Friday, December 2, 2022

December 2022: Door and Vents

 

Been having some challenges here this month. Discovered that my monitor has been dying and not rendering colors correctly for some time. So I have got a new monitor now and am in the process of calibrating and verifying correct calibration with my print services. It is a long ordeal, as I am a bit persnickety when it comes to this sort of thing.

What I dread is that once I get the calibration confirmed I will go back and find that many of the images I have been sharing with you have not been what I intended! If it end up being the case I will fix them all and replace them with accurate images, but so far it seems that until very recently the colors have at least been close.

We shall see.

This month's image is another one from the old "asylum" in Traverse City.
It is a really telling image, especially from a temporal perspective.
Bricks, covered with cement, covered with plaster, covered with multiple layers of paint.
Doorknobs set low enough so that people in wheelchairs can access them easily.
Gorgeous ventilation covers still bearing the "cheerful" colored paint.
All of these things bearing witness to the human beings who lived here, and to their struggles.

It really is a privilege to be able to go into this place and capture these images, so that these places can be remembered for what they were, and the people who lived there can consequently be remembered for who they were as well.

Monday, October 31, 2022

November 2022: Foliage x2

 

First up, deciduous foliage. More specifically, northern Michigan forest in autumn. There are few places on the planet which can rival this display of beautiful foliage. This photo was taken at Boyne Mountain Resort, and the bridge you see above the chairlift is the newly opened Skybridge.  At 1200 feet long, it is the longest timber-constructed suspension bridge in the world. And at only 5 feet wide, it is an interesting walk when the wind is up...suspension bridges sway!  I will undoubtedly post some more photos from this shoot in the future, as the colors this year were fantastic!


To contrast plants which shed their foliage, here is one of the many Echeveria species. It is a succulent, and does not shed its leaves in the fall. Rather, it cycles through them much as we humans cycle through hair strands, although these leaves serve a much different purpose. Similar to cacti, succulents store water in their leaves in order to survive the long periods of drought where they are found naturally. Succulents are no less beautiful than the deciduous plants, but in a much different way and on a much smaller scale. 

A lesson in humility and humanity can be found in this comparison. One which should give us all comfort.

I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to "Mr. Boyne Mountain" himself, Dan Mills, for providing not just tons of useful information about the Resort and the Skybridge, but for taking the time to make us all feel so warmly welcomed. His love for the place is abundant and genuine, and that is really the entire difference between someone who is a true asset and someone who is just another employee. Ultimately, that is the difference between craft and art. Something I appreciate very much. :)


Saturday, October 1, 2022

October 2022: Double Doors

 


This is another photograph taken at the old Traverse City State Hospital. It is two identical doors leading into the same room. I have no idea why an architect would do this, but here it is. 

For whatever reason, this particular view is one that I am drawn to every time I go through this building. Maybe it is the metaphors it presents which I am attracted to: two different options leading to the same conclusion, things which are not as alike or (as different) as they initially seem...or maybe it is just that the lighting is always really interesting here. 


Thursday, September 22, 2022

September 2022 v2: Moss is blooming

 




Wow...3 images from me in one month??? Yeah, I know. :)

No, that is not the remnants of a green carpet. That is moss. That means that the wood floor is like a sponge. Step on it, and you would be three floors down before you even knew what happened.

Abandoned places are really fantastic for photographers. But they are inherently very dangerous. Having a guide, an official guide, is invaluable. 

Christian VanAntwerpen has been my guide the last few times through the old Traverse City State Hospital, and I just can't say enough good things about him. Professional, accommodating, knowledgeable, and friendly. Abandoned buildings are rife with hazards, and they are constantly changing. Chris knows the issues each building presents at any given time, and makes sure that everyone remains safe while also making sure we get the shots we want. 

I have been doing photography for 40 years, and Chris is one of the best guides I have ever met. 

