Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sign Post Medusa

[Above] Image Composite
Adirondack Mine

Winter is my slow time. Almost every day is a flat gray without contrast. With conditions less than ideal, I busy myself with media development projects that have been lingering since the summer while at the same time attempting to fulfill holiday print orders in hopes of having them delivered by Christmas. I have content for three websites to develop before the first of the year plus a few site redesigns and countless upgrades. Needless to say, I miss the summer’s possibilities for both adventure and photography almost as much as I miss warm trail runs. I hate sweating through cold winter workouts. Tomorrow, I am going to make an effort to get out and shoot some photos no matter what the atmospheric conditions are. I haven’t picked up my camera in almost 3 weeks.

I have a waterproof, helmet mounted DV camera on order. Every time the Brown Santa Claus (The UPS van) drives by without delivering my cam, I curse him under my breath by wishing heavy packages and obscure house numbers upon him. Seems like I have spent months out of my life waiting for either bike parts or photography equipment to be delivered out of the back of a UPS van. After I get the cam, I want to get out to Stratton and shoot some TGR rip-off video in one of those out of bounds broccoli forests on the upper mountain. Just 1 mile from the lodge its huge inland sea of parked SUV’s, the broccoli and rime ice covered snow mushrooms look like the deep back country. Getting off the high speed gondola at the summit is like stepping onto the surface of the moon. I need to get outside soon.

The following is from one of my ongoing projects.

Excerpt from The Inexact Science of Abandoned Places:
Urban Exploration in a Post-911 World:

The absolute silence of this remote portion of the Adirondack Park is eroded only by the irregular rhythm of a door left open to bang closed in the wind. Reports of an Adirondack “Ghost Town” have been circulating around the internet for years. There is little question as to its existence, only as to when the long silent structures of the titanium mining operation would fall victim to the wrecking ball. The rumors increase the urgency of getting there before any redevelopment is to begin.

“Don’t look at the NO TRESPASSING signs and they can’t hurt you.” I have used this phrase a lot over the years, mostly just before setting fat tire onto posted land to poach forbidden single track. The orange and black medusas on sign posts and need to be avoided at all costs. As we approached the gated entrance of the mine, I mumbled it again. Over the years, those 12 words have been transformed from a joke to a good luck piece for a non-superstitious person, my verbal talisman. We parked the car a few feet from the gate. On foot and carrying backpacks laden with camera gear, the option of a quick get away was an impossibility. We walked down the only road in or out hoping to talk our way out of any confrontation with security guards with the story that we were students doing research for a thesis.

Every time, without fail, I feel like I am being watched.

Upon first impression, the hollowed out structure of the smelting operation resembled the skeletal remains of an enormous, long dead beast. At one point in its history, this 5 square mile patch of real estate was the nexus of thousands of lives, serving as both the financial anchor and social web for not only employees, but their families and extended familes. The mine became a self contained planet isolated in a vacuum of pine forests and rural two lane highways. This small city housed a worker’s encampment, air strip, firehouse, medial aid station, and commissary alone with scores of science fiction-esque structures that served some highly specialized need. Almost completely self-contained, there was little need for workers and their families to venture far from the industrial landscape of the mine.

Walking through the maze of silent buildings, there is a palpable feeling that this place was abandoned all at once, almost like an escape in the middle of a perfectly normal workday. Time cards are still slipped into the slots of the rack next to the time clock which is stopped at 3:18 with no indication as to AM or PM. The floors and railings of the guardhouse and weigh station have been polished smooth by years of workdays. Tools still hang from peg boards on the walls of the machine shop, and vehicles half life into the diamond black soil. The inner chambers of the rusting, corrugated aluminum buildings beg to be explored.

The mine complex sits on a manmade reservoir of turquoise water, a blue jewel that stands out in the landscape of the Adirondacks where most water here is stained brown from tannic acid. The water appears to have an out of place purity among the rusting buildings of the complex. I am sure the water only looks clean as the mine is little more than an enormous scar on the planet’s skin. It is obvious that the environment here was milked of everything and left to wither away in silence. Hidden behind miles of buffer zone, destruction on a grand scale happened here, relatively unabated.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Rickshaw Pilot

[Left] The Rickshaw Pilot
Location Undisclosed

Today, I finally freed this image from my cryo champer of undeveloped film, a memory reanimated into tangible form. I had completely forgotten about it. I snapped this image just before a rickshaw ride in 2003. Later that day, I proposed to my wife.

