Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Tiny Loss to Good Progress

In the past, my work has focused on what is fading from the landscape. But here is something not of what we usually think of as landscape. But it was once a common sight in interior landscapes. Less so now.

This will not be with us much longer. As we work hard to insulate our homes, replace old and rotting window frames in order to conserve energy and lower fuel costs, there is one small casualty.

Winter's frost on the window.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Broadband Advocacy

For purely selfish reasons (as well as normal ones) I welcome the latest AOA blogger: Dana Wigdor. Her blog, eVillage is tackling an issue dear to my heart and aggravating as hell, but which I as a photographer, could not find a way to work with artistically!

She's coming to grips with broadband accessibility in Vermont. Right now thinking about how it can have a tiny footprint. Or at least I hope she is--our projects are still in the germination stages.

As a photographer, among other activities, I contribute to a stock agency that requires the size of submitted images to be at least 48MB. This translates to a file size of anywhere between 8MB and 14MB that has to be uploaded. The pain of this on slow satellite (which is not even working in rain and snow) is excruciating. And, for this privilege I pay $50 per month!! This is the lowest service tier of three; I can't afford the higher ones. (And, I paid $200 to get it installed!)

I'm living with the windy promises of our governor, and various official folks who are quite pleased to be able to announce that 2010 or 2012 will see all of Vermont with broadband-- and this from an administration that also says it wants to bring clean industry to the State. Telecommuting is growing and clean, and we're definitely missing the boat--in fact we've already missed it and are simply hanging onto the gunwales.

I'm rooting for Dana, even against my own AOA self-interest. You go girl!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let's Get Down What We Want . . .

Two Pages in "Two Vermonts"

I've been plowing through Two Vermonts by Paul Searls and practically on every page wishing for concrete examples of just what uphillers or downhillers wanted at any given time. I would give a lot if Searls simply once defined authentically rural life!

And, on pp. 154-155 I at last found something quotable.

...Vermont's appeal to early-twentieth-century Americans lay in the degree to which outsiders perceived that the authentically rural life [...] described as extinct in fact survived.

...the downhillers' unilateral approach to achieving a "new Vermont" imperiled the very remnants of the way of life they praised as the source of Vermont's virtues. If they had wholly had their way, there would eventually have been nothing left to sell.

and finally this Vermont oxymoron

...Beautiful Vermont, a short book aimed at selling summer homes [put out by the State Board of Agriculture contained this quote:]" a scenic sense, Vergennes is superb." Therefore, "a great future awaits the capitalist or association of moneyed interests that decides to establish a big industry in Vergennes."

Postively schizophrenic. Now, and once again or perhaps, as usual, we are still messing about with this dichotomy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Birthday Present

I'm scared to death to write this, but I think maybe the half-day off I took on my birthday a few days ago to play with my model railroad, might actually have uncramped my brain.

Or maybe it's just something in the Vermont November air, because Elizabeth has also just announced she's found her way to a project.

Whatever. I just may have done so as well. It seems to be becoming a "what is, what was, what could be (ought to be)" consideration of the landscape. And, I'd better say that my approach to landscape is all-inclusive. Taft's Corners is just as much a landscape as is the glorious view of Mt. Mansfield from the top of Carroll Hill next to my back yard.

I think I still have an issue to resolve however. And it arises when I think about the pieces of our projects being sold. Being bought by someone who wants to hang art on their wall. I'm not at all sure I'd want some of my visual presentations of my ideas hanging on my wall!

Here's part of one "diptych":

I'm going to have to chew on this a bit.

Same Sunset - Two Artists!

This image (from an earlier post) is here again because of a wonderful coincidence.

I swear that this same sunset was photographed by David Kearns from the Firehouse Studio in Burlington, Vermont, just 30 miles south of me. David is not just another artist, but he is also, as I am, a finalist in the Vermont Arts Council and Lyman Orton's Art of Action Project in Vermont.

Here the link to his images of it that he displays in the small slide show that's second on the right of his page.

