Thursday, April 29, 2010

Near Charlotte, North Carolina - circa 1975

Unfortunately, my old negative files are not very well labeled and my memory is often unreliable. This photo was taken around 1975 during a visit with my aunt and uncle who were living in North Carolina at the time. I know that much from the other frames on that roll of film, but I don't remember the circumstances of taking this photo. The passage of time may increase our interest in a photograph, but memories fade over the years. Going through these old negatives makes me realize the importance of keeping good records.

"Film is cheap," they used to say, but it wasn't cheap for me in those days and I made only two exposures of this abandoned house with a 35mm Minolta loaded with Plus-X.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

El Paso Convenience Store - Charlottesville, Virginia

Web Notes

Carl Weese Print Sale
Drive-in theaters have almost disappeared from the American landscape, but if you are of a certain age, they are certain to bring back fond memories. Drive-ins brought together two quintessentially American cultural themes: the movies and the automobile. Since 1998, Carl Weese, a photographer based in Connecticut, has been documenting the decline of drive-ins using 7x17 and 8X10 view cameras and producing platinum/palladium contact prints. His work was recently featured in the NY Times Lens Blog.

In conjunction with Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer, Carl is having an on-line sale of prints at very attractive prices. One print is from his drive-in theater series, and there are two other subjects available. There are very few photographers working in the labor-intensive and demanding platinum/palladium process, and this is a great opportunity to own a platinum/palladium print. The sale ends Friday, April 30th, so if you are interested, don't delay.**

Jeff Curto's History of Photography Podcast
If you are interested in how the platinum/palladium process fits into the history of photography, Jeff Curto's History of Photography Podcast will provide an overview of photography from its invention through the digital age. Mr. Curto teaches a survey course on the history of photography at the College of DuPage in Illinois. Each classroom lecture is recorded and made available on-line as a podcast. There are 15 class sessions and each session is 1 to 2 hours long. This is a great opportunity to audit a interesting and enlightening course, and it is free.

**Photography In Place is not associated with Carl Weese or The Online Photographer, and does not benefit in any way from this print sale.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Azaleas - Greene County Virginia 

The azaleas in our yard are in full bloom now. After suffering under the weight of two major snow storms last winter, the bushes are somewhat flattened, but covered with blossoms.

Masses of azalea blossoms are one of nature's most colorful spring offerings. Benjamin Morrison, a former director of the United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., is largely responsible for the hardy azaleas that we know today. Between 1929 and 1954, Morrison successfully hybridized the large and colorful azaleas of the tender Indica group with hardy northern  species, giving us the modern hybrid azalea.

In Washington, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival may be the best known spring event, but residents of the city  know that the acres of azaleas at The National Arboretum put on a show that is second to none.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Morning Ride - Graves Mill, Virginia

In This Place: Graves Mill, Virginia - Part Three

My last visit to Graves Mill was on a lovely Sunday morning earlier this month. As I was walking around photographing in the clear morning light, large pick-up trucks pulling horse trailers began to arrive. Soon there were a half dozen trailers parked along the road, and people were greeting acquaintances and riding companions as they unloaded horses and saddled up. It was a friendly group, and I introduced myself and spent some time talking with them. One of the things that frequently comes up when you talk to people around Graves Mill is the 1995 flood and how it shaped the surrounding landscape.

We live in a time of rapid change and growth, and sometimes take for granted the transformation of a wooded area into a shopping center, or farmland into a housing development. Over the years, Graves Mill has been changed by the hand of man. The mill was built, houses and stores sprang up around the mill, and roads developed to facilitate commerce.

Natural forces are constantly at work changing the landscape as well. These changes are usually slow, but sometimes nature produces dramatic change, as it did in Graves Mill in 1995. The flood altered the course of the Rapidan River and reshaped the land, erasing many of the man made changes that had accumulated over the years.

Fifteen years after the flood, the scars are still visible from miles away where the mountain slopes sloughed off in the massive debris flows triggered by the flood waters. Those scars are healing, but the very shape of the mountains was changed overnight.

