Topic: Something New Three (2 posts)

Medfield State Hospital

This post is about photographing at the Medfield State Hospital, a state mental hospital in Massachusetts closed years ago. For this series of blogs I am writing about a project in the making as opposed to presenting finished work, something new for me. 

I have written four posts to date on the project:

The last time I went there to photograph was back in early July. Medfield is about 45 minutes away from where I live in Cambridge so it's easy to pick the time of day and the light. This time, a few days ago, I went at dawn. The place was wide open and very beautiful as the sun came up. Mid August in New England can be very lush if it isn't too dry and this year there's been enough rain to keep things green.

Sometimes when photographing outdoors it can just be so good; good to be outdoors, good to be in front of content that is wonderful, good to be looking through a camera at things that are interesting and challenging. I know I have to be careful of this seduction as just being pleased to be out in it isn't enough.

At any rate, I am beginning to get to the core of the place, with its prevailing red brick and green grounds.

There is power here and substance, real weight to the place and complexity too, as in below:

Funny, but I've walked by this several times (below), not noticing its potential for pictures, what looks to be the back of the dining hall and never known that these would serve as the core of my pictures in this project, or at least, what I believe is to be the core, the center of work that will flow out in a series within a series: 

I think it took the right light for me to notice that this was here at all. Shocking that I could be so oblivious.

I am sure you can see I haven't been totally successful here on this back of a building in the center of the Hospital's campus. These two above lack refinement for me. There is more to do. But I did have the realization that this was it, like a light bulb going on. Why I was here and what I needed to do. I've had this so many times before: getting out of of a rented car parked on a hill with the Oakesdale Cemetery all around me before making a seminal group of photographs in the mid 90's, or Skate Park, made just last year looking at it trying to figure it out while it was empty in the sun on a school day in Healdsburg, CA. Or Summerhill, Atlanta, waiting there in my car, counting up how many rolls of film I would need before setting out to walk the streets one Sunday morning in the spring. That feeling of OMG! I am about to make pictures that count, that will add to  my body of work, that will be a continuation and confirmation of what I believe in as a career artist, another in a stack of work that is the best I can do, as good as anything I have ever done. Compounding feelings of partial relief that I have discovered something of substance or that resonates once again countered with the fact that I've got a shitload of work to do!.This door opens and lets us in. It's the coolest thing of all.

I will close here with one that is perhaps a little more sentimental:

And another that is, I believe, brutal and made with some force:

Now this is beginning to get interesting. 

Stay tuned.

Topics: Something New,Something New Two,Something New Three

Permalink | Posted August 9, 2015

Something New Four

How can something be new when written about three times already? How can something not be old when it's been dealt with several times? Well, this is the fourth post on photographs I am making at Medfield State Hospital in Medfield, MA and I am thinking after this post I will start giving this work its proper title and stop with the sequence of New 1, New 2 and so on.

Anyway... they are here:

Something New

Something New Two

Something New Three

and they document the work I am starting to make of the Hospital. This is a first as I am showing the photographs as I make them, not after the fact, all edited and in presentation form.

To review: I scouted the location (and made snapshots), I photographed twice, both on sunny days. I made some discoveries and some mistakes, learned when I needed to go and started to understand how to approach this large turn of the 19th century mental hospital with a predominance of red brick buildings that are now shuttered and closed.

On the morning of July 4th I was there again.Why then when most of us are definitely not working? The light was flat and almost dark with cloud cover and with no wind. Perfect for what I needed to do.

Amazing how fast we've gone from late spring/early summer into real summer here in New England. Some hot fetid and humid days where the foliage hangs limp from the trees and nothing stirs except the mosquitos buzzing your head. The place was empty and felt strangely heavy and muffled somehow.

Why was no wind important? I wonder if you can guess. These pictures are about as far from hand held snapshots as any are in photography. This is classic view camera technique applied to contemporary digital practice with a DSLR. Firm tripod, perspective control wide angle lens shifted up or down and tilted  for sharpness, 3 to 5 exposures at settings from too dark to too light of each scene to blend into one final result. Wind can be very bad: blows foliage around therefore creating movement from frame to frame and shakes the camera.

Am I getting somewhere? I can remember telling students about the life of photographic projects. That in the beginning no one knows what they're doing. That after a couple of times working at it, the work seems like it has little potential and may not fly. That with some perseverance and real soul searching things might begin to cook a little, to resonate with you, to begin to entice you into wanting to do more.That's where I am now, beginning to be no longer a rank beginner at this project, to begin to form ideas that are exciting me and motivating me to go back and work more. I am beginning to be IN the project. Being in the project is really the best time and when we make our best work.

Resonant. A little mysterious. Haunting perhaps. Connection from now to then. So much baggage contained here. So much history of unspeakable things. Maybe some really good people helping others less fortunate as well. A real history. Mote than just empty old buildings. Much more. A story to tell.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Something New,Something New Two,Something New Three

Permalink | Posted July 5, 2015