And here's my image (again):

Lost History Recovered!

Two exciting days in Fletcher, Vermont!

Yesterday I met with Charlie Tinker, our local genealogist, at the Town Clerk's Office to look at some of the 350 4 x 5 glass negatives that town residents have recently purchased. They will be and are the basis for the fledgling Fletcher Historical Society of Vermont. So far it's Charlie and me.

The negatives were stored in a Fletcher attic somewhere around 1910 or so, and then, some decades later were shoved out to a barn. Where they have remained until someone (unfortunately not a Fletcher resident) came across them when he was was asked to look at stuff in the barn for possible purchase.

Well, he got them, and now the residents of Fletcher have forked over $4,000 for them. They contain images of ancestors of many current Fletcher residents, images of buildings, farm animals (especially oxen), schools and school children, snowstorms, and heaven knows what else.

I've just finished pricing the necessary archival storage materials for them so that we can beg folks for more money. (Archiving them properly will cost about $300.)

They are currently wrapped in pulp paper, some of it actual newspaper--an archival nightmare. But, fortunately, they are almost all labeled with names AND dates. So, the old wrappings will have to be indexed as well. It is a large task, but thoroughly exciting.

Yesterday I photographed some of them in a makeshift manner, but scanning will be much better. Here's one of them from 1907.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finally: a lighter moment in this project!

This is an excerpt from today's Sunday NYTimes on the multiplying markets for commercial advertising. I've cut out the extraneous bits.

Hitt: Let me give you a scenario. I'm the somewhat desperate C.E.O. of a company called Jack's Overalls. We manufacture functional clothes, and in the era of corporate farming, our market is fading. My younger vice presidents are telling me that we need to try new media.

Bastholm: Well, we do have a ton of different new media and new ways to use them. But before we get there, I would suggest that first, you take a step backward and ask yourself, How do I make my brand relevant? Overalls are a staple of Americana, a cultural icon. The question is, How can you make overalls relevant to people today, and how can you use these different media channels to accomplish that?

Palmer: Your customers in the past have been farmers. Overalls are a commodity.

Very functional. And your market is shrinking.

Palmer: So you have to create a new market. Farming may be going away, but what's on the rise? Right now your overalls are made with special pockets and holders for farming tools. Maybe we retool them for urban farmers, as it were, and their specialized gear. You have special pockets for your iPhone and your BlackBerry, and a pocket for your headphones, another for your wallet, your subway card, your keys.

Bastholm: Let's really take the brand into the 21st century, shall we? Why don't we put a ShotCode on the front of every single pair of overalls. A ShotCode is like a bar code. You scan it with the camera in your cellphone. And then something comes out the other end. With bar codes, it's a price. But with a ShotCode, it could be a song, it could be a picture, it could be a link to a Web site.

Hitt: People would come up and shoot me with a cellphone?

At 5 a.m. this gave me a real chuckle. (Disclosure here: I wear overalls a lot, especially in the spring and fall.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Food for Thought

There's been a pause in this blog as I work on my proposal for the Vermont Arts Council Art of Action Project. That work also includes a blog, which is being updated far more than this one at the moment. See here.

But today, I stumbled upon this meaty piece by Andrew Keen about the Internet. It is, IMHO a must read.

Confessions of an Internet Iconoclast. You have to scroll down a bit to find it.

After reading it, I was reminded of my ever-so-often-recurring thought about television: it could have been such a wonderful thing.

Still, I am an IA (internet aficionado) and likely always will be. But, at the same time, I agree completely with Andrew!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Landscape and Responsibility

The following quote--though not specifically about Vermont, does give a broad view of historical "progress". (Italics are mine.)

