27 December 2009

Discovery: Abandoned Mill, CT

While driving with a friend in Connecticut, I saw an old mill set back quite a distance from the road. Surrounded by a chain-link fence, the blaring orange NO TRESPASSING signs did little to welcome passersby. My friend's sister recalled that this old mill was soon to be torn down. 

If that wasn't enough of an invitation to check it out, nothing would have been. Camera in hand, I walked the periphery around the fence to find that a gate had been left open. In I slipped to find an entire complex of buildings--some in good shape, some merely  exoskeletons. The ones that remained in tact were all boarded and locked up; the only way to get in was through a broken window pane...

The interior, a long vast space of columns and painted brick walls, still housed many of the old machines and wire from the industrial period. The light was dim but remarkable, diffused through windows tarnished with the sediment of a hundred years. 

I snapped away. Here are some of the images:

Turns out that the complex is the site of the former Gilbert and Bennett wire manufacturing company. It began in the early 1800's as a horsehair processing plant (read more here if curious), but when the company owners realized the inefficiency of the material, they turned instead to wire. From here, wire cloth was born, and continued to be manufactured, until the company's closure in 1989. The following image of the complex was taken in the 1920s:

Very interesting stuff.


22 December 2009

"As a child, I seem to have been attracted to forbidden places."

The Fall 2009 issue of Aperture Magazine featured an incredible series called Urban Archaeology by photographer Andrew Moore, documenting the "surreal decay" of the city of Detroit.

In a 2007 interview, Moore said:

I have to admit that one of the aspects of being a photographer I enjoy most is the opportunity to play both detective and spy. As a child, I seem to have been attracted to forbidden places. It actually got me into quite a bit of trouble later when I was a teenager...

Moore's series of images each function as sensitive portraits of places, prompting the viewer to consider a range of elements that, when shown together, contribute to an expressed sense of identity. Head over to his website to see his work!

Here is a sneak preview of some shots from his "Russia" series:

19 December 2009

This holiday season...

don't get stuck in the kitchen! 

(unless, of course, you love to cook).

12 December 2009

Food for thought...

Inspired by a recent project at UVM, Keith Petri, President of the Skidmore College Photography Club (of which I am a member), carried out the production and sales of the Skidmore Spur, a nude club calendar, to raise funds to be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Featuring a photo of a new college club for each month of the year, objects were placed strategically to conceal private parts. So far, calendar sales have generated over $5000 in revenues, and the club anticipates even more.

Hunkey-dorey and everybody leaves happy, right? Not exactly. After seeing the calendar, the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation rejected the Photography Club's donation of $5000, claiming that they were not willing to accept monies procured by such racy means. The average cost to fulfill a child's 'wish' is approximately $7300. In rejecting the Photo Club's donation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation chose to refuse funds that would pay for the greater cost to fulfill the wish of one child. The Photography Club is now looking to donate the revenues to a different cause.

In thinking about the recent events, I am reminded of a project I encountered while studying abroad. In Sicilia (southern Italy),  properties seized from the Mafia are being redistributed to young farmers and entrepeneurs. As quoted from this article, the goal is to "create employment and give honest Sicilians a chance to benefit from estates once controlled by Sicily's most notorious criminals."

It is important to draw a distinction here between what has transpired with the Photography Club, and with the redistribution of lands in Sicilia. The Skidmore Spur project has no smatterings of malfeasance at any point in its history; its pure aim is to help a worthy cause. Conversely, in Sicilia, former iniquities are being transformed into opportunities for positive growth. Given the recent turn of events, the situation with the Make-A-Wish Foundation is undoubtedly more controversial. 

Nevertheless, we are brought to the question...Should a charitable organization reject donations based on the means by which these funds were acquired?  Do such rejections hinder the ability of the organization to effect positive change?   

Check out the NBC coverage:

11 December 2009

Image: Selected Work!

This image from a series I shot in the style of William Eggleston has been selected and is now featured on the Skidmore Photo Blog, alongside some great student shots. It was taken at a diner in Cohoes, NY. Head over to check it out!

