Saturday, March 15, 2008

Project Work

Pike Drive-in Theater, Montgomery, PA

Welcome to a new blog which will be filled with not-current pictures. Pictures made some time ago, on projects already completed, or projects that have been under construction so long that some of the pictures are from years ago.

When I began my Working Pictures blog about a year and a half ago, I had a vague notion of posting current work (I'd been interested by PAW and PAD blogs I'd encountered online). I thought I'd follow a discipline of posting every day (one picture at least, maybe more) and I thought I'd write quite a bit to go along with the photographs, but it didn't work out that way. Posting every day, from work done no more than a few days before, became addictive quickly. Writing about the pictures did not. I found that pictures made in the past week or so had better speak for themselves, and I'd need months or years to have anything interesting to say about them in writing. When I had some technical stuff that seemed worth discussion, I posted it at my friend MJ's TOP blog. Working Pictures will continue with no changes, except new postings.

I expect to write more about these older pictures, though I may surprise myself again. I don't intend to be compulsive about posting once a day, though I'll post frequently.

My work always organizes as projects. Related pictures with a theme, a common, shared, subject. It's likely that everything I post here will be part of an extended project. As I figure out the new interface blogger has given me with the opening of a new blog, I may use the title feature to clue the project for each post.

Winsted Drive-in Theater

In 1999 I noticed this abandoned drive-in theater while traveling on the old highway (there's a newer limited access superslab nearby). The subject seemed strong, and I decided to return at dawn when the light might be good. Weather forecasts were favorable (clear sky in the east, storm coming in from the west) a couple days later, so I returned before dawn. I was, at the time, testing a European brand of sheet film of somewhat uncertain origin, for possible write-up in a photo magazine. It had done OK in early tests so I used it, and luckily it was a perfect fit for the subject. I chose the camera position largely for the downed speaker pole in the foreground. I remember being amused about how simple the shot was to make—a bit of front tilt on the 8x10 Deardorff with my usual 240mm lens, a few seconds at f/45, all done. Backstory: The only time I'd ever been to a drive-in theater as a kid with my parents, the show was an incredibly gory historical drama about the British wiping out the Highland Scots and The Old Man got so grossed out he just had to leave...without unhooking the speaker from the window. We kept picking out the little squares of shattered safety glass from every nook and cranny of that '56 Plymouth station wagon for the next ten years. So I knew what a speaker pole was.

The next year I made some pictures of another drive-in theater I found near the Ohio River at Kanauga, just across from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I don't think I connected it in my head to the Winsted, I just liked the subject, but the negatives suffered the worst dust attack I've ever encountered in all my years working with large format sheet film cameras. So I never printed them in platinum. (I will at some point scan the best one and wipe out the dust in a matter of a few minutes.)

In the fall of 1991, I encountered The Pike (see top) while working on a different project in Pennsylvania. It was the end of the day, and I found an acceptable place to stay nearby on the south side of Williamsport (I have a starving artist's limit of fifty bucks that I'll pay for a room when I'm on the road). At sunrise the next morning The Pike was resplendent. I shot a lot of 8x10 negatives, several 7x17 negatives, and realized that I had "A Project" on my hands. The crazy, never the same twice, architecture of the drive-in theater set in the infinitely variable American landscape was a theme I'd have to pursue.

So, it's a new blog about old, or at least unfinished, work.

Feedback welcome.


Scott Kirkpatrick said...

I like The Pike because both screens are still visible. Have you ever gotten the other elements of a drive-in to arrange themselves in a single picture -- billboard, ticket booth, projection house and screens? Maybe with a stray speaker pole?


Carl said...

Scott, the Pike is a triple-screen, arranged quite symmetrically at about 120 degrees, which helped get two screens along with the marquee. I've also got shots there with the ticket booth and two screens, but not all three screens plus marquee and booth, not to mention central projection house/snack bar. Not even with the 7x17. But you've given me an idea for the next post...

BTW, The Pike has been reopened and refurbished by new owners and I'm anxious to go back and see what's been done.