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Coolidge Theater

[Left] Coolidge Theater
Coolidge Corner
Boston, Massachusetts

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gust Front

[Above] Gust Front Passing Through Bridge Supports
Castleton Island,
New York

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Astonishing Panoramas of the Recent Past

[Above] Film Canisters

Over the last ten years, I have managed to bring a camera pretty much everywhere I go. A successful image is sometimes more luck than preparation. At this point, I feel like I am missing an important piece of clothing if I leave the house without some form of camera in my backpack. Having a camera along can turn even the most mundane tasks into potential opportunities.

I love the unobtrusiveness of a high end point and shoot for daily use. Practicality prevents lugging a 4 pound DSLR and lenses most places. The DSLR’s size and storage needs are hefty and preventative for working undetected in public environments. I’ll take the 8 megapixel, 6 ounce, point and shoot version any day. High quality digital images from a consumer grade point and shoot cameras weren’t always an option, but today, there is virtually little difference in a quality point and shoot’s image quality compared to the DSLR, only lens choices. Remember, megapixels have little to do with image quality. I have actually seen photographers use the number of megapixels their camera has as a marketing tool. For an uneducated consumer, I can see how this would be an effective strategy, but the reality is, after a certain point, megapixels become a moot point unless you are planning on printing extra large images. Seems like in any gear driven endeavor, there are pissing matches about whose equipment is better. Personally, I will take creativity over technology any day.

The bulk of my images from the 90’s are either film or slides. I have drawers of negative sleeves and hundreds of boxes of slides that never get looked at. I keep them for sentimental reasons, but they will probably never see the light of day again.

In a corner of my studio, sits a large glass container filled with at least a gallon of undeveloped film canisters. The canisters are in essence miniature time capsules of images from forgotten days ten years in the past that have been preserved in decade old air. At the time, as I accumulated more and more canisters, I lost interest in getting them all developed. At $11 dollars a roll, the financial investment would have been substantial. I wasn’t working professionally yet, so there was no urgency of a deadline to meet. A majority of the images in the containers are experiments, travel documentary, and a few failed attempts at cliché band photography. Today, the value of film photography has decreased substantially allowing me to have the film developed directly to CD.

The first electronic SLR I owned was a Canon EOS Rebel with a National Enquirer sticker on the outside of the lens hood and a Trek Mountain Bike Racing Team sticker on the inside. I think the system cost me in the neighborhood of $800 in 1990 dollars. I loved taking that camera to bike races because the Enquirer logo started a lot of conversations with interesting people. Somewhere in my archives, the camera and I are sharing a frame with Marla Streb just outside the press office at Mount Snow, Vermont. That Rebel has accumulated quite a few frequent flier miles.

I only recently started developing the film, and like some new age regression therapy, small details of past lives came flooding back in vivid detail. For the last ten years, undeveloped images have been preserved in small black cylindrical time capsules, bathed in the air of the day I sealed them. Atmosphere from Breckenridge, Ground Zero, thunderheads off the coast of North Carolina, mountain summits, underwater plant life, forgotten projects from art school, former friends, arch enemies, and younger versions of myself sporting varying lengths of hair, has been freed from the stasis of the small black and gray cryotubes marked with cryptic geographical information written in fine point sharpie: monster, obx, adks 03, winter3, nyc 0801, grd 0, kayak 4, moca, dc 00, troy wor, cc 98. It is a language all my own. Photography lost something when there was no longer a need for film canisters.

There is a strangeness is seeing the world as it was in your own recent past. The faces of former friends seem at the same time familiar and foreign, each linked by a nebulous shared moment of common geography and interests that have since evaporated.

Sometimes you are friends with people for no other reason than common and unpredictable intersections in personal history. The shared adventures of the past, both major and minor, are enough of a magnetic force to draw two people together.