By the end of the nineteenth century the majority of Americans were already living in towns and cities; the majority of Americans, that is, had pretty well broken their ties with the rural landscape and had begun to forget the role that the landscape had once played in the formation of their character and identity. I do not mean to imply that the new industrial order invariably meant a lowering of the quality of the environment of the average American. Quite the contrary: many small farmers and farm laborers were happy to exchange their exhausted acres and squalid houses for less strenuous work in a factory and a home in a company town. . . . Furthermore, the urban American found that all significant experiences, good or bad, now usually took place in the company of many other people, often strangers, and in environments owned or controlled either by the public authority or by a corporation: factory, office, or store; beach, park, or sports arena--environments for which the average citizen did not and could not feel any responsibility.

John Brinckerhoff Jackson, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, pp. 62-63.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More Stumbled on Stuff

I'm finding it truly amazing the Vermont bits I am

More Stumbled on Stuff

I'm finding it truly amazing the Vermont bits I am falling over as I research this project! But this one may beat all for its oddity:
Vermont Town Repeals Ban On Fortunetelling
ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP)-- . . . . Soothsaying might still be banned in some parts of the country, but St. Johnsbury has repealed the ordinance against peering into the future that it had on the books since 1966.
. . .
The ordinance had left little to chance, banning practitioners from telling fortunes or attempting "to reveal future events in the life of another or by means of occult or psychic powers, faculties or forces, clairvoyance, psychometry, spirit-mediumship, prophecy, astrology, palmistry, necromancy, cards, talismans, charms, potions, magnetism or magnetized articles or substances, oriental mysteries or magic of any kind or nature; to undertake or pretend to find or restore lost or stolen money or property, gold or silver or other ore or metal or natural product; or to undertake or pretend to unite, or reunite or to find lovers, husbands, wives, lost relatives or friends."

Full link here to the story which is on CBS3 online. (Note: the ban was repealed in July 2008.)

Perhaps We Need a Referendum Too?

Read this in today's New York Times Editorial Section:

Across the nation, voters approved $7.3 billion in new spending for parks and open-space preservation. Sixty-two of the 87 referendums to acquire or otherwise protect open space were approved. And the support came in rural, Republican areas, as well as in those that lean toward the Democrats.

Full editorial is here.

Especially called out were California, Florida, Minnesota, and if you can believe it, New Jersey.

New Jersey voters showed that they feel strongly about acquiring open space before it is all eaten up by strip malls and McMansions.

If Vermont doesn't figure out something soon, we may lose our edge in the new "Green" World.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going in Circles

I ran across this note in the Public Forum Notes from Chittenden County (on CD from Sarah) June 2008:

"Transportation is an issue. VT is very spread out – hard to get places. One person said even getting to Burlington from Essex Junction was difficult."

I'm scratching my head because I know that one of the two prime influences that changed Vermont in a major way some 40 years ago was the construction of I-89. The change came because by means of the highway, it was EASY to "get off the farm"--to commute to Burlington for the job market.

Maybe our art should consist of medieval wheel of fortune images? With some regularity it seems the same issues rise and fall in some mystifyingly structured order.

Are we condemned to always have the same history repeating itself for each generation?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Troubled Thinking: My Ball and Chain

The pause in the blog resulting from my laser eye surgery, was maybe a good thing. I think I've come to terms with why I'm having such difficulty with this project. And, ironically, the reason is the same one that made me want to apply. What got me here now seems like a ball and chain.

As long as I read the several books I have going and keep on taking notes, I'm fine. Whenever I start to think visually and viscerally, I short circuit. And, this picture represents the reason for that disconnect.

This was my field, my mother's field, my Aunt Eula's field, my grandmother Clara's field, and my great-grandfather's field. He bought this land in 1867. My grandmother was born in 1865. The cluster of trees on the far right surrounds and now encases a large rock ledge. My Aunt Grace died on that ledge one morning in 1925 when a blood clot moved and struck her heart. My parents built a shack there in the 1930s. My cousin Brenda and I played there often in the late '40s and early '50s. And, until 1969 or so, that was where all the detritus from the farm was dumped. Most of it now gone back to earth, except for bigger pieces of iron, and the glass.

