Posts Tagged ‘rural’

We drove over to Muscoda on Hgwy 133 Saturday to go to St Vincent’s Thrift Shop. I knew there were several sites / sights in this small river town that I wanted to frame and to think over. Memorial Day weekend always gets my attention anyway. Makes me mindful of what gets taken for granted in the backgrounds of our daily routines. There are the buildings, commerce, highway, past and present colliding. The road signs to tell us where we’re at. And then there’s the flag(s) speaking louder than anything else this weekend.
Here’s a couple of shots taken downtown at the intersection of Hgwy 133 & SR 80; I was testing smaller f-stops, using a remote release with the camera tripod-mounted and longer exposures, ISO 100. One’s “as shot”, the other’s post processed to adjust contrast and saturation. I need a better monitor for editing; this laptop’s color profile was balanced with a Spyder Pro, but I’m still not convinced that I’m seeing what I need to. Would appreciate knowing what they look like to you. Cheers.

Memorial Day weekend, downtown Muscoda, WI

Memorial Day weekend, downtown Muscoda, WI

Memorial Day weekend cruiser,  Hgwy 80 & 133

Memorial Day Weekend cruiser, Hgwy 80 & 133


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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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wpid-20140313_193317_LLS.jpgUnder the influence of the 1980’s book New Topographics…phone camera no editing




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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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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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Quicksnap with G4 phone during my evening walk yesterday when our air temperatures climbed briefly into the high 20s, before beginning their arctic descent.  -25 overnight with windchills to -50 through Tuesday. Upside is that the photogenic blanket of snow will be sustained and hoarfrost ice crystal formations are imminent, especially when fogs roll in as temperatures climb 40 degrees into mid 30s by this weekend. Patiently waiting & editing now while Mama Nature sets her stage

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Ellenboro I

Farm pasture near Ellenboro WI, peaceful, alive, life-giving.

In posting this image I am also thinking of a blog I found yesterday, its content the antithesis of this peaceful, healthy landscape which floods me with gratitude. In April, 1986 I was a 25 year old college grad from New Jersey. Seven years earlier in 1979 we had experienced the scare of a lifetime when the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- about 80 miles north of us–  sustained a partial core meltdown that could have irradiated the Delaware River Valley and changed life for many of us forever. Thankfully, the reactor vessel was not breached, and the radiation remained caged. We were lucky.

People living in the Ukraine region of the USSR were not so fortunate in 1986 when a safety test run amok caused reactor #4 at Chernobyl to explode with enough force to blow the fuel containment lid off of its radioactive core, releasing mass quantities of deadly Uranium and Plutonium isotopes. People not understanding the threat stood on rooftops awed by the iridescent plumes shooting up from the reactor. The radioactive half life of plutonium-239 is 24,000 years. Chernobyl, Priapet and other cities and towns within a vast area of Russian farmlands were rendered “hot zones, “uninhabitable for generations, their residents exiled. The story is heart-wrenching, unthinkable, unforgivable and should have served as warning enough to end-stop the fantasy of clean nuclear power.  The narrative, photos and testimony at Elena Filatova’s decade old blog elenafilatova.com bears witness to the consequences of misplaced faith in the omnipotence  of technology when the stakes are highest.

Fast forward 20 years to Fukushima, Japan, 2011: by some accounts, because its 3 damaged reactors remain active and unstable, the Daiichi plant potentially presents a far greater threat than Chernobyl’s burned-out sarcophagus. Although  faded from headlines and public opinion in the west, Fukushima’s story is still unfolding.  Lesson not learned.

The tendency has been to forget about these painful events because they sear our hearts and conscience, or seem surreal, far removed in space and time;  or because they evoke feelings of utter powerlessness we surrender hope and rage and walk away. Numb. I urge that we do not and instead work to ensure that these events are not forgotten.  So that in bearing witness alongside those whose lives have been and continue to be decimated in Russia and Japan, we exercise our responsibility to say enough is enough, no so called progress is worth this scale of destruction across space and time. Who will ensure the integrity of Chernobyl’s sarcophagus in 2386?  There is no alternative water to drink or air to breath. There is no antidote for excessive radiation exposure or the cancers and genetic mutations it engenders, silently corrupting and killing present and future generations.  Chernobyl’s first responders had zero chance of survival. Think on these unadorned facts and visit Elena’s blog. We need 7 generations’ worth of common sense, not rocket science to cultivate our human future on this one and only planet.

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