28 February 2010

Of Monuments and Memorials

"The dead have no remedy in law; all they can do is haunt you"
Hilary Mantel
"Monuments differ in different periods. Each age has its own."
Phillip Johnson

While Theodore Gericault may recline in elegant splendor, palette and brushes in hand, surmounting his memorial, surveying his neighbors in Pere Lachaise's cemetery, here in the Hudson Valley anonymity and stolid muteness marks many a memorial.

Theodore Gericault

Two squared off blocks of stone, their inscriptions mostly washed away by time and rain, stand together as plain-spoken monoliths, family memorials of kin long-vanished from our community.  
Two Headstones, Stuyvesant

Others lean against themselves still displaying some local sculptor's vision of eternal grief in the bas-relief of urn and weeping willow. While Gericault has his 'Raft of the Medusa' as memorial to both his art and their lost lives, these simpler forms mark lives ended in the 1820's and 1830's - at about the same time that he died.

 In the Butler Cemetery, Stuyvesant Landing

And some lost cemeteries have all but returned to forest, their Civil War veterans' status noted by Grand Army of the Republic markers, but more often covered by the cast off leaves of the encroaching trees.

Abandoned cemetery in the woods


24 February 2010

The Two Landscapes/Les Deux Paysages

The few moments of communion with the world are worth the pain, for it is a world for others, an inheritance for others, a gift to others in the end. When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.
Anais Nin
What is it that has drawn my eyeto the vineyards of Bordeaux and the espalier of the dwarf apple trees of the Hudson Valley?

Barns and Orchards, Orchard Road
The Vineyard of the Chateau 'Le Clavier'

Or the monumental archetectures of Brooklyn and Paris? Their weight, their gravity?
And the persistence of nature: the last tree in Brooklyn and the skeletal dancers before the great Arc?

The Last Tree in Brooklyn

Arc de Triomphe from Av Foch

Though the cultural and historic differences of each region are abundantly clear, thers is much to find in the landscape that sees a similarity of purpose in design and intention to cultivate, arrange and domesticate an environment.

St Emilion from Rue Couvent

Gleason's Farm, from the Southwest

20 February 2010

Sing in me O Muse...

"To say to a painter that Nature is to be taken as she is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano"
James McNeill Whistler

"I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions."
Man Ray

Muses come in many forms. Each is a manifestation of visions received. Between the accidents of time and light, I never know what may strike the film. And will that energy be sufficient to leave more than a trace? And will the vision be compelling? Will it speak to me and what story will it tell?
Sing in me O Muse...

Zephyra II


Succubus II

Madonna and Child

15 February 2010

And portraits?...yes, and portraits...

“A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he’s being photographed.”  
Richard Avedon

“There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportions.” 
Francis Bacon

The effigies of the dead in mortuary stillness, their tombs, their inscriptions, are not the only portraits that interest me: these faces of the living, in their studied preoccupation with their encounter with the camera, the length of exposure, the stillness and concentration to record their likeness and what may result, the stories that they do not tell, but imply, these also inspire my work.
Jamie S. 
 Kristina K.
Mariette, in ecstasy
Diana B.

07 February 2010

Paris-Pere Lachaise Cemetery 2007

By means of an image we are often able to hold onto our lost belongings.
But it is the desperateness of losing which picks the flowers of memory,
binds the bouquet"

From some of the photographs made in Paris in March 2007 on a particular day in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the day happened to be Passover. At one point, in passing the memorial to the victims of Auschwitz, I took a stone, a flat stone, and placed it at the base of the memorial. It was one of the small flat stones that I carry in my bag to level out the base of the pinhole cameras as they sit on the tripod. It seemed to be the appropriate thing to do.
Oscar Wilde and his neighbor M. Papeil

Un Ange, au repos

Chopin's grave - Pere LaChaise Cem
Alfred de Musset

06 February 2010

Other Views... the familiar landscape of my town

“The real tradition of great things is not to re-do what others have already done, but to recapture the spirit of those great things and to recreate them in another time” Paul Valery

