Thursday, July 24, 2014

Until I feel ready to resume the Kingsley project, I will continue to look for other stuff to photograph here.  I've had the best luck along one particular drive that also brings me to the plantation road. It makes me a bit twitchy to drive past it,  but I'm forcing myself to wait while my imagination incubates what to do next there.   These two were made within a mile or so of each other.  It seems the best 'scapes here usually involve sky and water.  But sometimes, there are trees that compel a photograph as well.








Friday, July 11, 2014

Two things happened to me in the last two days that have had an impact.  One was a Charlie Rose interview with Sally Mann in which she demurred having talent, but acknowledged having tenacity.  To that end, she declared a willingness to rephotograph a subject as many times as it took to get it 'right', and then persistence in the darkroom to realize the best the good negative could surrender.  The second was the purchase of two monographs.  The first was 'here far away' by Pennti Sammallahti, and the second was Wynn Bullock, 'Revelations', a retrospective.  Their impact was to smack me upside the head about what it takes to 'make a picture', rather than render a negative.  Without Photoshop, these traditional artists bring drama and dynamic tension to what would be very ordinary images by intense burning and dodging.  Sometimes those techniques are so subtle you don't notice they've been applied, but the success of other images is entirely due to those blatant manipulations.

I'm in a learning process with the slave cabin pictures.  I need them to be much more dramatic, and that's not easy given what they are in reality.  Here are two that I've pushed to the edge of credibility, although they still look less than I want them to.  So, I may have to rephotograph the lot in a different way.  Tenacity and patience are the crucibles of progress. 






Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When the Kingsley slave cabins were inhabited, the area around them, and all the acres beyond were cleared for cultivation.  The riotous growth of flora in the interval from then until now is astonishing to a northerner who is accustomed to slow growth, and a minimal understory.  One would expect clutter, but whole forests of trees risen as these are is a phenomenon new to me.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Standing in one of these cabins on a hot, sunny day becomes very uncomfortable very quickly.  This is one of only a couple of frames I exposed last week when I preferred to stay in the shade and make photographs from a distance.  If I used a digital camera I suppose I'd be much less choosy about what to photograph, and 'shoot' a great many more frames.  But, with film, I take a lot of time to select subjects.  Despite the heat and glare, I took a while with this one. My shirt was wet when I walked away to seek relief under the shade trees nearby. 



Friday, June 27, 2014

More by accident than design, I drove to Kingsley chasing some gorgeous clouds and found myself stopping instead at the cabins even though I promised myself I wouldn't.  The weather is hotter than it was in May, but the light is still about the same...bright sun, and strong shadows, so I hadn't much expectation of anything looking different.  As I was inclined to stand in the shade, I chose to regard the cabins from a distance (although I also got into one and made some exposures there too.)  It's taken a long time to decide to include some of the contemporary settings for these buildings...particularly a palm tree or two, but they're there, so they need to be photographed.  The forested image is similar to one I've posted earlier, but different enough to present.  In the end, if I can only choose one, it will be nice to have several to pick from. 




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I am no fan of palm trees.  In fact, I think they're rather ugly, and I am eager to fell the one that inhabits our front lawn in favor of a deciduous or some such leafy tree native to this area.  But, being the true softie that I am, I wouldn't take down our palm tree without regret.  And, when I come across one living a solitary life, I feel a degree of compassion.  Go figure!



Friday, June 13, 2014

As I've not yet lived here for one full year, I can't anticipate seasonal weather patterns as I could in New York.  But when there's 'weather' other than relentless sun, it's pretty compelling.  These three photographs are from the same roll as yesterday's post.  The first two were made as a storm was gathering, and the third as it cleared from my immediate area.







Thursday, June 12, 2014

These photographs are the first in my respite from the Kingsley project.  Oddly, they were taken on the road that leads to the plantation, but not because I was going there.  However, that road is more interesting to me than any other I've discovered in this overgrown landscape with its impenetrable  jungles, and flat terrain that doesn't provide even minimally elevated points of view.  As looking to the land is so unproductive, looking to the sea and the sky is crucial, and celebrating interesting trees is a daily quest.







