Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Published 4:32 PM by with 0 comment

A Brush with the Past - Stories from Small Towns




Resting Place


For most of my life, things were fairly normal. I had a few friends and a goldfish. I shared a log cabin with an old guy who used to work on a gold dredge. He didn't like to talk about the "good old days" because he said there was nothing good about them. He had a paranoid streak and would stand outside the front door everyday. "They are coming," he said.


One morning, out of the blue, he asked me if I'd like to see where he used to work. I had nothing better to do so I said yes. We rode his beat-up Ford pickup over miles and miles of torn up highway. It took half the day. Finally we reached a little town. "We're here," he said.

He pointed over to the ancient structure sitting lopsided on a hill and said he'd meet me over there. The clouds were gathering and it looked like we were in for a storm. I walked around the dredge, now dilapidated and consumed by weeds.


I took one step toward a broken window in an attempt to see inside. Suddenly I couldn't move. It felt like something had a tight hold on my legs but I didn't see anything. I began to panic and called out for help. No one came.


Time passed and I couldn't get unstuck. Winter came with more snow than I had ever seen. I didn't feel the bitter chill but everything around me was frozen and white. It all melted in spring and I watched the fireweed flower and wither over the short summer. Debris fell from the dredge, small at first but then large steel beams came crashing down.

I felt the grass growing inside my body. The dirt moved its way through my veins. Years came and went until time itself disappeared into oblivion.



No Service

I sat on Robert Service's wooden chair outside his cabin. I didn't think he'd mind. I was waiting for a sign from him but was greeted only with silence. Actually, the neighbor's dog was barking, spoiling the moment but I mostly managed to tune that out.


I stayed there for the best part of half an hour until I felt like it was a good time to go. I wanted to read a book on the deck but had forgotten to put it in my backpack. I thought reading the book would inspire a short poem in his honor but I had also forgotten my notebook and pen. Basically the whole plan was aborted.


There was nowhere to get breakfast this early so I thought I'd stand by the street corner and watch people go by. That was fine until I began to look suspicious so I thought it best to move on.


I saw a man spill out of a bar and try to maintain his balance. He looked lonely and pathetic as he stood there with no apparent purpose.


Heading towards Front Street I was afraid to get too close to Saint Andrews Church. It looked like it was going to collapse at any moment. I wondered what this town must have been like when it was built back in 1901, all greed and debauchery. Maybe some of those sinners repented here.


The sun forced its way through the clouds and a distant bell chimed. It was 8 o'clock and I caught a whiff of freshly brewed coffee.


The Guardian

While out walking one morning I had a vision. Someone appeared to me. He looked strikingly like me only a more ghostly and ominous version. I couldn't make out what he was saying except for his final two words, "Go home.

In the course of my journey, I had landed in a strange town, not quite lost but somewhat displaced. After this encounter, I began to have doubts. Should I not be here? Is that why I was directed home?

I passed the Canal Trading Post. There was someone sitting on the bench by the front door. The building looked like it had been shut down for years. I'm not sure what he was doing there. He looked like he was waiting for something or someone. I wasn't in the mood for conversation so I didn't ask.


Just down the street was another store, all boarded up and abandoned. It had two Coke signs at the top. It made me want a Coke but I knew that wasn't going to happen.


What followed was perhaps even more odd than my aforementioned vision. I noticed there was no one else in the whole town except for the owner (I think) of an old gas station. I asked him a question. I don't even remember what it was. Anyway, he didn't answer me. It wasn't that he was rude. He just sort of stood there blankly, like a ghost. Maybe I should have talked to the other guy instead. I don't know.


I saw a silver coin on the ground and went to pick it up. At that moment, I thought I heard my mother's voice so I slowly raised my head. The scene had dramatically changed.

There, in front of me, stood the place where I was born. My home where I spent the first twelve years of my life. Except...it was never here.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Published 12:22 PM by with 0 comment

Melancholia: Fragments of a life - past and present


Life Preserve

I've lost track of how long I've been here. Months? Maybe even years. I was expecting others to arrive by now but nothing has broken the monotony of my loneliness. The radio went out a few weeks ago. I think the batteries are dead.
The nights are so long here in winter. The daylight is fleeting. I talk aloud to myself to stay sane. I'm barely awake but I can't sleep.

I met a taxi driver once. He told me he had seen a ghost in this building. I don't doubt it. I wish I'd seen it myself. It would be a welcome distraction. These days I find myself looking for ways to forget certain things.


