1. Simulacra

    What am I looking for in photography? Images that  penetrate the eye, engage the mind, and pierce the heart.  Mark L. Power

    Wikipedia: simulacra, from the Latin simulacrum  which means “likeness, similarity”… by the late 19th  century, simulacra had been regarded as an image without the substance or qualities of the original…

    All we want from art: reality, mysteriously deepened. David Shields

    Photographs often promise to tell stories, but they seldom deliver. They show far more detail than we could ever remember had we not brought a camera to a scene…and we meet them with the inclination, deeply entrenched, to try to work the world’s details into a sequential, causal order. …the material of narration is mostly beyond them. …the poetic ambiguity born in the imbalance between photography’s overabundant detail and its poverty in everything else is the medium’s true gift to the modern arts. Leo Rubinfiene

    But what had taken place had alrady receded into a remote corner of his memory. It was nothing but an old Polaroid snapshot; no negative, photographer unknown, camera thrown away.  Jerzy Kosinski, Blind Date

    When I look at my old pictures…. I think: What I can see is  what I am not.  Aleksandar Hemon

    He looks into a camera lens the same way he looks into a mirror as if he were an actor portraying a corpse. Russell Banks, Continental Drift

    Old posts from my former blog, the Salt Mine, can be found in the archive section, from 2008-10.

     
  2. Guest Bloggers

    Today I turn over Simulacra to Shirley True and James Sherwood, two photographers who live near Washington D.C. and often work together. 

     
  3. Looking for One Great Photographer and Finding Another

    In April 2013 my partner Jim Sherwood and I were shooting in Eastern Pennsylvania as part of our ongoing Pennsylvania Project. We live near Washington DC so it’s pretty easy to do week-long road trips to PA.

    During that April trip we were shooting in the Lehigh Valley area. When we visited Bethlehem Jim was obsessed with finding the graveyard where Walker Evans made his famous photograph of the large white cross with steel mill chimneys in the background (included in American Photographs.) After several inquiries and a few false leads, someone directed us to what turned out to be the right cemetery.

    It was mid afternoon on a warm, early spring day, bright with a near cloudless sky. It was immediately obvious that the cross that appears in the 1936 Evans photo was no longer there. Jim and I parted ways and shot independently for over an hour.

    At about the time I was beginning to take a break and head back to the car for some water, Jim came walking toward me and said, “You need to stop what you’re doing, and come with me. There’s someone you need to meet.” “Who?,” I asked, feeling overheated and thirsty, and not inclined to meet anyone. “Just come with me. You really need to meet this person.” “Who is it?” I persisted, thinking it was probably a town historian or someone with a historical connection to the cemetery, and still not interested. But as we talked we were walking in the direction of two people seated on a stone wall. We soon approached them, and Jim said, “Shirley, I’d like you to meet Robert Frank and his wife June Leaf.”

    They were on a road trip to North Carolina to visit a friend and had stopped in the cemetery to have lunch.

    Shirley True

    Copyright Shirley True 2014 

     
  4. image: Download

    Robert Frank and June leaf c. Shirley True

    Robert Frank and June leaf c. Shirley True

     
  5. image: Download

    Robert Frank and June Leaf c. James Sherwood

    Robert Frank and June Leaf c. James Sherwood

     
  6. The Poplar Terrace House

    A project thirty-seven years in the making. 

     
  7. image: Download

    Remnants of a Corinthian pilaster found in the ashes of Poplar Terrace House

    Remnants of a Corinthian pilaster found in the ashes of Poplar Terrace House

     
  8. For many decades, Poplar Terrace house, a handsome Palladian-influenced structure sat abandoned on land in the middle of Frederick, Maryland. Once the home of the Baughmans , a prominent newspaper publishing family in Frederick, the house remained empty year after year, decade after decade, as the absentee owner suffered a long illness. In its slow and gradual decline, the mansion ( built in the 1870s)  became the local ‘haunted house’, the site of rowdy teen ager gatherings until finally it became so dilapidated only animals dared to prowl its dark interiors.

    Finally the end came to the Poplar Terrace House when it burned to the ground in the middle 1980s

     
  9. 20:50

    Notes: 2

     
  10. With permission from the owners, I first entered Poplar Terrace House a decade before its final end. I didn’t find any ghosts but  I thought I might attempt to capture the presence, if not the actual spirits, of the many people who had once lived in the house. So In 1976, I photographed the various rooms which in many cases still contained furniture, pictures and other objects as if the inhabitants were going to come walking through the door at any moment. 

     
  11. 20:48

    Notes: 2

     
  12. Strategy: I felt the spaces needed to be photographed with a longer time span than the instantaneous exposures typical of normal photography. Being  interested in still photographs, not a video or movie, I decided to use light-sensitive photo paper instead of film as a recording medium. Ordinary photographic paper is many times less sensitive to light than film, and thus this strategy allowed very long time-exposures of the rooms, in some cases, hours.  I also decided I would forego the assistance of artificial light because the atmosphere was defined by the natural light, however dim, that illuminated the spaces.  I furthermore decided to use an 11x14 view camera so that I could end up with a large paper negative with the idea of contact-printing the results partly because contact photo paper had beautiful tonalities unavailable with normal photo paper. This strategy also seemed oddly appropriate as this was a 19th century photographic technology used when the house was first built a decade or so after the Civil War. 

     
  13. 20:43

    Notes: 2

     
  14. My working method was to frame the image, open the shutter, and leave, returning hours later to close the shutter. I reasoned if spirits were to manifest themselves they would feel more freedom if I wasn’t standing beside the camera. Fortunately no one, alive or dead, made off with the camera during these unattended times. This went on for the better part of three days. In a couple of cases I left the camera on all night. 

     
  15. 20:41

    Notes: 1

    image: Download