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Posts Tagged ‘driftlessworld’

Madison WI’s Overture Center reminds me of a smaller scale version of NYC’s Guggenheim Museum. The shell-like spiral staircase and open atrium are irresistible to the lens. Quick post this morning, additional images to come:

Overture Center Staircase

From the third floor of the Overture Center, looking down the main staircase.

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Warm weather finally has the SW Wisconsin rural landscape stretching out and awakening after a long, frigid winter’s hibernation. There is a particular kind of washed clean, sharp feel to the air, and the landscape’s earth toned color palette and bare lines offers an austere, unadorned vision. a pure line of sight. Hope and endurance speak as the earth’s still bare bones warm.

Hgwy 18 and County T, near Fennimore Wisconsin

Hgwy 18 and County T, near Fennimore Wisconsin

Whose house was this at the intersection of Hgwy 18 and County T, Grant Co, Wisconsin? #landscape #rural #photography

Whose house was this at the intersection of Hgwy 18 and County T, Grant Co, Wisconsin?

Saunders Creek after the Spring thaw, Boscobel WI 53805

Saunders Creek after the Spring thaw, Boscobel WI 53805

Highway Lookout, Grant Co Wisconsin, Spring 2014

Highway Lookout, Grant Co Wisconsin, Spring 2014

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Caroline Street at Night, Key West FL 1989

Caroline Street at Night, Key West FL 1989

Back in the late 80’s after spending time in a graphic arts wet darkroom shooting artwork color separations for screenprinting, I became interested in black and white 35mm photography. A class with Lawson Little at Fla. Keys Community College and hundreds of shots later I had my own darkroom and binders full of negatives, contact prints and enlarged prints.

Green Parrot Bar

Green Parrot Bar in the old days, Corner Caroline and Whitehead Streets, Key West

Fast forward to the digital age, past Hurricane Wilma and Key West’s inundation that went little noticed in the wake of the more horrendous landfall Katrina made in New Orleans. I’d already left Cayo Hueso to make a landfall of my own in Chicago, but not my heavier possessions: record albums, books, notebooks and negatives.

 Fru Sale, Clermont, Florida

After a fire, the water tower, steps and a gourd vine’s all that’s left of this abandoned hilltop citrus emporium. And of course a realtor’s for sale sign.

Salt water does a lot of damage. But silver negatives in protective sleeves turn out to be much tougher than anyone who hasn’t salvaged them might guess. Wiped and dried out, the binders hibernated for years in my office while I considered what sense there might be in a digital age, to again invest in an redlight darkroom. Then at the local library where I work,  like being hit between the eyes by a fast flying Junebug, i realized the workhorse public scanner had a 35mm negative reader tucked into the lid. Presto Chango.

Can't Step Back Clermont Florida, 1989

Can’t Step Back Clermont Florida, 1989. From the 20s through the late 60s it was common to see hilltop, roadside citrus fruit stands dotting highways throughout Florida. Typically they were surrounded by acres of orange trees rolling toward the horizon. Fruit, cold drinks, maybe real estate or a viewing tower and a multitude of souvenir tchotkes greeting travelers who stopped. These steps are what’s left of an abandoned fruit depot that burned down; citrus cropping in Central Florida has all but ceased due to disease and unpredictable winter weather.

A bit of a learning curve ascent plus trial and error mostly overcame a long gone manual and for the first time in 25 years those old negative can step back into the light; of a different wavelength, but illumination nevertheless.  The differences between ink and silver stand out in the new prints, but mashing up the two mediums has released multitudes of opportunities. And a little dance of ecstasy.

Gourd Tower, Clermont Florida

Nature indifferently reclaims what human enterprise abandons. This fruitstand’s ashes and all the work and memories shared within its walls erased except as held within memory, words, images. The hills beyond are crowned with rolling rows of orange trees that, in years to come will be frozen out. And if the pattern running up and down Highway 27 in Central Florida has held true to the course it was following at the turn of the 21st century, these rolling croplands will be sold off to developers, scraped clean and covered by planned communities featuring chic construction themes like Southwestern Adobe complete with concrete cactuses. Artificial Paradise.

And what I remembered about taking these photos, especially the series taken upstate, in the Central and North Central Florida citrus belts, which had undergone vast change even then, is the sense of a requiem. The Old Florida shown in these photos was vanishing when they were taken. It’s slipped away now almost entirely.

Photography is a medium where everything shown is in the past tense, and so the yearning for places, people and for a “sense of place” long extinguished comes built-in. Sally Mann, Stephen Shore and Frank Gohlke, among others  have written about the inherent sense of loss, yearning or exclusion that comes with landscape photography; the places or homes we can never go back to, that resist our attempts to re/connect with their  history and meaning. With their witnesses.

Evinston Florida, Sunlight Styling Salon 1989

Evinston Florida, Sunlight Styling Salon 1989. Florida’s time warps are almost always unexpected and defy cultural expectations. many attempts have been made to sell the states enchantment and mystery, few ever succeed.

Time shifted contexts are by nature disconcerting: same physical location, but everything known about it and assumed to be permanent fractures and dislocates. Frequently deteriorates. Certainly becomes denaturalized. This is one of the first poignant  lessons of mature adulthood: change is the only constant.

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After reading Rebecca Solnit’s Unfathomable City and Wanderlust these past few weeks my attention’s been re-focused on the history of landscape as cultural narrative and on human modified landscapes a reflection of our cultural values. Or the dis/integration thereof. The 1975 photography exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” came to my attention this morning and I’ve since been web diving for information about the individual photographers who participated in this re-en/visioning of the traditional narratives of vast, wild, sublime American landscape. Their post-industrial, post-suburban, interstate sliced still lives of the land made subservient to human whim resonate deeply within my own assessment of what has changed everywhere we live in the past 50 years.

Frank Gohlke’s work should be known by anyone interested in contemporary interpretations of landscape. The following interview and retrospective slide show of the images he considers most significant nicely summarized his vision and intentions:

http://www.terrain.org/interview/28/

here today I’m editing & printing cityscapes and trying to design a promo postcard for the April show. Never was I much good at making choices and there are a lot of them to wade through, which photo, what dimensions, what to say, how much. learning as I go!  Thanks for stopping by the Driftless World.

Image

Hall Street, Brooklyn New York October, 2013

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Blog friends, sorry for the extended absence. A wedding, funeral, flood and Centennial celebration have all occurred in my world since I last posted. This weekend I go back to my beloved Cape May NJ for a memorial concert and celebration honoring the life of a dear friend, teacher, mentor & champion to 38 generations of students, gone too suddenly, too soon. A benefit raffle for the family will include the work of many of Paul’s students. I sent this image, taken at Sunset Beach which holds a thousand memories in itself. From our greatest grief we learn to look backward, forward and gain momentum to take flight once again.

for Paul Mathis

Where have we been, Where are we going?

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