Since its invention over 150 years ago, photography, with its unique ability to record exactly how a place looks at a given moment, has recorded and made visible this process of change. Comparing photos of the same place taken years apart help us comprehend  the effect of change, both natural and man-made, on our world.

After the riders had departed to explore the mountain trails in the nearby Shenandoah National Park, I continued to photograph Graves Mill. The morning was clear and cool. The red-buds and dogwoods were in bloom and the only sound was the water flowing over the rocks in the river. On this still and peaceful morning,  it was easy to imagine that Graves Mill had always been and would always be like this. But with each click of the shutter, I realized that I was recording a unique moment. Stretching away on either side of that single moment, the past and the future are all about change.

The Miller's House - Graves Mill, Virginia

This pre-Civil War residence is now the Old Mill House Bed and Breakfast. Their website has some interesting history and photographs of Graves Mill.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Graves Mill School in new location - Graves Mill, Virginia

In This Place: Graves Mill, Virginia - Part Two
The recent history of Graves Mill village has been shaped by the catastrophic flood of 1995. On June 27th of that year, 26 to 30 inches of rain fell on the western part of Madison County. Trees, mud, and boulders poured down the mountains in a massive debris flow which followed Kinsey Run right through the village of Graves Mill. Caught between the flooding Rapidan River and Kinsey Run, Graves Mill was devastated. Homes and buildings were flooded or washed away, and many residents were evacuated by helicopter. The voting house, garage, blacksmith's shop, post office and two abandoned country stores were completely destroyed. The old mill building and Graves Chapel survived.

The photo on the left shows Graves Mill prior to the 1995 flood. From near to far (east to west) are the voting house, the schoolhouse, and Graves Chapel. The voting house was destroyed by the flood. The schoolhouse, pictured in its current location above,  survived and was later moved about 100 yards to the south. Graves Chapel survived and is the only building in this picture that is in its original location.
The old road (Route 615) ran between the north side of the Chapel and Kinsey Run and was completely washed away. It was later rebuilt on the south side of Graves Chapel.

This picture of Graves Mill before the flood is  from the "Graves Mill: Virginia 2007 Community Program" document. The photographer is uncredited.

The photo on the right of Graves Chapel was taken in April, 2010. The driveway to the Chapel is about where the old state road was before the flood. Kinsey Run is parallel to the driveway just out of the right side of the frame. On the far left side of the picture there is a glimpse of the new Route 615 on the south side of the church.


On the left - Kinsey Run in March 2010.

See last Sunday's post about Graves Chapel here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Graves Mill - 1745 - Madison County, Virginia

In This Place: Graves Mill, Virginia - Part One

The first mill building on this site was built in 1745 and was purchased by Thomas Graves (1733-1810) in 1759. For 150 years, this mill served the needs of the surrounding agricultural community, producing flour and corn meal and even serving as the voting precinct. The mill remained in operation until about 1940.

The building is largely intact and could be restored. Supports have been added to stabilize the structure, but the old mill is in need of a major restoration effort. Some of the carpentry could date from the middle of the 18th century.

Graves Mill is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

The photo on the left dates from the 1930s and shows the flume on top of the wheel. (Virginia Historical Society)

This photograph of the back of the building was taken in March 2010. The waterwheel seen in the old photo above was on this end of the building. The remains of the mill mechanism are beneath the building.  Notice the braces supporting the building.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Front view of Graves Mill - April 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Graves Chapel - 1885 - Graves Mill, Virginia 

The Shiloh Baptist Association held the first services in the newly built Graves Chapel on October 14, 1886. The church is a simple wood-frame building with two separate entrance doors. At one time the doors provided a separate entrance for men and women, who were seated on opposite sides of the sanctuary.

Sunday School classrooms were added to the back of the church in 1955. By then the population of the village at Graves Mill was shrinking. Many families had been displaced during the creation of the nearby Shenandoah National Park, and many young people were leaving the mountains to seek opportunity elsewhere. After 83 years serving the community, a final communion service was held in April of 1969 and the church was closed.

 The communion glasses from this last service were still in the pew racks when, in 1979, the church reopened as a non-denominational fellowship. This evolved into an Episcopal Mission church, but by the 1990s, attendance was again in decline and in June, 1995, the final services were held.