One thing I try not to forget though is the time I took my kids to the harbor one summer afternoon. They were little back then and we all had fish and chips. We laughed a lot and watched the big ships come in. I was a proud father. It was a great day.
As time passes, that memory is beginning to fade. The colors are slowly draining and voices are becoming distant echoes. Losing it completely is my single greatest fear.

In a Small Coastal Town

I decided to get up early one bleak morning and just walk with no particular destination in mind. I had been cooped up inside for the best part of a week.
It had rained all night and potholes overflowed with oily water. The town looked desolate.

I passed a man standing in the shadows. We didn't acknowledge each other, his face was obscured by the brim of his hat. He made me uneasy and I quickened my pace. I heard a loud crash but didn't look back.

The wind was biting and I hadn't dressed accordingly. I turned back towards home, being careful to cross to the other side of the street. Up ahead, someone was rushing to work, his silhouette reflecting perfectly in an ephemeral pond.
I worked at that same factory for forty years and was glad to be retired, free from the stench of fish.

When I arrived home, there was a handwritten note stuck to my door. It simply read "Car battery dead. Gone to get help."
I looked around but saw no one. This was obviously a mistake. I don't even own a car anymore.


Remembrance

Arriving at the church, I felt a deep sadness. The memory of my wife's sudden departure was overwhelming. I thought it would get easier. It didn't. She was everything I had. The lights went out that day and it's been dark ever since.

Standing there for a long time, I felt numb. A breeze meandered through the flowers and birds chirped on the church roof but the silence of my profound loss absorbed everything. I tried screaming in vain through my paralysis.

I fell to the ground in an utter panic. My heart thumped in my head. I laid there for what seemed like an eternity. I stared at the passing clouds and finally devised a way to see her again.

I closed my eyes and felt a brief sharp pain followed by something I hadn't experienced in a long time... tranquility. My heart slowed until it came to a complete stop.

I opened my eyes and noticed silk curtains swaying gently by an open window. The sun streamed in and it felt warm on my skin. I sat up and saw her hand on the white door frame. Her voice whispered my name.
I took her hand and we disappeared into a familiar room.


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Friday, July 01, 2016

Published 1:55 PM by with 0 comment

Time Traveling - Finding Ghosts in a Gold Mine


Gatekeeper

At 5:30 a.m. I was leaving the town of Wasilla in Alaska, sipping coffee and driving towards Independence Mine State Park at the top of Hatcher Pass. During my research the previous evening, I learned that this old gold mine is haunted. There have been several accounts of ghost sightings. They are classed as "friendly" spirits so that made me feel somewhat at ease.

Independence Mine as it found me

With pinhole photography in mind, I decided it was a good opportunity not to actually chase ghosts, but to perhaps conjure them up in my own images.



Death of a Mining Town

Arriving at such an early hour afforded me uninterrupted time. There wasn't a soul around and that suited me perfectly well.

I have to approach this style of photography differently from conventional shooting. It's not spontaneous in nature. There's a lot of running around, striking of odd poses and general experimentation to achieve the look I'm after.
To a passerby, it would look quite irregular. In fact, when other people are around at all, I don't bother setting up these kinds of shots. It's too distracting and I don't have the freedom needed to indulge a creative flow of ideas.


Wreckage

There was a sense of eeriness in the abandoned buildings and on the desolate streets. But for the occasional gust of wind, it was dead quiet. I was fascinated by the apparent state of suspended dilapidation. Some of the structures were at such an acute angle, I couldn't fathom how they were still standing.


Escape

I did encounter one oddity during my time there. While setting up a shot, I heard what sounded like someone pressing the shutter of a camera. It was kind of like a beep. None of my equipment makes that particular sound. I heard it distinctly and it was quite close but, when I turned around, nothing was there. Only me and the hundred-year-old structures towering overhead.
Maybe someone was spying on me or could it be I was in the presence of a real ghost? These questions remain unanswered.


The Secret Meeting

When I had exhausted all of my creative ideas, I could see people arriving with dogs in tow for their morning stroll down by the distant parking lot. My timing had been perfect. I felt the friendly spirits slip away and return into hiding.


Watchman

I've had to work a little harder to seek out venues for my pinhole photography. Alaska has proven to be a fertile bed of unique locations, particularly given its rich mining history.
I'm now exactly halfway through my epic adventure in this most northern of states. As the journey continues I'm sure I'll chance upon more places like this where time stands still and phantoms can run free.