06 December 2009

Recommendation: Ólafur Arnalds

The past few years have seen the genesis of some really incredible music by emerging minimalist composers, who have continued faintly in the style of artists such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. One such composer is the Brazilian Andrei Machado. His slowly unwinding album Lacuna from 2008 features gentle, atmospheric piano strokes. His more recent release, Étant, is also an incredible listen. 

One of the most phenomenal contemporary minimalist composers of today (according to me) ironically began as a drummer for a hardcore metal band in Iceland. Sometime around 2007, Ólafur Arnalds dropped his drumsticks and instead focused his abilities on composition. In 2009, he produced Found Songs--each day, for seven days, composing a new piece and posting it online for free. One of his listeners put together the following video for the song of day 7, Ljósið:

You can get the album on vinyl for £13 from Erased Tapes.

Enjoy   : ) 

04 December 2009

Ken Burns Event!

For all those of you who live in or will be anywhere near to Manchester VT in mid-December,  this may be of interest to you:

On December 15th at 7pm, Northshire Bookstore will be featuring Ken Burns. You have likely heard all about National Parks: America's Best Idea (especially if you listen to NPR), a PBS documentary series directed by Burns on the history of America's parks. Tickets are $50 and include a copy of the accompanying book (a very good deal- it sells for $50 anyways). This event will be happening at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester, VT. Purchase tickets here.

Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background - rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

 Burns (right) with cinematographer Buddy Squires

To those of you who can't make it...Be jealous :


We got the first hint of snow in Saratoga Springs this week, and I am hoping that the clouds might be inspired to drop some more (even as winter winds down each year, I still wish for another snowfall). Though the snow is actually melting, the following video is a lovely little piece of claymation work:

Happy Friday!

    29 November 2009

    The Mushy Apple: An Unfortunate Snacking Experience

    Don't be fooled!

    We all have certain things we simply DO NOT enjoy. There are few that rate so highly on my list as biting into a deceivingly delicious-looking apple, only to find that instead of a great crunch, you are instead met by a sensation somewhat similar to that felt while eating mashed potatoes. This is great if you are eating mashed potatoes, but not apples; people seem to generally agree with me. As a daily apple-eater, I have had this experience far too many times. 

    However terrible we all might consider the formerly described snacking experience to be, I do have a particular friend who prefers a soft apple [GASP]. I know, I know, I don't get it either; as she is the founder and an executive member of the GWU Food Justice Alliance, this seems like blasphemy. I think Juliana (aforementioned friend) receives more complimentary bags of apples than anybody else I know, and this is a big deal coming from someone who used to work at an orchard (i.e., me). I put up with this strange preference, though I must admit that watching her bite into the mush evokes in me a feeling similar to that experienced when hearing nails scraped on a chalkboard. 

    After all this slander, I ought to let you know about Jules' project with the Food Justice Alliance, so be sure to check that out (and possibly copy her?)

    In conclusion, I wish a crispy apple for each and every one of you. Well, with one exception...

    22 November 2009

    Fill your life with [bake]light!

    Which came first: photography or plastic? Would you know...it's photography! 
    (first photo ever taken, 1826 by Nicéphore Niepce...what a name)
    "The first man-made plastic was created by Alexander Parkes who publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material called Parkesine was an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded, and retained its shape when cooled." (quoted from Mary Bellis's History of Plastics)
    However, Charles Goodyear (tires, anybody?) invented the first rubber in 1839; this material can safely be called a precursor to plastic. 1839hmm... isn't that the year that Sir John Herschel coined the term photography, and the medium became available to the public?

    Imagine what cameras (and other things) were made of before the days of lightweight synthetics and faux metallic finishes?!

    From Parkesine, we went to the dense and heavy celluloid. (Fun fact: in the process of trying to find a material other than ivory from which to make billiard balls, John Wesley Hyatt spilled a bottle of collodian. With a couple of steps after to perfect the process, this accident gave birth to the first type of flexible camera film!) 

