This series of images of the Hugh Chatham Memorial Bridge was taken during the spring and summer of 2010, a few months before demolition was to begin. After being closed to vehicle traffic for several years, state and local governments deemed it not feasible to restore the bridge for vehicle use, nor maintain it for pedestrian use. The cost for renovation was too high and the liability too great a risk to let it stand as is. Trying to balance the preservation of history, the forward march of progress, and the economics of the two can be a tough trio to juggle. When the actual structure can't be saved, we can only turn to creating a record of what was. This is generally done in the form of documents containing the technical specifications; dates, location, dimensions, and a time line history, along with a few reference images showing what it looked like. But this does not capture the spirit of a place, or begin to express the relationship between the structure and the community surrounding it. As a resident of Yadkin County, I was well aware of the status of the bridge as a local landmark and the iconic role it played in the landscape and identity of Elkin and Jonesville, NC. There is a saying that some things are greater than the sum of the parts. This very well describes the feeling many residents of the area had about the Hugh Chatham Memorial Bridge. I have seen several beautiful images in different mediums of this historic bridge, attesting to the widespread importance and meaning it held for many in the area. It is fantastic that so many artists have put forth their vision and effort in creating something more than just a historic footnote of this iconic landmark. Hearing local people talk about the bridge and it's pending demolition, along with my own memories of driving over, under, and around the bridge during the days of high school cruising, a memory no doubt shared by many, inspired me to create a set of images that are more than just a photographic record of what the bridge looked like. I wanted to present it in a way that showcased the unique beauty that a simple, humble concrete and steel structure could have when truly appreciated by those who see the sum as more than the parts. If you're wondering why it took so long for me to make these images available, there are two reasons. First, I needed time to consider the various ways I could process and present the final images. Secondly, I simply didn't have the skills needed to create whatever vision I might develop. Despite practicing photography as a hobby off and on for roughly 25 years since elementary school, I had only began to experiment with and understand digital photography about a year prior to taking these photos, and had just began to explore the role and ability of software in creating fine art photographic images. These reasons, along with my desire to publish only the highest quality work, has delayed the release of this series until now. I hope you enjoy.
When I left off at the end of the previous post, I hinted at the thing that finally connected the dots and allowed me to achieve the level of work I had been striving for. That began with a single image I stumbled across while visiting one of my favorite (and also one of the most informative, professional, and extensive photography related websites on the internet today, www.luminous-landscape.com). The image was called "Playa Reflections" and it was by a photographer by the name of Alain Broit, a name new to me at the time. I starred in awe at the image and my first thought was "Wow, who is this guy". Over the next couple years I purchased his books, read his essays, and studied his extensive gallery of photographs of the American Southwest. It was through these studies that I came to realize the missing link to my work was the emotional side of creating a photograph. It's not about creating am image of what something looks like, it's about creating an image of what something feels like. A successful image pulls the viewer in and triggers something deeper than just a visual response. Think about it this way, have you ever been to a unique location with an incredible view that left you in awe of your surroundings, taken a photograph of the scene, then been disappointed by the print because it looked nothing like you remembered? That's because when you are "in the scene" you are experiencing it with all your senses. Now take that experience and reduce it to a small flat sheet of paper with the only feedback being visual. I'll bet you just had an AH HA moment didn't you? In order to create a photograph that truly conveys what you felt when you were standing there, you have to find a way to translate all that feedback and emotion into a visual form. This is done by applying all the technical and artistic skills you have at your disposal. The better and more finely tuned those skills are, the better the photographer will be able to create an image that conveys those emotions to the viewer, even if they were not standing there. It is my hope that through my images I can enable the viewer to not only see, but to feel what it was like to be "in the scene" when I was there to record the image.
Now that blog post #1 is up it's time to move forward. Since one of the primary purposes of a blog is to tell you more about myself as a photographer I'll try to expand on the small bit of info from the "About Me" page. When I first signed up for the "Darkroom Club" in 7th grade, I didn't really have an interest in photography. I thought the science and process was fascinating and was purely interested from a technical "how it works" perspective. A relative gave me a plastic fixed lens 35mm camera (the kind with simple diagrams of a sun, sun with cloud, clouds, and light bulb for setting aperture) so I would have something to shoot a roll of film. I began by walking around the school campus taking images of the buildings, many times isolating parts of the structures and recording only geometric shapes. As I began to process and print some of the images I started getting really encouraging feedback from some of the art teachers, seemed I had at least a decent eye for composition. This pushed me to try and improve the content and quality of my work. As my interest grew I began saving up and purchased my first real camera, a Minolta X-370 by the time I entered high school, where I spent three years in journalism so I could photograph and print images for the yearbook. This lead to an opportunity to work for a local wedding and portrait photographer during a summer semester off from college. By now I had established decent technical and composition skills and could see that my work had improved. I also felt like I had hit a wall and just couldn't seem to make any meaningful strides in where I was vs. where I wanted to be. As happens with many interests that begin early, life started happening and the amount of time available to spend on photography became limited. This coupled with my frustration at not being able to take my work to the next level had me practicing rather sporadically over the next 15-20 years. I didn't lose interest, just time. Fortunately through determination (or stubborness) I continued reading many books and articles during that time, picking up valuable bits of information along the way that I could apply whenever I was able to pick up a camera. As I began to practice more seriously all those bits started to come together and I could see things taking shape. I had a better understanding of both the technical and artistic sides of photography and could relate to the differences in how the camera records vs. how we see things. I was able to clearly improve on my work from previous years; however, there was still something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on. That is until I saw something that would finally clarify the missing piece of the puzzle (besides the technical and the artistic aspect) and finally allow me to make the jump to where I wanted to be photographically. At this point I will refer you back to the title of this post, where it says "part 1". To be continued...........
Welcome to my website and blog. As I sit here thinking what to write for my first blog entry I realize a new challenge to photography, writers block. Wait........what does writers block have to do with photography? Well, nothing. Until one decides to share and promote their work on the internet for all to see. So why does that require writing a blog? Before the internet and personal websites, artists promoted their work by getting showings at local venues such as libraries, art and craft fairs, and galleries. This always required one on one communication with others in order to gain access to those venues, and further conversation with individuals that stop by to see their work. While this is still an important part of the process, it is now supplemented the blog, at least on the internet. But the thing with blogs is that it can sometimes be a one sided conversation. That's good, as it allows me to share my thoughts and ideas about photography and gives you, the reader, an understanding of where I come from as an artist. The flip side is that I may go wandering off in the wrong direction and sometimes a little feedback is needed to help me understand what the audience is looking for. So feel free to respond to my posts and make this a two way conversation. Just bear with me as I'm new at this blogging thing and sometimes life can get in the way of progress, so it may be a few days before I get to respond. We'll just see where this takes us.