Just a few days after the church closed in 1995,  a devastating flood washed away several buildings in Graves Mill, including the Post Office. Floating trees and debris, caught in the trees of the cemetery adjacent to the church, formed a dam that diverted the full force of the flood and spared the church building.

Today, Graves Chapel serves as a community center. Evening Prayer Services are held on the fourth Sunday of each month.

Information for this post was derived from a history of Graves Mill by Doug Graves which is available online here.
Click on pictures to enlarge. Click here to see last Sunday's church.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

For Lease - West Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia

Web Notes

"Central to all is my interest in our use of the land and the structures we create." - Ann Mitchell
I first became aware of Ann Mitchell's work through her sensitive and beautiful photographs exploring the architectural spaces of the Austin Val Verde estate in California. Her book, Austin Val Verde: Impressions of a Montecito Masterpiece was published in 2007 by Balcony Press.

In 2009, she published a picture every day on her blog, Impermanence, and browsing through the 2009 archive is a good introduction to her work. In 2010, she is posting a set of pictures and commentary each month.

Urban Decay
In Vicksburg, Mississippi, Andrew Morang is staying one step ahead of the bulldozer with camera in hand to document buildings slated by the city for demolition. (See Shotgun Shacks on Avenue E)

His blog, Urban Decay explores and documents abandoned and decaying structures before they disappear from the scene -- and from our history. Mr. Morang is an experienced photographer, but what sets this work apart from the many photographers who take pictures of old buildings, is his observant and articulate commentary. His work will be valuable to historians both now and in the future.

Links to Impermanence and Urban Decay have been added to the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gus' Custom Tailoring - West Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia 

Sometimes on a nice day, I take my lunch and eat it in the parking lot of the train station. I like to watch for trains to go by and there is usually something interesting to see. Last week while I was there, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus train passed through, but unfortunately I was caught about 300 yards away with a wide angle lens on the camera.

Disappointed with not getting a picture of the circus train, I took a walk down the street and photographed some of the buildings along the way. The day was bright and cloudless, but at this time of the year the sun is still far enough to the south to cast some shadows, even at noon. I will post several more pictures from my walk over the next several days. These photos were taken with the Pentax MX on Fuji Acros 100 film.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Buchanan, Virginia - Johnson Family Residence - circa 1936

To the best of my knowledge, this photo was taken by a member of my family, probably Aunt Laura, around 1936. That is my grandfather in the middle with his hat on his knee. My mother is the blond-headed girl on the left, half in and half out of the frame. It would be another ten years before she would marry and I would come along.

The remarkable thing about this photo is that it is so utterly familiar to me even though it was taken years before I was born. It almost seems like I was there on the day this picture was taken.

In later years, I visited my grandparents' house many times. I remember the porch, the rooms behind the two doors, the kitchen on the other side of the house, all with a vividness completely out of proportion to the amount of time I actually spent there. I remember sleeping in the attic room behind the dormer windows above the porch, and the rain on the tin roof.

Sometimes a photograph seems to combine with our own experience, our own sense of a place, to create phantom memories. Looking at this picture, I somehow remember that Sunday afternoon on the porch with my family. I can almost hear Aunt Laura say "take off your hat, Daddy, so I can take your picture."

My grandparents died in 1963 and the place was sold. A few years later, the house burned down. The last time I drove by, a house trailer was sitting in just about the same place as the porch was in this photograph.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fairview Christian Church - 1880 - Hood, Virginia 

On the hill rising to the side of Fairview Christian Church is a cemetery overlooking open farmland and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a lovely view.

Through the end of the 19th century, most people were buried in churchyard cemeteries or small family plots. Today churchyard cemeteries are picturesque and historic but in the past, particularly in large cities, they were often overcrowded and unsanitary which lead to the rise of commercial garden cemeteries in the 1830s. Rural churchyard cemeteries are a reminder of a time when life, and death, was centered on the local church.

