Category Archives: photography

Hessians

One of New England’s Autumn rituals is the Binding of the Evergreens. A bolt of [gunny] sack cloth or burlap or tow sackin’ or hessian (dialect variants for pretty much the same very rough cloth, almost loose enough to qualify as net) is sourced from somewhere (Tractor Supply, maybe?) and wrapped around ornamental evergreens for the first 5 or 6 years after they are planted. One must wonder why (not to mention where and when and wither and how) this custom came to be and to spread to its present territory?

And of the style and other niceties of the Binding: The most common configuration is the line, which often looks nothing but military:

PortlandHessians1

The ideal is a uniformity that is rarely achieved. Most straggle and sag and some even wander. Some manage to stand in a line as if on parade:


PortlandHessians2

(most of these can be read as faces…)

With Evergreens planted as specimen trees, there’s more latitude for the fanciful when it comes to Binding. It’s not clear if the Binders consider that they might be doing Evergreen Sculpture, or if the main point is to ward off hungry winter-browsing deer, and you get the burlap around her good enough…

Remarkable characters sometimes emerge:


PortlandHessians5

hawk-nosed portrait head with extravagant plumed headdress


PortlandHessians4

I can’t decide between genuflection and a couch too deep


PortlandHessians3

Exercise: caption this as you will

Some are marvelous portraits of character. I read this one as disgruntled old sergeant with silly tufted headgear.


PortlandHessians6

Longtime I’ve thought of these as Hessians, a tip o’ the hat to the 18th century Germans with whom the Crown sought to maintain order in 1770s North America. Others collected can be seen in my Hessians Flickr Album.

ADDENDUM:
My friend Brian Higley, landscape architect and vegetation whisperer, comments thusly:

I like to call these, trees in bondage. Whenever I see them, they look pretty tortured to me. But maybe the more creative way to see them is perhaps… homage to the landscape artist Christo. See the forms without any preconceptions, only for what they are as sculpture. What happens to the flora when you wrap it? … The wrappings can actually serve a purpose in some cases, but those cases included, it usually means that someone has planted the wrong species of plant in the wrong location, or deer.

Some species of evergreen trees and shrubs are extremely sensitive to wind and can become dessicated in the winter. If the winter wind doesn’t kill them, they will stay nice and brown the rest of the year. Wrapping can keep them alive and perhaps green.

Heavy pressures from a starving deer population (the case in several places I have worked) can make it next to impossible to have any new plantings without a seven foot deer fence around your entire property. Many people with money do just that, and then the remaining deer have that much less land to feed on. When they are starving they will eat anything in sight, including things they aren’t even supposed to like. Some people like to wrap up their plants in winter to protect from the hungry deer, a reasonable protective measure by tree loving owners, but in my view the dressed up soldiers stand out as a loud and obvious symbol of defeat. Really? looking at wrapped up trees all winter? I get it though. Falling in love with your trees can be as irrational as falling in love with another person.

Now if you live in Beacon, New York and you happen to get a nice little fig tree, and you wrap it all up and bury it in the fall to keep it from getting too cold, you can get some nice figs every year — it is totally worth the trouble. And the ugliness you have forced upon the plant, and the rest of the world, is justified.

scanning photo albums

Yesterday I began sorting through some accumulated heaps of Abandoned Ancestors and came upon a slim and anonymous sixteen page album which I scanned and reordered and uploaded as a Flickr Album. The most remarkable image is surely

16x22album08adj

but this one is a close second:

16x22album04adj


One rarely finds such direct engagement with the photographer as seen in the riveting gaze of the woman on the left, and there’s the further enigma of the evidently symbolic arrangement: the five participants seem to be holding hands in an expression of solidarity.

The album also includes nine cyanotypes, all of male subjects doing outdoorsy things. This one is especially gripping:

16x22album11adj

But what does it all mean?

Learning to read albums of snapshots is challenging, since context is often missing and all one usually knows is that the assembler of an album cared about the photos included, and invested energy into arranging the images on the pages. What can we make of this pair, from the disintegrating and faded remnants of a small album from perhaps a century ago?

17x22album02adj

17x22album01adj

(see the scanned album and try figuring out its story)


Perhaps further exploration of that album will give us some hints, but it’s a salvage operation. Most of the photos are faded, and so needed extensive work with Lightroom. There are a few captions, but nothing definitive. As vernacular as it gets.