    Just before the turn of the century, people started experimenting with formaldehyde resins, resulting in the invention of bakelite. (I have mentioned items made of bakelite twice on this blog: first, the clock I found in Cohoes that needs the cord replaced, and more recently, the Argus camera my mom picked up in Montreal) 

    Today, we live in a world of easily crunchable Poland Spring bottles, papery shopping bags, Silly Putty, Rubbermaid containers, and Gladware. Are we really as Glad as the lady on the commercial?

    What I am getting at here is that the vast majority of consumer plastics of today generally...suck. There are exceptions of course, but most of the material used in the creation of mass-market items will eventually become a problem as future uses have not been considered by the manufacturer. Actually, it is a huge problem already- most forms of plastic take over 1,000 years to decompose, and spend the majority of that time dormant in landfills. Care to build a home for your happy family on this sexy pile of garbage? 

    Please, do not be mistaken! Great new plastics ARE being produced. For instance, PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable material made of fermented plant starch, and has been showing up on the consumer market in forms ranging from foam, to electronics, to disposable silverware.

    Nevertheless, part of the problem here is that as a culture, we are so attached to convenience that we have incorporated a myriad of disposable items into the very fabric of our lives. And, as you may have noticed, we are really paying the price

    I have a challenge for you! Next time you are tempted to pick up a set of summery plastic plates at Target, DON'T. Pass up the dorm lamp with multiple bendable bulb arms and temptingly colorful bulb covers. You can get awesome old plates at junk shops; if that doesn't appeal to you, pay for eight good ones you really like rather than some crappy ones here and there as you need them. You can also make a lamp out of almost anything, and outfit it with your own lampshades. Check out this recent book by Judy Lake, the official Lampshade Lady (she happens to be a family friend...a number of the shots are taken at my house in VT). 

    You can change other things, too, not only your lamps and plates. You don't need everything, all at once! Buy stuff of higher quality, in lesser quantities.

    *It seems like those indie kids might be 
    onto something with the vintage shopping...

    Check out this innovative use of post-consumer plastic bottles to make light fixtures; this concept won the  People's Choice Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

    Be critical of the stuff you use! It shapes the environment you live in on so many levels. 


    Had a little too much fun altering these hotly profound quotes about light. I found them on cheesy quote websites that definitely helped me see the deeper meaning of the universe. I think my three favorites are by Mother Theresa, Helen Keller (automatic win no matter what), and Maurice Freehill.
    Words that do not give the [bake]light of Christ increase the darkness. Mother Theresa 
    Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the [bake]light. Helen Keller 
    Live in rooms full of [bake]light. Cornelius Celsus
     I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the [bake]light that I have. Abraham Lincoln
    Who is more foolish, the child afraid of dark or the man afraid of [bake]light?  Maurice Freehill 
    Truth, like [bake]light, blinds. Albert Camus
     To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the [bake]light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue. Buddha
    It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the [bake]light. Taylor Benson 
    When you possess [bake]light within, you see it externally.  Anaïs Nin
    [Bake]light houses are more helpful than churches. Leonard Cohen

    Which are your favorites? 

    Crooked Spectacles!

    Do you empathize?

    I know I do. It happens to the best of us.

    Also, isn’t crooked spectacles a great double entendre? Check out this hilarious and very crooked spectacle!

    Just out of curiosity, I decided to quiz my word processor as to the definition of ‘double entendre.’ Here’s what it thinks:

    dou·ble en·ten·dre n 
    1.            a remark that is ambiguous and sexually suggestive    
    2.            ambiguity in which one meaning is sexually suggestive

    Really, Microsoft Word? Get your mind out of the gutter. ALERT: this program might be crooked. :-)


    Check out this camera that my mom picked up this weekend at a Salvation Army in Montreal! It's the Argus model M, made of bakelite. In 1939, it sold for $7.50. Check out this original ad in LIFE magazine (also note the curious article on the opposing page...) Vraiment fabuleux...bonne chasse, maman!

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