged. He also didn’t seem fearful or likely to succumb to hopelessness. “We shall not be moved.” (based on the Biblical text, Jeremiah 17:8-9.) Perhaps we expect it to be easy.
I’m again participating in the Atelier Exhibition at the Griffin Museum of Photography.
Atelier 25 opens tonight and runs through March 31. I want to thank Meg Birnbaum and Amy Amy Rindskopf for leading the exhibition. My work is from the “Lost in the Water Project.”
It is very hard if you’re out in nature in New England on a routine basis to not develop a fascination with herons. These wonderfully large and patient birds are actually quite easy to photograph. Working stiffs, they only get annoyed with you if you get so close that you screw with their fishing. Can’t say that I blame them. Their markings and scars give each bird a distinctive purpose. For whatever reason, it has been a great year for heron along the Blackstone River. I thought I share a few environmental and reflective portraits as the season wanes.
Blackstone River Heritage Park, Upton, Massachusetts
Blackstone Valley Bicycle Path, Millbury, Massachusetts
Woonsocket Falls, Woonsocket, Rhode Island
Blackstone Valley Bicycle Path, Millbury, Massachusetts
Last week I posted a series of images of the water flow at the South Natick Dam, along the Charles in Natick, Massachusetts. Using long exposure techniques I’ve enjoyed studying the way the water flows around its various obstructions. My interest in the water, and enjoyment of being at the water is hardly new or unique of course. The flow of water has been providing sustenance and soothing to humanity for as long as we’ve been here (though it doesn’t seem to help us much in weeks like this one). Focus on water is of course also not unique to humans. I was reminded of this recently while continuing to photograph here.
Of course this fellow does it for a living. Note that these are long exposures. But he’s not moving. Those who photograph wildlife routinely will generally confirm that wild animals never actually stand still. They may be quite, but not still. He’s staring at the water and continued to do so for a good 20 minutes. He then changed positions and continued his focused attention. A young couple nearby struck up a conversation and reminded me that he’s doing that because he has to. We listen to the water because we like it. How did it all start? We’ll see this fellow again soon.
Technical note: These images were shot on film, TMAX 100 and Pan F 50. Both are wonderful films, still available. There is very little grain visible except under a magnifying glass. I sometimes shoot with film just to make me think about things in a more contemplative fashion. I found it most helpful here.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. We did, it was great spending time with family as always. I had much to be thankful for this year, including a more experimental attitude. Why not?
I’ve been exploring the Blackstone River area in Massachusetts over the last few months. It is striking just how much psychological as well as environmental territory the River covers. Though it remains quite polluted from centuries of exploitation, stretches of the River are quite beautiful and natural. Other stretches are, more complex. No stretch of the River though, at least that I have traveled, requires more effort to understand than the Blackstone Valley Bike Trail in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the River originates. Along this two mile or so stretch you will see the River, a super highway (Route 146), an active freight train yard and line, as well as legacy tracks, a Walmart and Sam’s Club, trees being cut by a beaver, beautiful small falls and rapids, trash and signs that say stay away from the water for health reasons. It’s all right there. Nature and civilization crash into one another at top speed in places and this is one of those locations.
I have photographed there for months, searching for the right way to capture the feel of such a complex place. I’d used most every technological trick I could think of, but ultimately wasn’t satisfied. I decided to go back and try again, this time with black and white film. Digital is just capable of making pictures that are too perfect for this location it seemed to me. Nothing about this location says “perfection.” This work, like this location, is incomplete and some of the images you see here may not survive the next cut. This is where things stand though at the moment.
Shooting on film is interesting of course. I realize that the look can be replicated in software using a digital means of capture. But that somehow doesn’t seem quite right at times. What is really different about shooting on film is the process. You do indeed slow down. You have to for economic reasons if nothing else. For a time, you have to step away from the technological (rat) race. It’s quite refreshing.
Tech Notes: Shot on Kodak TMax and Ilford Delta films using a Nikon F6. The later, for my money, remains the finest 35 mm camera ever made. Negatives scanned on a Nikon 5000 film scanner and finalized in Lightroom/Photoshop (You can’t really escape the technology can you.)