It may be apparent that I consider Atget a mentor.
And like him and many other photographers, we revisit things that we have photographed previously, sometimes as a conscious, intentional attempt to record the passage of time on objects and at other times by the simple habit of the daily to-an-fro. Proximity and happenstance, habit and occasion draw us past familiar locations or treasured points of view. Like Atget’s photographs of the corner of the rue de Seine and the rue de l’Echaude or any number of parks and petit coin, I pass by places familiar and yet ever changing. Here are some variant views of the local landscape.
       The Mills, Stuyvesant Falls

Scott Ice House Ruins, Nutten Hook
   Ice on the Hudson, Nutten Hook 
VanAlen House, c.1737

31 January 2010

Great thoughts stir within me at the sight of ruins

“Great thoughts stir within me at the sight of ruins. Everything gradually crumbles and vanishes. Only the world remains, only time endures… I am walking between two eternities.”
Denis Diderot
We are surrounded here in this area with the memories in the landscape of Henry Hudson’s exploration of this valley, of the remnants of the first industrial revolution and its dependence on water power and with the ruins of a bygone industry: ice harvest from the river. Water is everywhere in the landscape. No parched desert vistas here. The history of the last 400 years of this valley has been dependent on this element, and it has been plentiful. It is hard to make a photograph of the landscape from which it is missing. Here are some from the area near my home. 
Ice House Ruins, Nutten Hook
The Mills and Lower Falls, Stuyvesant Falls
VanAlen House
Ice on Trees, Lower Falls, Stuyvesant Falls

28 January 2010

Vernacular Monuments: the Barns and Farmsteads of Columbia County

Vernacular Monuments: the Barns and Farmsteads of Columbia County
Throughout the landscape of my county there is the evidence of a once thriving agricultural industry. While dairy farming is still the predominant land use, the vibrancy of construction is over. The age of great barn building is done. Farmers now, when they building anything at all, would more likely build bunker silos, poured concrete slabs with open raised walls, great scoops in the ground, than the cylindrical monolith of the standing silo. Whether wooden staved or ceramic block, flat capped or metal domed, these phallic eminences dot the hillsides and valleys; some still attached to a working barn, other as solitary sentinels guarding phantom farmsteads long lost to memory or sight.
These were the first subjects that I began photographing with pinhole cameras some years ago. They had the advantage of not moving, holding still for the long exposures, not like the livestock that moved around freely and so left but shadows in silver.
Here a few of these images.

Flag on a Barn, Stuyvesant Falls

Barn, County Route 20 (since demolished)

Two Topless Silos, County Route 9 & Ten Broeck Rd. Austerlitz
[published in the Photo Poche series in vol. 114 "Le Stenope" on pinhole camera photography, image #50]

Twin Barn and Pond, New Forge Road #2

24 January 2010

From the Luxembourg Gardens to Art Omi...

As Atget had his favorite places to photograph, I am thinking here of the Parc de Saint-Cloud, the Tuilleries, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Parc des Sceaux, I also have some favorite places, especially the sculpture park Art Omi in Ghent NY. It is only a few miles from my home here in the Hudson Valley. I have seen it grow from its initial installations of sculpture in landscape to a venue for music and writing retreats as well as site specific installations. Here are some images made there. 

23 January 2010

No Marker for Atget?