Exile
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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Published 1:28 PM by with 0 comment

Stills from a Dream - Imagined Worlds in Pinhole Photography


Drifter

I have only recently discovered pinhole photography but it has unleashed a whole new creative world in which to frolic. For now, at least, I have placed my vintage glass on the shelf and opted for a lensless alternative.


Chitina Emporium


Ghost of Keystone Mine

For those of you who do not know what it is, pinhole photography is achieved by using some kind of light-tight chamber (a box or tin, etc.) with a tiny hole poked through to allow an image to form on its back interior wall. In film photography, the actual film resides on that back wall and an image forms. In digital pinholing (what I'm doing), the chamber is my camera and I make it light-tight by screwing on the camera's body cap in place of the lens. What allows the image to form on the sensor is a tiny pin prick in the middle of the plastic cap. This results in a kind of crude, soft image that appears out of focus, almost ethereal. Because the hole is so tiny, it takes time to allow enough light in to make an image. The shutter will expose the photograph for a much longer time than is usual using a traditional lens. Exposure times can be in seconds, minutes, hours or even days and weeks. Think of it like capturing light trails in a city at night.



Prospector


Servant

I usually work in seconds and that much time allows me to get creative with motion. On a typical bright day, I might have about two seconds of exposure time to work with. A tripod is a must. Anything moving in the frame will be a blur. If I place myself in the frame, I can control the blurring by how fast or slow I move. The results are ghostly. I remain anonymous because of the blurring which, in turn, creates a sense of mystery. It's this atmosphere that inspires me the most. It's like being able to capture something on another plain of existence.



Remnants


Moment(s)

I like the idea of my photographs looking like the camera captured something not normally seen by the naked eye or maybe even something not meant to be seen. When I set up a shot and have a pretty solid idea of the concept, I'm almost always surprised by what is captured. Because of the unpredictable nature of this technique, there are many more failures than successes but that's part of the fun. In my current collection, the vast majority of theses photographs took on a life of their own after I triggered the shutter.



Bygone Days

I'm working towards creating a book of my pinhole photographs. I believe that this kind of imagery needs to be savored on a page. They are not the kinds of pictures to flip through in fractions of a second, rather, they demand longer attention akin to their actual creation process.



Visitor


Riverman

As I continue on my travels, I am now capturing two versions of what I see. One "normal photograph" that represents the physical place and another that's extracted solely from my imagination.


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Monday, June 06, 2016

Published 10:19 AM by with 2 comments

Pictures in Motion - Pinhole Photography



A photograph typically represents a single moment in time. Exposures are measured in fractions of a second and can freeze in place a fleeting smile or a speeding car.
When I moved from making films to making photographs, my mental process also shifted. In many ways I found it more of a challenge to capture what I was seeing. With video, I could move the camera around inside the three dimensional scene. It was easy for the viewer to get a feeling of scale and depth. Sound helped convey the environment and a sense of being there. Scenes played out in real time, just like the seconds and minutes in our daily lives.
Not so with a photograph. I had to condense all of that sensory experience into a single silent moment. For the most part, however, I didn't miss video except for one thing: the ability to record the passing of time.
I've always been fascinated by long exposure photographs. They live in their own world, free from the shackles of split-second shutter speeds. They are like time machines, allowing us to study the cumulative rhythms of waves or the morphing of clouds. They can create a three-dimensional silence like no other medium.
It was through my own dabbling with long exposure methods that I became interested in pinhole photography. The left side of my brain was most curious about capturing an image without a lens. The right side was seduced by the emotion, mood and atmosphere felt in pinhole photography.
I've never been completely satisfied shooting images of beautiful scenery. I don't feel like these kinds of photographs belong to me because they lack any kind of expression or personality. They are also predictable; I see a tree, I capture a tree. I see beautiful light and, assuming I have the skills necessary, it's captured faithfully.
Pinhole photography unleashes my creative side. It's a unique collaboration between human and machine. The ethereal atmosphere and the long exposures excite my mind into imagining new worlds. I think about what I can do inside five seconds or maybe thirty seconds and produce surreal images that I could never have conjured up by myself. It's like a genre unto itself; somewhere between photography and video.
The results of my recent efforts have been haunting, at least to me. The movement in each picture puts them in a completely different realm than my lovely generic landscape photography. These are uniquely mine and I won't find anything like them elsewhere.


I'll continue to capture the beauty I see around me in a conventional way, of course, but pinhole photography will stay a little closer to my heart as I continue on down the road.




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