Sunday, January 31, 2010

High Top Pentecostal Church - Greene County, Virginia

I had been driving for what seemed like miles and miles on a one lane dirt road when I finally came upon the church and stopped. I got out of the truck and watched the dust I had raised drift over the edge of the mountain. The air was cool at this elevation. The first promises of spring were in the breeze and the sunlight.

I was somewhat disappointed. In front of me stood a plain wooden clapboard building. At first, I wasn't sure it was a church at all but then I spotted the sign over the front doors. This was not the quaint country church that I had hoped to find. The empty and neglected church building had no steeple, no pointed or stained glass windows, no columns or decorated cornices. As I stood in the silence and looked past the unlovely church across the mountains, it seemed about the most lonesome place I had ever been.

Who came here from isolated mountain homes to worship? Who came to this place to visit with neighbors and perhaps share with friends a church dinner on the wooden tables outside? How many couples came to this place to be married? Whose loved ones rest in the small cemetery just down the dusty road?

I am here alone, with no sound but the breeze rising in the mountain hollow behind this empty church, stirring the budding trees.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Madison County, Virginia

“Place conspires with the artist. We are surrounded by our own story, we live and move in it. It is through place that we put out roots.”    - Eudora Welty

This barn is on the other side of the road from the barn that appears in this post. Both pictures were taken at the same time on the same day. The color photo above is digital, the black and white photo in the earlier post was taken on film. It would be interesting to know the story behind these two unusual barns.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Heidelberg, Germany - 1972

I found out earlier this week that David Plowden has announced a new book, Requiem for Steam, to be published by W.W. Norton this fall (2010). I also just bought the Spring 2010 issue of Classic Trains magazine, and it included a lengthy excerpt from the upcoming book.

Even if you are not a railroad enthusiast, Plowden is one of the outstanding photographers of 20th Century America whose work has focused on recording the once commonplace things that are vanishing from the American scene. In the article in Classic Trains, Plowden describes a photo excursion that he undertook in March, 1960, to document the last day of regular-service steam operation on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

By the early 1960s, steam locomotives had all but disappeared from North America. When I was in Germany in the early 1970s, steam was still alive, and I was able to take pictures of working steam locomotives. The picture above was taken by me in the early Spring of 1972, near Heidleberg, Germany.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tangiers Sound, Crisfield, Maryland
Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, © Copyright Jennifer B. Bodine

A. Aubrey Bodine was a newspaperman. His career with the Baltimore Sun began in 1923 when his first picture was published while he was still an office boy for the paper. Later he was promoted into the photographic department where he spent the next 50 years photographing Baltimore and the surrounding region, both for the newspaper and for his own personal ends.

Over time, newspapermen develop a close connection to the people and places where they work, and this sense of place combined with Bodine's artistic ambition produced a body of work that transcends the craft of the newspaper photographer and lays claim to art.

"His pictorial art was a result of unique talent, hard work and darkroom magic. He was an artist in the full sense of the word."   Harold A. Williams, Bodine: A Legend in His Time.

Bodine admired Edward Steichen, and his own style is most often referred to as Pictorialist. But his photographs avoid the vague and dreamy aspects that often characterize the work that we associate with pictorialism. The style is romantic, but clearly seen and descriptive. Perhaps Romantic Documentary is a better description of his style. He was a meticulous craftsman and used all of the technical tools at his disposal to realize his artistic vision.

The Baltimore Sun has a gallery of Bodine's work that serves as a good introduction to the artist's work.

The A.Aubrey Bodine website, operated by the artist's daughter, Jennifer Bodine, has a wealth of information, including the full text of Bodine, A Legend In His Time, a biography by Harold A. Williams, who was Bodine's editor at the Sun. The website also features thousands of Bodine's photographs arranged by themes and categories.