Click here for the previous Sunday's church

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Abandoned House - Greene County, Virginia

In March, 2007, I photographed this old house in a little place called March, Virginia. The house was dilapidated but the grounds were clean and well kept. Next door is a small cemetery enclosed by a stone wall and just down the street there is a empty commercial building, possibly a store at one time. Otherwise, there is not much to mark the existence of March.

There was a weather beaten sign next to the front door that suggests an interesting story, but it is a story that I was never able to read.

Last week, I revisited the site and found that the old house is gone.

There is nothing left but the outhouse and a pile of debris which has been pushed to one side. I hope someone kept the sign.   Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

109A Main Street, Stanardsville, Virginia

Web Notes

Photographers' Railroad Page
With camera in hand, it is easy to become so focused on photography that we miss out on the life going on around us. In the April 1 article on the Railroad Photographers' Page, Kevin Scanlon meets a new friend while photographing trains and reminds us that sometimes it pays to put down the camera and look around. Kevin writes, "As the darkness settled over the valley I listened to the stories, smiled at the sweet remembrances and came to realize that I came home richer for not bolting off to take even more train pictures." Read the whole story here.

Visions of the Heart
"Stairway to Heaven," a photograph by David Fleurant, is discussed in this new post on Lenswork Magazine's Visions of the Heart blog. Brooks Jensen writes, "There are lots of ways to communicate the story that supplements the photographs. However it's done, it's the element of story that so often will bring a photograph to life."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium - April 14, 1925 - Photographer unknown

Play ball!!

While searching through the Library of Congress' photography collection for a historic photo of baseball's opening day, this picture caught my eye because it includes an unidentified photographer, with a tripod mounted camera, recording the opening ceremonies. 

Baseball photography had been on my mind since I recently acquired a copy of Baseball's Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon (Henry N Abrams, 1993). In some quarters, Charles Conlon is thought of as the greatest baseball photographer of all time, and the photos in this book make a strong argument for that claim. Working from 1904 to 1942, Conlon photographed some of the greatest players of baseball's golden era: Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Dizzy Dean and many others, some famous, some not so well known.

Working with a Graflex camera and 5x7 or later 4x5 glass plate negatives, Conlon took thousands of player portraits and team pictures for the Spalding Base Ball Guide and the Reach Base Ball Guide. He also pioneered the practice of action photography in sports, taking advantage of the faster glass plates that became available as technology advanced. Perhaps the best known of Conlon's photographs is his 1909 action shot of Ty Cobb sliding into third base

Conlon's body of work is remarkable given the fact that photography was a spare-time pursuit. He was a full-time proof reader at the New York Evening Telegraph, not a professional photographer. Charles Conlon captured something magical about baseball during this golden age. He leaves a legacy of great baseball photographs, but his work transcends baseball. These are simply great photographs. 
I am not a Yankees fan, but if you are, you may not care to remember the 1925 season. Babe Ruth missed most of the season and the Yankees finished 29 games behind the first place Washington Senators. The only team to do worse that year was the Boston Red Sox, finishing an abysmal 49 games out of first. The Yankees sprang back from this poor showing, and 40 years would pass before the team had another below .500 season. 

Photo credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-B2-6350-16

Sunday, April 4, 2010

 St. Clement's Island, Maryland

On November 23, 1633, the Ark and the Dove sailed from England bound for the New World with Governor Leonard Calvert and a group of colonists. They landed on St. Clement's Island on March 25, 1634, and established the Maryland colony on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state. They celebrated the first Catholic mass in the British American colonies that same day.

In 1934, a 40-foot memorial was erected on the island to commemorate Maryland's 300th birthday.

St. Clement's Island is located in the Potomac River, about one-half mile offshore, in the present day St. Mary's County, Maryland.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Barn and outbuilding on Simmons Gap Road- Greene County, Virginia 

If you continue on the one lane road past the Shady Grove Bible Baptist Church, you will follow the Lynch River up a narrow valley until you come to these old farm buildings. I can't tell if the buildings are being used, but the surrounding land is being worked.

On the other side of the road, a few out of place daffodils caught my eye, and I noticed an abandoned farm house where the owner of these buildings may have lived, set back from the road in the trees. Just beyond this place the road begins its steep ascent into the Blue Ridge Mountains.