Cuba is such a mix of feelings, colors, sounds smells. It is so visual, from the old buildings where even the decaying walls become works of art. It appears that most Cubans live on the upper floor, where as the lower level appears abandoned. Many of these photographs are interiors, or taken from the interior of a house, which gives a view of Cuba not so often seen.
When visiting Ireland last summer, I was surprised to be drawn so much to the history. From a tomb dating from 2000BC, to the castle of a pirate queen, to abbeys from the 12th century, still standing in fields like sentries; I love architecture, and design, and here were both. You come upon these buildings unannounced, sitting in the middle of a grassy field. There are no signs of contemporary life around, except maybe a small sign as you walk near that says the name and gives a little history. There are no guards or guides, and surprisingly no signs of vandalism. Some of the cemeteries at these ruins are still in use, so there are modern graves mixed in with ancient ones, and small stones indicating those who died in the famine of 1845. There was something overpowering in these spaces. The complexity of the construction: of the arches, and the frames of the stained glass windows, with the glass long gone, reflected great technical craftsmanship. There was a sense of peace in these buildings walking from room to room; thinking of the monks lived their whole lives in their own world. The rock walls hold their secrets. The continual weather changes and cloud formations add to the sense of mystery.
The Light you cannot see
Looking for new ways to make images, I became interested in alternative photographic processes. Although I always find myself attracted to a similar kind of subject matter: old abandoned buildings, and houses, things old and forgotten, I wanted new ways to see it. Infrared, photography shows the world in different ways. Infrared light is just beyond the visible spectrum, so the human eye cannot see it. You can have a camera converted to infrared, by having the sensor changed. When you are looking through the viewfinder it will look the same as always, but the camera will see it differently, so the result is always a surprise. I like the mystery.
When taking photographs using infrared cameras, we are exposed to a world that can often look very different from that we are accustomed to seeing. Colors, textures, leaves and plants, human skin, buildings and other objects can reflect infrared light in unique and interesting ways. The results are sometimes ominous, and sometimes, fanciful and airy. Skies become dark and clouds take on special emphasis. Sometimes the image appears grainy. Plants can appear light or white. I like the drama of these images in black and white. In this series I am looking both at both landscape and architectural subjects.
This is the beginning of a journey I hope to continue.
Both sides of the glass
I spend a lot of time walking in the city. I love looking at store window displays. The windows that attract me the most contain old objects with their rusted texture and patina of age, assembled in interesting arrangements. Whether the objects are related to each other or not, whether their placement is deliberate or random, the overall effect is captivating.
The longer I look, the more I am aware of the reflections of the town or city on the window. These images of today become superimposed on the display itself. The trees in the distance, the buildings across the street all add a complexity to the original tableau.
Edith's room, Crummett Mt Farm
A dear friend lived in Maine, she left life in Cambridge as a designer, and moved to rural Maine, 30 years ago. Just this fall she sold the farm and moved to Rhode Island. While in Maine, she raised sheep, and chickens. and had a huge vegetable garden. I have photographed her like here over the years. These are some early images. There was no electricity, but her house was high on a hill, and you could sit on the porch and see for miles. These pictures are mostly taken inside the house, where the juxtaposition of objects, were sometimes like little works of art.These are all as I found them, I did not move anything.
What came before?
I like the idea that some things change and evolve, by themselves, without interference from humans. For example the color of the ocean changes during the day, but buildings are more subtle and just wear away, day after day. My ongoing interest is in the impermanence of architectural deterioration and renewal. I like to see the patterns, and the textures. I have been drawn to the work of Paul Strand, Walker Evans and Edward Hopper, and in the way they matter-of-factly record a scene. Looking at William Christenberrys’ buildings sitting in an empty landscape, I ask why? A few years ago I saw a show of photographs by Stephen Wilkes, of the old hospital buildings at Ellis Island. I went back many times to look at it, amazed by the beauty he found in the decaying buildings.
Brick becomes weathered, but is more lasting than wood. The colors of brick often become warmer with age, but the shapes are less distinct. It is part of a cycle. Something is removed, leaving a new form below. Mortar slowly chips away, allowing the bricks to sit directly on top of each other. A repair to the mortar often leaves the bricks outlined in white, changing the look of the surface. Where brick has been wet, curved white lines appear at the edge of the dampness where the lime has seeped out.
In time plants take over the buildings, both furthering the deterioration and yet hiding it from view. Aging metal rusts, and changes to many colors and textures, copper trim on buildings changes to green.
Windows and doors become empty eyes into the darkness, or a view through out to the far side. If the light is right, they reflect back at the viewer, creating an inadvertent self-portrait.
San Miguel d' Allende
In the historic center of Sam Miguel there are an estimated two thousand doors, behind which there are at least two thousand courtyards of various sizes. Many of these have been restored to their former colonial state, with facades of ochre, orange and yellow, windows and doors framed by handcrafted ironwork and made of hewn wood. I was drawn to the colors. When I first arrived in San Miguel, it rained for 3 days, not the brilliant blue skies I had been promised. I was upset by this, for one thing, there are no raincoats for sale - because it does not rain at that time of year, so the hotel gave us trash bags to wear. It worked, with a hole cut for the camera. I realized when I looked at the images that the rain made all the colors more intense, and made for much more interesting photographs. Al the colors in the roads and sidewalks are gray and dusty when dry.
Oaxaca, and environs
Easygoing and vibrant, Oaxaca offers the best of southern Mexican charm, pairing lively festivals and entertainment with fantastic cuisine and unique cultural attractions. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a mix of cultures. The origins of the Mixtec and Zapotec cultures can be traced to the Monte Albán and Mitla archaeological sites, helping to pave the way for Oaxacan culture. Monte Albán was the capital city of the Zapotec nation, and one of the first and most populated Meso-American cities during its peak. Located in the centre of the Oaxacan Valley, Monte Albán, shown here, exercised political, economical and ideological control over other communities in the valley and surrounding mountains.
Today Oaxaca itself is vibrant, with beautiful churches, brightly painted buildings, and wonderful markets, and friendly people.
Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico
I am a fan of Tony Hillerman mysteries about the Navajo people, and their land, and this is it. It is near the edge of the big Navajo Reservation, and Shiprock.
I did a workshop about 6 years ago in the Bisti Wilderness, or otherwise known as the Bisti Badlands, in the 4 corners area of New Mexico near Farmington. Bisti is from a Navajo word, meaning among adobe formations. These are called hoodoos. Some are big, and many are very small. There is the feeling there of being in another world, and to me some of the photographs look like moonscapes. It is so quiet, and there is no evidence of any thing living in this harsh environment. The formations have resulted from erosion over thousands of years. And even in storms today, this landscape is always changing.
Olson House, Cushing Maine
The Olson house might be familiar to you from the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. He knew the family well, and painted the inside and outside of the house many times. It is in the background in his painting "Christina's World". Photography is no longer allowed inside the house, but it was allowed when these were taken, about 4 years ago. I loved the simplicity of the house and the way the light poured through the windows making patterns on the floor. The house is now owned by the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.
Boston Harbor Islands
I've lived in Boston for many years, but had only been out to the Harbor Islands a few times. Most of the islands are easily accessible from the Boston waterfront, by boat. This takes you to the Georges Island visitor's center. There you will find water taxis between the other islands. There are old forts and other ruins, beaches and campgrounds. I look forward to exploring more when the weather warms up.