Thanks to the folks at the A. Aubrey Bodine website for kind permission to reproduce the photo above. Photography In Place is not affiliated with and does not profit in any way from it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

“Location is the ground conductor of all the currents of emotion and belief and moral conviction that charge out from the story in its course. These charges need the warm hard earth underfoot, the light and lift of air, the stir and play of mood, the softening bath of atmosphere that give the likeness-to-life that life needs.”  - Eudora Welty

From “Place in Fiction” in Richard Ford and Michael Kreyling, eds., Eudora Welty: Stories, Essays, and Memoir (1998).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Emmanuel Episcopal Church - Rapidan, Virginia

It hardly seems fair that one very small town should have two beautiful carpenter gothic churches. Last Sunday we looked at Rapidan's Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church. Just across the Rapidan river, on the edge of the town, stands Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

Emmanuel was build in 1874, the same year as Waddell, in a park-like setting on the edge of town. The Rapidan River runs close by and open farmland forms the backdrop to the church grounds. More restrained architecturally than the Waddell Church, this may be the more beautiful of the two churches. But there is no reason to choose between them for they are both vivid examples of the strength of vision and craftsmanship in 19th century America.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Criglersville - Madison County, Virginia

It is easy to focus on the picturesque and quaint out in the country. But buildings like these, with the silo in the background and the powerlines running into the distance, express the ordinary beauty of working and living in the rural areas of Virginia.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

South River Road - Greene County, Virginia

The snow around here is mostly gone except on a few shady north facing slopes, and I took advantage of a warm day earlier this week to get out with the camera. The round bale in the late sun and the fence row on top of the hill caught my eye and I stopped. I had to hurry though, because I had left my truck parked in the middle of the road, the ground being too soggy to risk pulling onto the shoulder. I managed to get this shot before any cars came by.  Pentax K10d with 35mm lens.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teel Mountain Road - Greene County, Virginia

On the web: Two photographers

A theme that I hope Photography: In Place can expand on over time is the notion of photographing things close to home. Photographers working in the area where they live day to day often develop a special connection to the places they photograph, a "sense of place."

Kathleen Connally has a lovely way of seeing, and as the title of her blog, A Walk Through Durham Township, suggests, she photographs the things close to where she lives in Durham Township, Pennsylvania. Her work is documentary but at the same time beautifully expressive.

Carl Weese is a photographer widely known for his large format work that is contact printed in platinum/palladium. His website features several galleries of this work and is well worth a visit. But in his blog, Working Pictures, Carl presents less formal work with a small camera and shows a remarkable ability to illuminate the ordinary urban places close to his home in Connecticut.

Links to these photographers have been added to the "Links" in the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Greene County, Virginia

The Blue Ridge Mountains are lovely in the spring and summer when the leaves are on the trees. But in the winter, every rocky fold and tree-lined ridge is etched by the winter sun. A sunny morning after a light snowfall, an ordinary farm building rests against the mountains in a moment of peace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Field Notes:  Photo accessory

If you look at various pictures posted around the web of the Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church, featured in this post from Sunday, you will notice that they are shot mostly from the same position. There is a reason for that, and it is not lack of creativity on the part of the photographers.

The church is, as country churches go, quite large and the ground slopes away from it on all sides. This position is about the only place where one can get a decent shot of the entire building. The problem though is perspective. It is hard enough to get a reasonably rectilinear picture of a tall building without having to stand downhill from it. Yes, I know that the answer would be a view camera with movements, but I don't own a view camera and don't plan to go in that direction.

This is a wider view of the church, shot while standing on top of my truck. The building is still leaning uncomfortably away from me.

The answer: a bucket truck.

With a bucket truck in a situation like this, you could easily get high enough to frame the entire building with a level camera, and there are other advantages. Fence and hedgerow blocking your view? No problem: up we go. No place to get off the road to shoot? No problem: turn the yellow flashers on, set out a few orange cones, and get out the camera.

A bucket truck is more expensive than a view camera, but it is easier to learn to operate, more versatile and doubles as transportation. And you can always use it to reach thoses hard to paint places on the house.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church, Rapidan, Virginia

This church is said to be the finest example of Carpenter's Gothic architecture in Virginia. Built in 1874, the church was designed by J.B. Danforth, an amateur architect from Richmond, Virginia. Tracings of the original plans are in the possession of the congregation of the church.

