This piece will introduce a new category, one with an overly long and confusing title that definitely requires pruning:Solitary dwellings, abandoned structures and other unattended human artifacts photographed within the greater landscape.
At the moment, I can’t think of a shorter way to say it, and if you have suggestions for a more truncated one – by all means post a comment.
Why put photographs into such a category in the first place? I’m not exactly sure, other than the fact that when I go back and look at what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years, obvious patterns emerge. I find myself peering through a camera at the lonely stuff we left behind; and if we hadn’t left it behind then there was probably no one home:
…a miners’ cabin in Eckley Pennsylvania…a capsized boat in Springs…an abandoned Chevy truck on the plains of Colorado…the desolate corral in southern Utah…a house with a tin roof in North Carolina…the house with the red roof in Québec.
The list goes on and on even though I never set out to perform variations on a theme. I guess it just happened that way. Perhaps it’s because I take the pictures and the patterns take care of themselves.
Finding myself in front of the solitary houses was the beginning of the process. Next came the postures – how the stuff posed, where it was positioned relative to the camera. In each instance there was a right combination of things that evoked the desired mood. For photographers, it can occur without warning. Things come together and you’ve arrived at your picture – and when that happens it feels something like it did back in middle school the first time you pulled open your combination lock. It’s why I like this job.
Again, the patterns: A lonely house leashed with a power line. An abandoned home beneath the complex geometry of a storm. One hundred and fifty years ago a photographer no doubt discovered that by shifting his position a few feet to the left, he set his picture ablaze with mood. This is key. With my own work, the moods have varied over time but hopefully not too much. If I’ve been doing my job right I’ve just wanted the pictures to speak of simple things:
Solitude, detachment and fluidity. If a photograph of a house is able to convey something timeless, that’s wonderful. But if it also suggests something about the passage of time, then that is a picture with a taste for one of our finest paradoxes. Sometimes my pictures have gotten there but others have fallen short. All honest photographers know there’s luck involved.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting more of this work – photographs of the lonely stuff out there in the landscape.
I’ve come up with a shorter title: