Monday, December 17, 2012

Notes From the Field...

Woodspur School, February 2012


Having now gone some 20 months without one, I'd like to say my absence from these parts during the next few weeks is me scoring a much needed vacation, but it won't be exactly that.

Yeah, I intend to take a day off here & there. But on a project like this there's much needs be done apart from making the blog, which in itself has proved quite the thing. For instance:

I scan 4x5 film on a Scitex scanner that in its day was commercial grade imaging gear. Now I fear for any possible repair of what's essentially obsolete equipment and have put off using it until I could scan the large format film in just a few sessions. That's why most of the 'Selected Fieldwork' is from 120mm. 

It's time for me to work on what I love best. Should the scanner crap out in the bargain, so be it.

While 30 years as a commercial photo tech has served me admirably in regards to managing workflow under deadline, with so much time spent on the road some things fell by the wayside. The 'Resource' list is woeful out of date. And I've a bibliography to compile. Literature on the Lake Superior Basin is rich and so diverse it runs the gamut between folk tales and unique geological science. I've tapped a lot of it, to make this blog. You should have access to that source material.

Apart from three pieces for the Penokee show, it's been more than a year since I've printed anything. Not any of the Images of the Month. Not any of the knee buckling stuff shot while sidetracked in Utah. Not rivers not lakes not fog shrouded mornings not abandoned building or manmade deserts, deserted barns, fallen leaves, not big sea shining water. Not a single print struck to date, of the best work of my life.

Not this, which will take a number of hours and the better part of my printmaking skill to print to within an inch of its life, but which afterwards promises to be positively luminous...

Ontonagon County, October 2012


And when I look to the list of subjects I've yet to cover here, it fairly bursts with items requiring research while planted at the computer, not in a car hurtling through dim hours along two-lane blacktop, chasing the promise of light. If I don't work ahead on the writing, deadlines fail.

So I'll be absent from here for a bit and'll try not to worry overmuch that a blog gone even temporarily fallow is a blog feared dead. Won't be the case. Trust me, I'm just gettin' a 2nd wind and will pop back up here on Thursday, January 10th.

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One thing already accomplished is that all 15 Images of the Month are now available on a single page, thanks to my invaluable webmistress and creative consultant Tina Leto.

It's bad enough to view film images on a screen. It's worse to view them small. These aren't so small. By all means, please wander on over to the left hand sidebar, click the gateway image & have a look. Window shopping's encouraged.

Speaking of shopping, here're a trio of things you can still get delivered in time to fill out your stocking, hung by the chimney with care...

During 26,000 miles on the road and uncounted nights spent in motel rooms or out under the stars, I was happily accompanied by a great variety of music. These three selections are by substantive artists all and for different reasons, each sustained me throughout. I've hotlinked, for your purchasing convenience:

Driving through mining country or to and from old mine sites, I relied heavily on Kathy Mattea's superb album, "Coal". Sure, I'd have preferred something more specific to the region, but no comparable songbook for copper and iron mining exists. And the almost mythical narrative of our labors to extract coal from the ground for to build America closely parallels that of copper and iron mining from the Superior Basin, as is demonstrated here:




Spending so much time in Ceded Territory and considering the history of the region, Neil Young's work on the Jim Jarmusch film 'Dead Man' got heavy airplay while on the road. If you know and love this film as I do, you can probably guess which notable phrase from it kept popping back to mind, as we explored the complex legacy of the still nettlesome relationship between white folk and their Native neighbors.

The score from 'Dead Man' contains some of Young's most incendiary work, especially as captured through this extended solo:




Finally, all too often I rolled back into some motel room already well into the night, knowing that there'd be a wakeup in full dark just a few hours hence. It was essential that I fall asleep quickly and sleep well once I did. Many nights, I'd douse the lights to Arvo Pärt's magnificent Kanon Pokajanen. Most of those nights I never made it past 'Ode 1', when the exquisite, almost painfully beautiful call & response laid me softly down and the remainder of the first disc played on to inform my dreams:




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Here's where I ought wish you all the 'best of the season'.

But I don't believe for a moment, not even a little, that any wish for "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" can be consigned to a specific season and that the somewhat more gracious approach to each other hoped for during this time of year should ever be accepted as being in any way exceptional.

Compassion isn't a gift to be given, received or withheld. It can't be bought or sold. It's not parceled out according to merit.

Compassion is instead the breath of life well lived.

As I consider all that we've learned over the last months, this season of supposed grace and the events of the last few days, I wish for you what I tell all fellow travelers met along the road of discovery:

Travel safe.

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