Carpenter's Gothic structures recreate the features and ornamentation of Gothic structures using wood instead of stone. They were build by house carpenters, hence the name.

This church was nominated to be placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1975. The Nomination Form has an interesting history of the building and a discussion of its architectural features.The National Park Service website has an informative overview of the church and the local newspaper has an article about the arrival of hinges fashioned upon the original design, 135 years after the construction of the church was completed. The day I visited, I found the door unlocked and was able to take some shots of the interior, although it was late on a winter's afternoon and the light was failing.
A congregation meets here regularly. The building is open to the public.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In the bleak midwinter . . .

Over on Photography Matters, Bruce Robbins talks about the winter weather in Scotland, so I thought a midwinter report from Virginia would be in order. We had 22 inches of snow here the week before Christmas, and it has been cold, at least for around here (Virginia is, after all, a Southern state). By now, though the snow is mostly gone and we are left with bleak: bleak skies, bleak gray trees, bleak piles of dirty snow. I am not complaining though. Winter is usually a good time for me photographically. The leaves are off the trees revealing things that are mostly missed in the summer. The winter light can be interesting, and there are no snakes or poison ivy to spoil a walk in the woods.

And contemplating a bleak midwinter day from the window of a warm room with a cup of tea in hand is one of the pleasures of the season.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Even I felt divided into many fragments, having left or lost a part of myself in every place I had travelled, in every life mine had touched, above all, in every death of someone near to me that had carried into the grave some part of my living cells.
Katherine Anne Porter - "Holiday"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Madison County, Virginia

Small out-buildings like this always catch my eye. The chimney on the end of this one makes me think this may have been a smokehouse at one time. Another shot with the Pentax MX using Tri-X.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Madison County, Virginia

It was a cold day in early spring of 2009 when I took this photograph. I was attracted to the shape of the barn, which is unusual for this area, although there is a barn in the field on the other side of the road with this same shape.

Along with digital, I continue to use film, particularly for black and white. This scene was shot on Tri-X using my Pentax MX with 135mm lens. I made an almost identical shot with the DSLR at the same time, but somehow I prefer the film version.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On The Web: Recommended Reading

The Online Photographer probably needs no introduction to most photographers. Mike Johnston, the editor along with a crew of knowledgeable contributers cover a wide range of topics from gear to galleries. Mike is a joy to read. If you took a month's worth of content from TOP, I think you would agree that this is what photo magazines should be doing, but aren't.

I have read Paul Butzi's blog Musings on Photography for several years. He writes with insight about the artistic process, and shares his own photographic development generously. Of particular interest is Paul's discussion of Art is a Verb. He was also instrumental in the SoFoBoMo (Solo Photo Book Month).

Bill Emory is a fellow Virginian who works in the same areas that I am interested in. Although we have never met, I follow his blog regularly. He is an excellent photographer working in black and white and is engaged with the background and history of the places he photographs.

Links to all three sites are included in the sidebar.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Welcome to Photography In Place


"Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people's pictures too--photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community." Robert Adams - Why People Photograph

My name is Edd Fuller. I live in a rural area of central Virginia, not too far from Charlottesville. I started photographing with a Minolta SR7 in 1971 while stationed in Germany. There was a photo lab on the base where I learned to develop and print, and for me the end result of taking pictures is holding that print in my hands. Over the years, my involvement with photography has waxed and waned, based mostly on whether a darkroom was available.

In 2003, being without a darkroom, I bought my first digital camera and began learning to print in the digital "darkroom."

I photograph places close to home. The camera helps me see and appreciate where I live. The camera helps me develop a sense of place and allows me to put down visual roots.

At the close of 2009, I began reviewing my photographic work for the year, partly to figure out what had worked well for me during the year, and what had not. I found many things were coming together and working well, and I found lots of things that need improvement. And I realized that I wanted the opportunity to share my work and participate with a larger comunity of photographers.

And that is the impetus for Photography:In Place. I am mostly interested in pictures, and that will be the focus here. From time to time, I may write on things that interest me. I hope you enjoy reading and looking at pictures. Please feel free to comment. Thanks