Sometimes, that magnetic field weakens and the bonds that connect personal histories fail. They fail like cheap batteries and the signal becomes weak. The legends of youth are no longer impressive. Neighborhood tall tales shrink with old age as if starved for calcium. Sometimes, the simple fact of the matter is that people grow apart and little more analysis is needed.

Sometimes on nights like tonight, I sit here in front of the monitor and muse about all the people I once called “friend” and wonder how they are as they go about their days insulted in whatever cocoon they have chosen as I go about mine inside of my personal cocoon, orbiting those things and people who are important to me.

Sometimes the velocity of life is breathtaking. People become strangers a lot faster then it takes for them to become friends.

Did you ever wonder where the strangest place a picture of you resides? That drunken pose at a summer party locked away in someone’s junk drawer, or that trip to the shore with that person you dated for a few months folded up and stuck in a book on a shelf thousands of miles away, or a stranger’s blog? Every single picture of ever taken of you has to be somewhere. The evidence of your former self is scattered in a million unreachable places. What was once familiar is now taken out of context and stripped of sentimentality, like a piece of trivia.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Night Bridge

[Left] Peeble's Island Bridge
Waterford, New York

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Sand Mandala

[Left Top] Offerings for the Dali Lama

[Left Bottom] Tibetan Monks Constructing Sand Mandala

4 Days work only to swept away.

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[Left] Bomber's Burrito Bar
Lark Street
Albany New York

The one true universial law:
Everywhere we go, there will be burritos.

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Pagoda in Whiteout

[Left] Pagoda in Whiteout
Grafton, New York

As a snow squall erases the details of the stupa, all external sound is absorbed and erased. I go months without visiting the pagoda, but I always return. I can’t seem to stay away from its clean lines and pristine white dome, especially in weather.

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Port Towers Film Strip

[Above] Port Towers
Port of Albany
Albany, New York

The abandoned and automated industrial landscapes of the port are fascinating subjects to photograph. Taken out of context, their geometry implies 1960’s science fiction cold war utilitarianism. Strange towers belch unknown clouds under the cover of darkness as aircraft warning beacons fire at six seconds. Advances in modern automation permit these immense mechanisms to be controlled by shadowy figures in air conditioned command centers lit by the glow of computer monitor. From the air, on approach to Albany International, the plants of the port resemble a giant circuit board. Signs restrict cameras in the same graphic style as the no smoking circle with a red slash through a camera. "If you see something, say something" is the mantra of a new era of Homeland Insecurity. CCTV eyes behind double smoked Lexan see everything with unwavering diligence.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Farm in Fog

[Left] Farm in Fog
Rural Rensselaer Country
New York State

35 mm Test Image

I developed an affinity for farm landscapes over thousands of miles of cycling. Country roads provide the best terrain and a refuge from the traffic of suburban roads. To this day, farms still remind me of summer group rides, pace lines, and Italian steel.

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Mountain with Moon

[Left] Mountain with Moon
Staats Island / Port of Rensselaer
Rensselaer, New York
Digital Image shot with Lens Baby 2.0

Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye. A change in perspective can change the world. The image above is not a mountain, not even close. I used the Lens Baby 2.0 to transform this 15 foot high cone of dirt into a mountain landscape.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Late Night 8MM

[Left] New York State Capitol
Albany, New York

Fuji RVP 50

The last bus of the night moves by as the faces of strangers in the the windows flash like the frames of old 8mm movie film, their expressions frozen as the movement of the bus provides only a glimpse. Like one of those animations drawn on the edge of a pad, the windows draw distorted movement and the individual frames make no sense.