To survive and keep what few acres remain of the family land, I had to sell this field last December. Right in the middle of this image, there will be a house next year. And, as far as the Art of Action project goes, I have not been able to get past this image. It, me, and my family history so clearly and strongly illustrates one of Vermont's on-going issues while causing me real pain, that I can't find my way forward. But I will keep trying.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Short Hiatus Here

I had non-elective laser surgery on my right eye yesterday and it seems likely to be couple of days before things are back to being better. Thought I could put up a new post with images, but that proved too much.

So, have to do the things with deadlines. I simply can't imagine anyone have such stuff done to their eyes JUST so they wouldn't have to wear glasses. Boggles my mind!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vermont Infrastructure Rant

These images, taken this past September, are "lovely" indicators of the state of rail travel in Vermont. The first one is a view of the Amtrak Passenger Station as you approach from the parking lot. The second is a closeup of the station sign, which perfectly illustrates the current state of rail travel: neglected and underfunded.

As an interesting aside to do with post-9/11 "security issues" there is this:

Because I live about 14 miles from St. Albans, but want very much to photograph freight trains, I inquired at the NECR office about the freight schedule. No dice. Forbidden to give out freight schedules. So, I left and went about shooting, including the first in this post. As I walked up to the door of the Amtrak station, there, for all to read, was the schedule of the daily Amtrak passenger trains! Save the goods and to hell with the people.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Farmers "disappeared" by Census Bureau

Read this somewhere recently and can only conclude that I must have read it after I was in bed and without my notebook.

Apparently, in 1990, the word "farmer" was removed from the occupations list of the U.S. Census Bureau and replaced with "agricultural worker".

That should have cut all Vermont farmers to the quick, and likely did when they found out about it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Model for Development

The image is from Vermont Images in the FSA-OWI Collection-1935-1945.

It is by Arthur Rothstein and is of a garage owner sitting in his garage in Cambridge, Vermont which has been converted from a blacksmith shop. It was shot in the later 1930s. Talk about your small footprint! Horses and shoeing have gone to pasture, and automobiles have taken to the roads. Same building, same "industry" and yet development with the changing times and without encroachment.

I am drawn to photographing the magnificent, but decaying barns that once were part of small Vermont farms, which of course has led me to think about abandonment in all its forms. And, the other day, a friend of mine commented on the new Lowe's store that has been recently built on Shelburne Road. She said that about a mile closer to Burlington there are large abandoned buildings near the K-mart store.

There must be infrastructure in those buildings--wiring, plumbing, drainage, concrete cellars, or at least a platform. Surely we can develop of kind of "Revival" architecture. Just as we commonly site new building projects within the existing landscape, why can't we consider that an abandoned building IS part of the existing landscape (as it surely is) and create a design that incorporates it?

Vermont's Future

Vermont's development as a recreational region affords the most promising opportunity for business growth in the state at the present time, and so far as can be foreseen, for a considerable period in the future . . . . The whole subject should be approached in a hardminded, intelligent, . . . spririt.

Interestingly enough, the above quote is from The Vermont Commission on Country Life, published in Rural Vermont (1931).

Let's see, that's 77 years ago. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Footnote on Roads

If you've ever attended a small Vermont Town Meeting, you will be aware that a sizeable chunk of that meeting was likely taken up by a discussion of road maintenance. The following excerpt from George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature (NY: 1864) will clearly explain the reason for this.

Friday, November 7, 2008

YAS = Yet Another Sunset/Sunrise

I just can't let go of these. The color creeps into my peripheral vision at the end of day through my southwest window as my computer work is coming to an end. I look, and then grab the camera on my way out the studio door. And, so with this one, I finally gave in and uploaded it to Alamy. And, there it will sit, no doubt with the other gazillion sunset/sunrise images. It is, and will remain, the only brazenly obvious sunset image in my stock image collection.

Also, I've started another, very specific blog. It is a chronicle of my thoughts, experiences, excitement, and angst as I create, prepare, and finalize my proposal for the Art of Action project for Lyman Orton and the Vermont Arts Council. I figured it deserved its own blog, rather than having bits scattered among the general visual stuff here.