So I ask myself 'Paris, with a marker on every other old building... 'Mazarin's mistress farted here' or 'Stendhal's cousin caught the clap there' ... so why is there no marker at 17bis rue Campagne Primier? This was the home of Eugene Atget, the photographer of Paris par excellence! Successor to Baldus and Marville in the documentation of the great physical and social change going on in Paris, its destruction and re-invention and predecessor to Doisneau and Cartier-Bresson. A genius and either the last romantic or the first modernist, depending on your disposition, yet there is nothing to mark the home that he had for decades, just up the street from Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, a few paces from the Passage d'Enfer - one of my favorite street names in Paris. On my last trip back I made pilgrimage to see his home, at least from the street, and to record as he might have done a Parisian doorway. This is the portal that he passed thru so many times, lugging his heavy pack of camera,  plates and tripod from Montparnasse to the 'Zones', from Raspail to the Parc de Saint-Cloud.
So again I ask, why no memorial to one of the greatest of photographers in the city of which he is the formost photographic memoirist?

22 January 2010

More For The Paris Show

In addition to the image posted previously 'Fire Maiden' for the element Fire, there are three other images that will be presented at the Andre Malraux Cultural Center in LeBourget:


for Earth,  'Magna Mater, Fecundata et Horribilensthe Great Mother, Fruitful and Terrifying, bearing her machete to cut down what she has brought forth and nurtured, now ready to harvest.


for Air, "Zephyra" the West Wind, the carries us with a true course to the home port, resilient and steady breeze

and for Water, ' Lorelei', the singer of the mountain stream, murmuring within the spring torrent of the waterfall, between the solidity of rock and the cascade of the rushing flow. 
All the prints to be exhibited will be silver gelatin ans toned with sepia and selenium and are available in a limited edition of 12 1/2" images. Please write for price and availability

18 January 2010

Good news from Paris

Just got word today that work that I submitted for a show entitled "The Four Elements" has been accepted for the exhibition. This is the fourth year of the Exposition Internationale de Photographie sans Objectif at the Andre Malraux Cultural Center just outside Paris in LeBourget. I have been privileged to have had work in each of these exhibitions - don't know that it was intended to be an annual event, but it certainly has become one, and one of the leading European showcases for this particular, if somewhat peculiar (lets say idiosyncratic), way of doing photography. Under the curatorship of Marie-Noelle Leroy [ http://foto-grafik.blogspot.com/ ] it has gotten increasing attention from the French photographic press as well as articles about the shows in Le Parisien and Le Monde. It is truly an international event, with work coming from 4 continents and from some of the most noteworthy practitioners of stenope. Here is one of the images that I will have in the show. This is the element 'Fire'....More to come tomorrow.

17 January 2010

The First Post: 17 January 2010

So now I'm not the last photographer on the planet without a blog.
And what's this Mo-Ti's camera all about any way?
Mo-Ti [or Mo Di or Mozi (Mo-tzu) or "Master Mo"] was the first person that we know of who used light passed through a pinhole to form an image. He was a rival of Confucius and a teacher of universal love [ http://english.eastday.com/e/zx/userobject1ai4047534.html ]

This blog will be dedicated to my practice of what the French call Stenope, making photographic images without the use of glass lenses, in my case by using home made cameras constructed from aluminum cans and film boxes.
It was been my photographic practice for almost 20 years now, having all but abandoned lensed cameras in favor of the most simple, the most primitive instrument available to make as sophisticated an image as possible. This also coincided with the arrival of digital photography, how it was going to change the way photography would be done forever. Perhaps it was the innate Luddite in me, but my response was 'No By God! Wet photography forever'
[And now, almost a generation into the dominance of digitized imagery- yes, just what is it that you're looking at right now? We are seeing an increasing affection for the 'Noble processes' of light sensitive papers developed in chemical solutions]
To admit, even welcome, this revolution does not change the preference that some of us hold for the craftwork, the individual relationship to single prints made in the traditional wet-process method. So,this blog will present photographic prints originally made on silver gelatin papers and most often toned with sepia or sepia-selenium toners.
My interests encompass the barns and farmsteads of the rural county that I live in in the Hudson Valley of New York to portraits and nudes done in studio and in the landscape. All are for sale - prices upon request - and all are in limited editions. And as noted above all are printed on silver gelatin paper and toned with sepia-selenium to archival standards.

Your comments are welcomed.