42º39'13.39" n
73º45'28.08" w
51 meters

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The Secret Life of Bikes

[Left] Bikes,
Crushed Shell Alleyway,
Provincetown, Massachusetts

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Concrete Plant

[Left] Concrete Plant
Troy, New York
35mm Test Image

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ghost Bike

[Left] Ghost Bike
Memorial to David Ryan
Riverview Road,
Clifton Park, New York

There was a time in my early 20's when the only two satellites that orbited my planet were cycling and punk rock. I was young, lived alone, was unattached, and was singularly focused on all aspects of riding. Over the past 18 years, I have had more scrapes, altercations, and near misses than I care to recount. I have only been hit once and for that I consider myself extremely lucky. There were times I was logging between 250 and 300 miles a week. Broken down in hours, that is a lot of time on the bike. It is also a lot of time on the shoulder of road fighting it out with SUV's and pick-ups for a few inches of real estate. I remember the day David Ryan was killed. I think we shared a few group rides but I not sure. What I do know is that we had the same interests, traveled in the same circles, and were roughly the same age. Any number of times, it could have been my name on a ghost bike on the side of the road. Too many times, actually.

I saw a photo of this memorial in the local paper. Like a lot of local photojournalism, the image was weak and boring. Out of respect for a fellow cyclist, I wanted to shoot a fitting image of the ghost bike before it disappeared.

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Line Drawing

[Left] Rain Through Branches
The Devil’s Pulpit
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

On the Devil's Pulpit, all that remains is a line drawing of skeletal trees.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

The State Theatre

[Left] Foyer Lights,
The State Theatre
Ithaca, New York

America was once an empire of theatres.

Today, the empire has gone the way of the classic American dream scenario: ride the crest of success through the window of opportunity before someone who is better funded, more adept at reading market trends, and more agile, comes along and paints the window shut.

The State Theatre of Ithaca opened its doors on December 6th 1928. Vaudeville shows filled the stage 3 nights a week with an eclectic patchwork or magicians, acrobats, athletes, and anyone else with a talent unique enough to justify the price of admission. The 1930’s ushered in the era of film and the theatre was converted into a movie house. Ten years after that, people stared, wide eyed, at the movie screen as weekly war reels flashed glimpses of the Oklahoma burning at Pearl Harbor and later, the fire bombing of Europe. Somewhere beyond the confines of the city, the struggle of good versus evil raged in places with abstract names. The cinema provided both information about the outer world, and an escape from the anxiety of the war effort. The cost of admission bought a 2 hour refuge.

It was the 1980’s that would eventually prove fatal for the State Theatre. Years of disrepair combined with the effects of America’s mass suburban exodus finally closed forced the State to close its doors for good. The lights in the photos above went dark. The empire had lost one more outpost.

Today, the outposts are connected to food courts, film is digital, analog is THX, movies are product placement advertisements, and Clark Gable is George Clooney. Not better or worse, just different.

Tonight I am sifting through more photos from the past year, backing up files, assigning key words to images in my database, while watching reruns of 1970’s cinema. The dispatches from the empire of theatres remind me of the days of seeing movies with my father as a kid. Going to the theatre was always a big deal in the days before DVD's and DRV's.

Right now, a half sunburned Richard Dreyfuss is frantically sculpting the Devil’s Tower from mashed potatoes. I had forgotten how striking the Spielberg’s cinematography was in 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As Roy Neary’s (Richard Dreyfuss) utility truck rumbles across rural Indiana in pursuit of the mysterious lights, the immense darkness becomes part of the cast of characters. In some of the best cinematography of the last 30 years, the lights of Neary’s truck appear fragile and insignificant under the blackout of the Indiana night. The scale of man, machine, and landscape combine to construct the perfect metaphor for the entire movie. The empty spaces of the countryside become as mysterious as the cold vacuum of deep space. Spielberg creates a character from the natural world while simultaneously illustrating the scale of our existence, something that every landscape photographer strives for.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007


[Left] Red Cleaner Container
Location Unknown

Longitude and latitude make little difference. Everywhere you go on the planet, there will be evidence of humans.

And that evidence is trash.

“When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile, he is liable to a fine of $250. When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is richly rewarded.”

Every year, Bulmer Photography and R7 Studios, donate thousands of dollars in design time and photography to environmental charities.

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Friday, November 2, 2007


[Left] Roof Line, Burden Iron Works with Altocumulus Clouds
Troy, New York

Satellite dishes turned upward drink in the information streaking through atmosphere as it passes over the tarred rooftops and water towers of the city. Like a dog from a garden hose that can’t get enough water, the gray dishes stare unblinkingly into the expanse. Years ago, the only link to the outside world was two tin cans and fifty feet of string. That was then. This is now, and voices from distant broadcast desks repeat the same events with different words filling the 24 hour news cycle with every possible fact, both real and fabricated. None of us are strangers anymore.