Clark Island at low tide


“The Mysteries of Pebbles” by Paolo Mucciarelli and Enrico Ranzanici (via BoingBoing)

(and review How did I arrive at this fascination with imaginary beings?)

Yes, well… today’s photographic expedition took us to the intertidal zone at Clark Island, where I discovered all sorts of Personages and some lovely Surfaces. The Flickr Album offers the whole set, more or less sorted into a Narrative. I can’t pick a favorite.

landscapes

In the middle of the 2022 Joint Show I’m starting to wonder what comes next? A new desktop machine is on order for me (a Mac Studio), and I expect to be working on several Blurb books during the fall and winter. One subject that keeps nudging me is Surfaces, which are mostly abstract patterns of ambiguous scale, often manifesting as Landscapes of the Imagination. While rifling through the sprawl of desktop files I happened upon a collection of candidates I started several years ago, which I should augment with recent images.

Before July gets away from us

6vii2202

July has been busy with summer stuff, including the arrival of [really quite magnificent] metal prints for our Joint Show in September. I’ve added a link to some other images from Flowers Cove to the page summarizing my part of the show.

A Convivium Question about Myth led to another exploration of the Twelfth Imam.

And there’s been the usual daily pleasure of eclectic reading in the barn, and the garden is burgeoning. A visit from John and Laura and Kian will round out the month!

Marshall Point evening

Yesterday the rain ended in the afternoon but the fog hung on until almost sundown. We made a quick trip (3 miles, practically the back yard) to the rocks at Marshall Point, hoping that the light would be magical.


9vi2201

By the time we got there the fog was lifting, but I wandered the ever-so-familiar rocks for half an hour or so and found lots of new beings to photograph, and as usual I learned new things about a place that I’ve visited scores of times. It’s truly inexhaustible as a photographic venue. A few examples:
This pair is the same rock, but displays two very different personages:
9vi2226

9vi2225

and these are always cropping up:
9vi2233

9vi2229

9vi2212

and here’s a shark I never noticed before:
9vi2236

…and a Goreyesque bat-like fellow:
9vi2214

(the full set is available)

photos keep surfacing

Organizing stuff in the barn always means finding things of Significance that have been hiding for years. Some of them connect to stories and Stories.

This one ended 60 years ago. The tall person was David Lyon, my Chadwick roommate in 1958-59, after which he went to Paris for two years (long story there), before returning to Chadwick for his senior year, which was my first year at Harvard. He’d just been accepted to Harvard himself when he died in a car accident. The old people in the photo are Commander and Mrs. Chadwick, the grandparents of the three at the back and great aunt/uncle to the rest. Mrs. C. was a huge presence in my Chadwick life.


Margaret and Joe Chadwick with grandchildren and grandniblings

Here we see Betsy’s sister Caroline and her first husband Steve Butterfield, in 1973. Shame it’s not color — Steve’s hair was a magnificent red. He worked for Bolt, Beranek, and Newman when the internet was being born, and was the first person we ever saw use email. When we were at Stanford in the 1979-1980 sabbatical, Steve was at Xerox PARC. He gave me a tour of the Future just when the personal computer was being invented…

Caroline and Steve 1973

Broot took this one in summer 1963, the young guitarist clipping fingernails.

HAB 1963

And this is Larry Fredericks, taken sometime in the 1980s. He was a colleague/friend in the first few years at Acadia, an enthusiastic member of CPC/M-L (Communist Party of Canada, Marxist-Leninist). He had a marvelous International Harvester Scout, red in colour, which at one point he traded in for a bronze-hued Impala with electric windows. He took me for a ride on the Big Road, getting it up to 90 or so, and zipped the windows up and down… I said “Lar, what you got here is a Bronze Pig”. He thought that characterization was funny until I wrote a rather mocking song about it. I learned the power of music and lost a friend… but then one day maybe 10 years later he turned up… he was doing something in banking or was it stock-broking in Toronto, and had rented the white Cadillac convertible at the airport.

Larry Fredericks

The Genealogy of thusly

I’ve just had this image printed 20 x 30 on metal, for the September gallery show we’re now planning:


thusly
I was inspired to name it “thusly” without quite knowing why, but then I realized that it all began with Jan Broek, seen here during a photographic expedition in Boston in the spring of 1965:

Jan Broek 1965

Here’s Jan and myself about 3 years later:
Pogo and Jan, chez Laura de la TB

…and then some 50 years later, while visiting Jan in Bolinas CA:

Jan Broek declaims Jan Broek reading

and one more of Jan in 1965:
Jan Broek