Why wolf trees will be scarce

In my previous post I described a wolf tree. The image here provides a visual explanation of why wolf trees will be and are in short supply in Vermont. Fields that might have previously been abandoned for all the years needed to surround the wolf tree with second growth forest, are already sold as building lots. If there was a tree in the field, the best we can hope for is that it wasn't sitting where the "best house site" was. It might then have a chance of survival.

As fast as land ceases to be farmed, it is sold. Piece by piece. Acre by acre. Field by field.

Of course there will be development and growth. But, should it be two miles out from the urban area? Or six, or eight? When will the road between Fairfax and Fairfield cease to be a road and be reborn as a city street?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Study in Brown & a Wolf Tree

And then this:

I learned from Anne Whiston Spirn's book, The Language of Landscape, that there is such a thing as a "wolf tree". It is a tree that grew in an open, tilled field. It was left alone when the field was created. At that time it was not a wolf tree, but rather, just a tree.

After the field was left untilled, unfarmed, uncared for, the vegetation that had been kept at bay by plowing or haying, began to reclaim the field. As years passed, tree seeds fell on the field, from the wind or birds and began to grow. As is typical of new growth, they grew up straight. As they grew, they came to surround the old tree.

The new growth, untended, resulted in the tall, straight trunks with foliage at the top to get the light. At eye level there are none of the huge, horizontal branches that we see in the old tree.

So, there, in the middle of the skinny, new forest growth, is the very old tree, with its very old branches, large and horizontal, looking nothing like its new neighbors. And, now, its new growth grows upward rather than outward, because it too is fighting to reach the light.

New Blog for the Art of Action Project

Ideas are wildly careening in my brain and I'm setting up this blog, separate from my Photography blog, in order to help myself corral ideas that are, as Stephen Leacock famously said, "galloping off in all directions".

Being selected as a finalist in the Vermont Arts Council's Art of Action (AOA) project supported by Lyman Orton, has completely upended my visual life over the last month and will continue to do so at least until the end of January.

I realized that AOA bits were appearing piecemeal in my photography blog and thought they deserved better.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OT: Speaking of Light--as Photographers Do

NOVEMBER 4, 2008

We finally turned the light on again in this benighted country. Let's hope it shines into all the dark corners. The last eight years have created so many.

Clair Dunn
U.S. Citizen

Just thought I'd write that to see what it feels like to admit again that I am one.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Art of Action Update: Sans Art

Just read a fellow finalist, Elizabeth Torak's latest post here, and was happy to find I had company in my state of critical mass. Everything that passes into my brain now goes through the "AOA filter". Unfortunately it's not exactly a semi-permeable membrane. Rather it seems like the huge grates that stop logs upriver from where they are not supposed to get. Which means of course, that almost everything gets into my brain.

So far rolling around is Priscilla Paton, Edwin Smith, William F. Robinson (TWO bloody books) and, Spirn on the Language of Landscape. Unfortunately, her writing style leaves something to be desired, so that's a tough row to hoe.

You will note there is no image in this post. I, like Elizabeth, am, at the moment entirely "imageless". This may be the first time I've cursed my excellent academic background.

But, I am driven to read, to note things of note, which by now are all over the map and in absolutely no order in my notebook. I'm just afraid I'll forget what was triggered if I don't write it down.

An so it goes -- and right now, I can only go with the flow. I just want to read, though I wish there were four of me. (That's the number of books I've got going.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fluorescent Lights & B/W Prints

This is a small rant.

  • 1. I try to conserve energy as much as possible.

  • 2. I have replaced all tungsten bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.

  • 3. I cannot now judge my prints in my studio after dark.

I've faked the results for you in these two images. The first is the image as it appears in daylight or with normal tungsten bulbs. The second is how the image appears under fluorescent lighting. Mine or in the gallery. (And there is no significant difference between Kodak Lustre and Fuji Pearl.

This drives me nuts. Some chemistry/optics genius needs to invent a fluorescent resistant photographic paper.)