Thursday, June 5, 2014

I think it may be time to give the Kingsley project a rest.  I could easily burn more film there, but a lot of those photographs would be tiresomely repetitious.  As I've never done a project like this, I'm curious to discover how patience and percolation will inform it when I return.  It may require the light of a different season, or a lot of rain, or longed for fog, or human presence to stimulate new images that are different enough to be included.  In fact, I just discovered that descendents of the enslaved residents of the plantation are well known to the NPS people who maintain the place, and they attend various commemorations and ceremonies that are held there.  Meeting some of them would be a huge thrill whether or not they ever were photographically a part of this work. Here are a final two for a while that I took on June 1st.






Saturday, May 31, 2014

The range of textures among these cabin remains is extreme.   These restored walls have been stuccoed with a material made from sand and oyster shell based lime.  The National Park service (using volunteers, I think) has done some wonderful work with a few cabins whose walls now look as they likely did when new.  The lintels are impressive, too, as I think they may have been hand hewn at least somewhat after being sawn.  They look authentic anyway.   Originally, the windows would have had wooden shutters to keep out as much nasty weather (and flying critters) as possible. Sooner or later I'll make an appointment with the person in charge of the plantation to get my facts checked, although I've read enough to believe I've been fairly accurate. 






Thursday, May 29, 2014


As strong and durable as tabby is, it is perpetually vulnerable to vegetation that so easily finds a foothold on its rough texture, and organic composition.  This is the only plant I've seen on any of the walls, and I'm loathe to report it to the rangers, or tear it out myself.  I don't think this one little guy will do any harm as long as he doesn't make friends with any newcomers.  I want to photograph it again in different light, but I had to be sure I had at least this one lest it be gone when I visit again.

Update:  I have replaced the photograph I posted with this one that is better I think.





Monday, May 26, 2014

One would think I could find nothing else to photograph given the persistence of Kingsley as my subject.  And, in a way that's true.  The last part of the trip there is visually more interesting than anywhere else in this area that I'm familiar with.  But, I am so intent on getting to the cabins I have ignored everything else that's interesting along the way.  I will insist to myself that that must not continue, and when something attracts my attention, I will stop and make a photograph if at all possible.  Nonetheless, here are some more of the cabins. 











Thursday, May 22, 2014

Every time I finish a roll of film at Kingsley and pack up my kit, I see something I know I need to photograph the next time I visit.  I'm itchy in that way just now remembering something I saw as I was leaving a few days ago that I don't want to miss.  I go back and forth between abstracts and 'documents', but the abstracts are the most visually interesting. So, I'll probably return tomorrow, because I can, but I expect that will provoke yet another visit in the next few days.  Too bad I can't rent a room there, and encounter the place afresh every day for a while. 






Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In addition to the single cabin that's been almost entirely restored, there are several others that have been whitewashed with lime based stucco, and had lintels and brick fireplaces reconstructed or replaced (the lintels, I think).  The beams look hand hewn, and fit snugly on the tabby walls that support them.  Florida weather breeds mildew in abundance, so the 'dirty' look of the unrestored tabby is quite dramatic after one hundred plus years. The walls that have been stuccoed and whitewashed, though, are equally dramatic in their newly pristine condition. 






Sunday, May 18, 2014

During my rainy day trip to Kingsley, I exposed two rolls of film.  When I posted the two pictures last Thursday, May 15th, I had not developed the second roll.  That was accomplished yesterday, and I like some of those images more than the others.  So, I'm posting a new one, and a different (wider) view of what I posted before that I think I like better.  If this were a website and not a blog, of course, I'd only post the one I preferred, but you may be interested in seeing both and making your own choice.

Ultimately, I'll have to choose the best of all I take during the year, and they will comprise the series I'll try to do something with.  I was beginning to think I'd end up repeating a lot of ideas, but each time I visit, I see something I hadn't seen before.  I want to go again when there's a lot of rain to explore one of those new ideas that didn't get photographed last week, but did get noticed.





