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Archive for the ‘New Jersey’ Category

Summertime growing up in Villas, NJ lots of my friends’ families were Catholic, Irish or Italian, some German or Polish. Almost all were blue collar, factory & shipyard workers. Or they got by otherwise. Some stayed with grandparents. The blessed Virgin was ubiquitous: on dashboards, front lawns, jewelry, framed next to her Son in every dining room where the mother fed the neighbor kids as well as her own. Some kids went to St Raymond’s school on Bayshore Road, but most went back to Philly, where their real homes were; the Villas was for summer vacation, fresh air for the kids, breathing room for mom and the Villas Fishing Club on the bay for men- only. The boardwalk over in Wildwood for everybody with a car or bus fare.

Labor Day Weekend marked the end of summer firmly as a door closing. The following Monday morning the streets were silent, window blinds pulled down, driveways- twelve hours earlier festooned with wading pools, kids, grills, beer bottles & fishing gear, empty. A vacuous quiet descended. Left behind we were all watchers in this new found emptiness, watchful for artifacts of the prior occupants, for signs that summer had existed at all. Mary would stare dolefully back at us from within her blue robes at various locations throughout the neighborhood, daring our trespass.

And then there was St Francis, keeper of beasts & of nature, benevolent & compassionate. Guardian of the wildness inside us all and protector of the earth, he would keep watch along the bay all winter long, and ever after.

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware

Three Visions of St Francis Guarding the Delaware Bay

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Paul Vanderbilt & Alec Soth’s current Madison exhibits and accompanying text/audio and Frank Gohlke’s Thoughts On Landscape have me thinking about visual rhythms, algorithms and typologies.

Photos individual, paired, in series syncopate with what- anticipations, expectations, apprehensions?– in the viewer. And the resulting resonance renders them meaningful. Or.

The thing in itself, the subject without the photo, the photo without the viewer, retains meaning in situ independent of the intervening  eyes. Is it when the human attention drawn to the object of the len’s affection focusses deeply in that moment,  that the recognition of coincident, adjacent, harmonic- or dissonant– significance in the image(s) occurs? & Association liberates vision from its expectations.

And thinking too much impedes seeing:) A series of random views that made me stop and shoot during recent travels:

Umbrellas at Willow Vineyard, Cape May, NJ

Umbrellas at Willow Vineyard, Cape May

Levitation.  Seaport promenade, Manhattan

Levitation. Seaport promenade, Manhattan (thanks to Liz S. for the tipoff!)

Wisconsin River Autumn, early morning

Wisconsin River Autumn, early morning

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In reviewing my work  as I decide what to put on display next month, I’m a bit dumbfounded to encounter the common threads running through the photos, regardless of disparate locations, attitudes, equipment and intention at shooting time.  Here are few that I was considering today for “From Back East to Midwest” at Timberlane Coffee in April. If you’re in the vicinity of Boscobel, you’ll want to stop by and share a great cuppa joe  with the good people at Timberlane.

LincolnTunnel Helix, Elizabeth NJ

Lincoln Tunnel Helix, Elizabeth, NJ. “Now about 74 years old, the Lincoln Tunnel is one of the busiest crossings in the world, carrying over 40 million vehicles per year. In addition to passenger cars and trucks, each weekday morning, the busiest bus lane in the nation known as the Exclusive Bus Lane, or XBL, operates at the tunnel.”

SW Wisconsin spectators at  Spring Tractor Pull

Ain’t That America: Heartland Red & Green

Rush Hour, Ellenboro

Sunset Rush Hour, Ellenboro Wisconsin

Cove Beach

Cove Beach, from Cape May Point

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Two photographs I edited today: The first a freshwater lake at Belleplain State Forest in south Jersey, the second a dry wash canyon in northern New Mexico, an ancient seabed now a semi-arid desert. The contrast between these two images triggered my thinking about how a single natural  resource such as water determines us. The native peoples of the American Southwest have seen the rise and fall of entire cultures driven by aridity. Here are the photos, and something like a Chautauqua in their wake:

Northern New MexicoHow does water affect the places we choose to live and our sense of habitation within that place? So many popular communities around the country are at the water’s edge; the beauty of the sea, the vastness of the ocean compel our imaginations. Their abundance has fed our bodies for generations by supplying a clean and renewable food source. Now the twin macro-scale disasters of the BP Deepwater Horizon gulf oil rig blowout in 2010 and the radioactive seepage of Japan’s Fukishima nuclear plant, coupled with decades of other sustained non-point insults from human activities leaves us with a huge question mark as the ocean’s inhabitants  demonstrate the consequences by sickening, dying and disappearing. Each summer once crystalline waters curdle into a stinking soup in Florida Bay, smothering the coral reefs along the Keys beneath algal blooms the consistency of jello. My generation has born witness to  these radical changes in the order of magnitude by which human activities have overtaken nature.