Addenda, 9/26/22:
I have been asked to provide more information on the location of this photo.
This is what was termed a "sun room", though the windows don't exactly lend themselves to the description. It was realistically what we would call a "social gathering area" for the patients on the 3rd floor of this building. It would have had chairs and perhaps a couple sofas, and small tables. The place I was standing in when I took this shot was a doorway of what was a nurses station overlooking the sunroom. Originally this was a tuberculosis ward, but eventually it evolved into the children's ward. In either case, this room is as close to "outside" most of the people who lived here ever got.

There are a lot of things that you have to pay attention to when you are going through these buildings, as this floor illustrates. If you put your foot in the wrong place, you could die. You want to get the good shots, and you are paying attention to all of the elements which go into that, but you also have to pay attention to your surroundings. That is one of the reasons for my glowing praise for Chris as a guide. He understands the complexities of these structures as they are used by photographers, and he is very careful to make sure that we remember to pay attention to safety first, and aesthetics second. At the same time though, the whole reason that this is such a poignant photographic subject in the first place is because of its history, and because of the very real people who lived...and died...in these rooms. You never want to lose sight of that either, because even though people have not lived here in almost half a century, those people are still ultimately the subject of every last one of the photographs taken here, by me or anyone else. I consider them to be portraits in that sense, even though they do not visually have anyone as a visible subject. The subject is always (for me at least) the people who lived here. The people, in this case, who sat in this now dangerously decayed gathering area enjoying each other's company and the scant but precious sunlight for a few hours before having to go back to the isolation and darkness of their rooms.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

September 2022: Another two-fer!

 


This is the renovated section of the campus of Michigan's Traverse City State Hospital (aka Asylum).
It was such a beautiful day, and they have done such a fantastic job of transforming the old hospital buildings into what is now a true miniature village, that I could not help but post this shot. It is truly beautiful.

Meanwhile, in the unrestored section....


The contrast between the two images is impossible to ignore, more so than the connection between the two. But the connection is there nonetheless, as those beautifully restored buildings above used to be in a similar condition as the ones in which this sprinkler gauge now lies. And of course there is the deeper connection of purpose. The entire complex, right down to the gauge, was designed and built for the betterment of the human beings who are within its scope of influence. And so it continues today, both in the renovated sections and the unrestored sections, which provide not only a tangible connection to the past and the people who resided within those walls, but does so with an aesthetic beauty that I never grow tired of capturing.

Stay tuned for more photos from this site in the future. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

August 2022: Blue Eyed Alpaca

 


Alpacas are members of the Camel family, and are native to South America.  They are essentially small llamas, which have been domesticated for their wool. They come in all sorts of colors, but this particular genetic configuration is known as "blue eyed white".  The wool is all white, and the eyes are a striking blue.  Unfortunately, this particular genetic configuration also comes with drawbacks. These particularly striking alpacas are usually (though not always) deaf, and they frequently have complicated reproductive limitations.

The Llama branch of the Camel family (llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos) is interesting visually. The cute-grotesque ratio is nearly 1:1, with each individual usually varying only slightly on one side of the line or the other. For us humans, it is a lesson in taking the bad with the good. An especially important lesson for photographers. :)



Thursday, June 30, 2022

July 2022: Grizzly Bear

 




Rather than me writing this month, I thought I would just share what I think is the most haunting grizzly bear story ever told.

In 1980, Tag and John Rittel were hunting in the Montana wilderness. They happened upon a battered old rifle, and nearby was a large rock onto which a horrific story was carved. The story was dated 1881, and was apparently carved over a period of days by a Mountain Man named Joe Baker. In those days Mountain Men in particular were not typically very literate, so much of it was phonetically spelled. I am going to correct that here to make it easier to read. The rock, in part, read as follows:

"Joe Baker - Grizz killed me God help - I hurt bad - leg chewed and is rotting - bear may come back - my rifle is broke in two - my ribs are broken - oh holy God let me die." 
The very last line of the rock reads: "I hear the damn grizz - she came back".

Today the rock is displayed at the Rittel family's Blacktail Ranch, near Wolf Creek, Montana.