Thursday, May 15, 2014

I've been wanting to make a photograph within the lone, restored Kingsley cabin during heavy rain to capture the runoff from the gutterless roof.  It was finally possible today, and my luck was spot on as I arrived there, walked to the cabin, set up my kit, and framed a first image just as the rain began in earnest.  The cabins originally had wooden shutters, but the windows were glassless.  In summery weather, it must have been oppressively humid and buggy to live here..but,  the manor house was no less so in that era before even the idea of air conditioning existed.





Tuesday, May 6, 2014

This photograph may be the last Kingsley image I post for a while.  I don't expect to return there until there is a weather change that might include fog, heavy rain, or some unusual light.  It's all too easy to find abstractions that are enhanced by strong shadows, but they become repetitious and not worth redoing when they're too similar to what I've photographed already.  The other good reason to stay away for a bit is to let my visual impressions of the place ferment and ripen.  When I visit again,  I'll either see things with deeper insight, or with an entirely new viewpoint, but I hope I'll come away with something fresh. 





Sunday, May 4, 2014

I've been waiting for a rainy day to make a particular photograph at Kingsley, and Friday, May 1st was such a day.  But, by the time I'd set up there was only drizzle, and the torrent of rain running off the gutterless roof of the one restored, model cabin just didn't happen.  So, another time for that.  Nonetheless, I trudged around in the light rain holding an umbrella over the camera and pod and found these.  It's good to photograph certain subjects in flat light as the contrast is reduced a great deal, but there is still plenty to deal with. 






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Eventually I'll sort through all the Kingsley photographs I've posted here, and select the ones I like the most and submit them with an essay somewhere.  But, it will probably be many months to a year before that happens.  They seem to almost self sort into abstracts and documents, and I can't bring myself to favor one approach over the other.  The abstracts neglect the reality of what these cabins were, but the documents ignore their abstract beauty.  So, the project may have to have two separate but equal parts, and I use that phrase with full awareness of its provenance.  The legacy of slavery was institutionalized racial segregation, and it has only been a few decades since that abhorrent practice was abolished by the Supreme Court.  Even today the foul stench of racism has not been fully cleansed from the air. 





Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I made this photograph in 2004.  I was driving to the Kingsley Plantation, and was startled to see a road like this that just isn't the kind of scene one finds in the northeast.  I had my 4x5 kit with me that day, and the negative is rich in detail and tonal gradations (as only a large format film negative can be, and digital files simply can't.).  It's strikingly similar to the photograph I posted a week ago of the arbored path at Washington Oaks State Park.  The road to Kingsley, however, never looked like this when the plantation was under active cultivation.  All these acres were cleared and planted.  The lush, abundant flora has taken over in the interval since.


Monday, April 21, 2014

I returned to Kingsley Plantation on Saturday to continue my essay on the slave cabins.  It was a relatively pleasant day, but there was strong sun.  I got quite sweaty during the hour or two I photographed and couldn't help remembering that slaves spent all day working in those conditions, and later in the season, far, far worse.  When I needed to, I stood in shade.  When they needed to, they couldn't.

Here's a passage by Solomon Northup who wrote Twelve Years a Slave in 1853.  He had been born a free man living in upstate New York until captured by slavers and sent south to be sold into bondage.  He had been a farmer and musician:  "Alas, had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarcely know how I could have endured the long years of bondage...it was my companion – the friend of my bosom – trumpeting loudly when I was joyful, and uttering its soft melodious consolations when I was sad. Often, at midnight when sleep had fled affrighted from the cabin and my soul was disturbed and troubled with the contemplation of my fate, it would sing me a song of peace."  It was difficult to copy the text so filled were my eyes with tears.  






Friday, April 18, 2014

My previous post offered two photographs taken at Washington Oaks SP.  The park has two parts: inland, where the arbored path was photographed and the beach where this photograph was made.  I was trying, without success, to photograph pelicans as they course up the beach from the south.  I did register them on film, but not well enough to keep.  But, this odd little breach in the small dune got my attention.  I detest those who, despite signs requesting them not to, walk and climb on the precarious dunes that are so very fragile.  Maybe this photograph will serve to show the consequence of ignoring the plea to stay off!  A reminder that hydrogen and stupid are the most common elements in the universe!