The famous springs of central Florida that poured freshwater at rates measuring billions of gallons daily are predicted to run dry within the decade as development investors continue to sink wells to bottle water, water golf course and irrigate cattle pastures.  The Great Lakes, having sustained industrial insults for decades pre-EPA, recovered dramatically at the end of the 20th Century. They  now face renewed assault as energy and mining investors consider transporting heavy tar sands crude viaBelleplain State Forest, NJ lake freighters and opening the world’s largest open pit iron mine along the shores of Lake Superior. The Elk River drowned in chemicals last month in West Virginia, where mining now blows off mountaintops to extract coal from open pits. All across America hydraulic fracturing-fracking– cracks shale deep underground to release natural gas, threatening local water tables’ integrity while at the same time contaminating millions of gallons of fresh water with drilling chemicals  and then pumping the entire toxic mess that results back underground. That water is gone from the surface life cycle for good. And is replaced by…nothing. There is no alternative. On this planet or any other within reach.

It seems to me a kind of blind madness that globally mankind continues to assault the life-sustaining system of this one hospitable planet we can call home, without any viable means to restore them. We are bad at imagining scale and good at denial; pollution and degradation formerly were localized, contained, infrequent horrors, like Love Canal. The majority of the world’s wild open places were untainted sanctuaries, life preserving wells from which we could draw the future to repopulate damaged places. This is no longer the case. At every turn the natural world has  sustained and continues to aggregate collateral damage in the name of human infrastructure and profit, yet the value of those irreplaceable and finite  natural resources is nowhere figured into the economic equations of the profit machine.

Today in the headlines, California and the West’s cataclysmic drought, a “500” year event. Towns will be without water. For the first time, backup systems from surrounding communities fail to meet the need, so trucks must come from afar bearing potable water to sustain residents. Crops have gone unplanted, animals and lawns, a perished afterthought. Those people have been stopped in their tracks, their attentions now riveted on their dry cups. Were investors or industry or politicians to come and attempt to add a teaspoon of contaminants to any of those precious tankers of water, the people would seize and restrain and punish them. And so it should also happen at the macro scale. The margin for humanity’s errors isn’t nearly as large as we presume.

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With the weekend weather in our region expected drop the windchill close to -60, my thought have turned to sunshine and warmer places. Cape May county NJ last fall was beautiful every day, a paradise for being outdoors. Lots of ocean, beach and birds. This shot was taken along the Delaware Bay side of the peninsula, where quiet beaches and the cleaned up Delaware Bay make it a peaceful alternative to the busy Jersey Shore towns to the east.  This great white egret didn’t think much of us passing by his marsh however..:), even though we were picking up trash as we walked. Which I think is so necessary to do whenever you visit wild places. Even if its just one small bag you carry out, the difference is made for the critters that live there, and collectively, for the health and beauty of our one blue planet. If most people would do this consistently and work together,  we’d see results, don’t you think?

t Egret, Norbury's Landing

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Travel’s all about contrasts, how they live there, who we are here, where’s everyone going, who knows their destination? Wisconsin and Jersey are worlds apart, but the people not so very different.

Horseback, Ellenboro WI

Springtime horseback ride downtown, downhome

The cutural chasm separating neighboring Wildwood and Cape May, NJ- one a summer-long spring break simulacrum rooted in 1950’s pop-culture, blue collered and raw with life, the other a Victorian resort town straight out of EM Forester or Henry James, dignified, wealthy, upwardly mobile– looms far greater than that between these ‘Sconnie horseback riders in the town of Ellenboro and the folks running the Dickenson family’s Hidden Valley Ranch in West Cape May.

Life's a Beach, Cape May Point

Life’s a Beach, Cape May Point

So much to be learned from just looking and waiting for the moment to arrive, and with it understanding of how vast the world remains, and how much of an effort we owe toward understanding it before- if ever– we move to judgement.

Crayola Roller Coaster, Wildwood

Coaster cars rocket through the loop above Crayola Alley, Wildwood Boardwalk

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No teenager ever grew up near the boardwalk without a summer night like this: illuminated dreamscape, coasters rattling, crowd chatter, sweet stink of cotton candy and corndogs all around, barkers hollering for a mark, all the while hunkered down in some dark retreat you call or wait for a friend, a smile, a sparking coincidence to lift you up and whirl you into the surrounding , pulsating crowd, instantly alive, electric, no longer alone.

On the Boardwalk, Text Me

Every kid who grew up at the shore can see themselves here for a moment, on a hot summer night, waiting for the next best thing

 

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