Monday, April 14, 2014

I met a couple of friends last week at Washington Oaks State Park.  We three had our cameras and took the path in the first picture that we each photographed.  For those with an interest in such things, I used a 45mm lens which is the equivalent of a 24mm lens on a 35mm film or digital camera.

After lunch, I returned by myself intent on making a photograph of the gnarly trees that line one side of the road to the beach.  I'm not happy with it because the palmettos were so pervasive I couldn't do the twisty trees justice, but without a machete and money for bail and a huge fine, there was nothing I could do. Perhaps there's a way to poison palmettos in the park???  ;-)





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here's another from 2001 at Tremen Glen.  I would have photographed it differently this year.  I'd have been more aware of the shape of negative space and the quiet links between male and female elements of this scene.  But, that said, I'm not displeased with what I was beginning to be visually aware of back then.  Waiting for the ultimate insight into the ultimate composition of the ultimate subject suggests that one's lifetime body of work will be one single photograph.  Not my goal!!



Monday, March 31, 2014

I spend a lot of time looking at the photographs of other people whom I admire.  I sometimes wish I were able to easily visit visually interesting places that are very different from here. The photographers I like a lot travel all over the place, but also find their own backyards worth recording.  I am trying to do that too, as I have and continue to do with Kingsley Plantation.  But, looking back over old negatives is almost like taking a trip to make pictures that I couldn't have made from here, or from our house in New York.  This one is a detail of one of the many falls at Tremen Glenn in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I may have posted it here a long time ago, but even so, it's been redesigned by cropping, and toning in the way I've been doing for the past few years and is very different than originally printed.  



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Here is another in this ongoing project.  When Kingsley plantation was active, there would not have been any growth behind this cabin.  No trees, no Spanish Moss, no understory.  It's testament to the felicitous conditions for vegetation that a veritable jungle has erupted since the plantation was in use.  Beyond this cabin were more than 900 acres of cleared, arable land.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Just can't help it, and it has nothing to do with photography, but v/v current events in Russia/Ukraine....Putin on the Blitz!  Sorry.  It won't happen again. (Lies, all lies, yes it will happen again he said to his evil half!)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kingsley Plantation will probably hold my photographic interest for a long time to come.  Worthy bodies of work are not accumulated quickly, so I expect to be visiting it quite often.  Having posted a group of mostly abstract images of the cabins I want to offer some context regarding their place.  Only 60 cleared acres remain of the original 1000 arable acres.  The cabins are sited on those, and immediately behind them, there is a riot of dense, jungle-like abundance.  The first of these two pictures includes a tree that may or may not be ancient enough to have shaded the cabin behind it.  But, the other portrays the dense growth that was not there when the plantation was an active farm. 





Friday, March 21, 2014

If you've been visiting here for a while, you'll be aware that I have struggled to find subjects that I felt a resonance with other than the beach.  Kingsley Plantation, however, has been a wonderful find.  The slave cabins assume a sculptural quality when their planes and angles interact with strong sunlight.  I went back again yesterday, and spent a long time shooting two rolls of film (20 exposures altogether).  I don't use a zoom lens, and don't rattle off 150 digital attempts that get sorted out in Lightroom later.  For just one frame, I may move the tripod three or four times after having examined the subject from as many viewpoints as possible.  Here are three more from this most recent visit.










Sunday, March 16, 2014

Having lived in the north until last August, slavery was something I studied in high school and in a 'black history' course I took in college.  I had no visceral sense of it at all.  But living in the south now, I've sometimes encountered relics and reminders of institutionalized racism.  My stepson goes to a high school that was once a segregated 'black' school that is now a magnet school of the arts. But, the greatest impact of any echoes of the pre-civil rights south are the relics of slavery.  The photographs here are of slave cabins on the Kingsley Plantation, an estate managed by the National Park Service that has preserved the main house, many outbuildings, and the ruins of cabins lived in by 60 to 80 enslaved Africans who worked the farm.  They are made of tabby, a locally manufactured building material made of whole and ground oyster shells, then coated with a lime putty also derived from the shells.  Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about tabby and these particular cabins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabby_%28cement%29

I want to add this link as well to the history of this plantation.  It is a very unusual story, and is perhaps unique in the kind of life its enslaved population lived.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsley_Plantation