From the fourth floor, the city looks totally different than it does at street level. Rooflines and brick canyons run in both directions and opposing angles. The telephone wires, cell towers, and aircraft beacons have become a hypnotic, automated dance. It is a world that provides the same fascination as looking into the inner workings of your computer. It has much of the same vibe as getting a quick glace as camera one pans across the control panels of the Starship Enterprise in 1966. You know it is nothing more than a thinly constructed façade of painted plywood, Lucite and Christmas lights, but it looked so god damn cool in action. You knew it was all fake, tear-it-down temporary, but you wanted to believe so badly. There is a certain and undeniable beauty in infrastructure, whether real or imagined. The armature of imagination is the same at any age. It just has to be uncovered, maybe deconstructed a little.

Sometimes you want to believe more than anything. You willingly suspend your critical thinking because you want to believe that the guy peeking out from behind the paper mache rock a few feet from Kirk’s polyester landing party is really an ominous alien warrior. You don’t even want to entertain the possibility that it is a guy from property services dressed in a garbage bag accessorized with plumbing fixtures, glitter, and angry red glass eyes. We are a nation of believers. From day one we are taught to believe in God, the President, the flag, the Tooth Fairy, Hannah Barbarra, The Six Million Dollar Man and ourselves. Sometimes it just feels good to believe, whole heartedly. Reality and truth be damned.

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The Mysterious Chemistry of Twilight

[Above] The Mysterious Chemistry of Twilight
Sunset behind Provincetown from the Truro shoreline.
Truro. Massachusetts

No, the name isn’t a lyric from an Emo song.

“The Mysterious Chemistry of Twilight” is a line from the audio book we listened to on the drive to the Cape this past weekend. I liked the flow of the words and set out to take a photo to match the phrase. As the sun set behind Provincetown, I set up in a tidal flat for this exposure.

The Cape feels decidedly different in the off season. The lines have evaporated and the quaint shops of P-Town have either closed early or shut down for the season, leaving thank you signs in empty windows promising to “see you in April.” The shore in the off season is very appealing.

The last time I was in Las Vegas, I visited Peter Lik’s gallery in Cesar’s Palace. I have long been a huge fan of Peter’s work, and seeing his work in person was a must. His gallery is filled with amazing, large format landscapes printed with metallic pigments. The photos are mounted with track lighting with dimmers. As the display lights are dimmed, different wavelengths of light react with the metallic pigments in the photos. The result is a truly dynamic image that seems to change in hue and intensity in much the same way the sunset changes the colors of the land and sky. The effect is a 2 dimensional living landscape.

“The Mysterious Chemistry of Twilight” is 63 inches wide. Tonight, I am in the process of preparing the CMYK production file for metallic printing. This will be the first image I mount with optical lights and dimmers. If successful, I plan on constructing custom frames with built in lighting for my large metallic print offerings.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Warm Cars Are Better Than Cold Hands

[Left] Gear Box
Truro, Massachusetts

Just back from a weekend on the Cape. The early morning weather was cold along the coast. Monday, at Race Point at 5am, the air temperature was 38 degrees backed by a 30 knot onshore wind. Standing on the observation deck over the beach, the open Atlantic was streaked white with crescents of white water. The weather was so cold, that it beat me back to the warm car within ten minutes. Ungloved hands on cold tripod legs knot up quickly.

I was hoping to shoot some star trail photos of Pilgrim Monument and the Provincetown skyline, but the weather and atmospheric conditions didn’t cooperate. Personally, I didn’t have the fortitude to stand on the shore for a few hours photographing the arc of the constellations as the planet revolved on its axis. The fireplace was far too tempting.

Above is the compliment of photo gear I brought along for the weekend*. Personally, I love lugging Pelican boxes through hotel lobbies. The sight of the ABS plastic cases is always a catalyst for conservation. More than once I have been asked if I am a scientist on a research project. The temptation is always there to concoct wild stories about the contents of the cases. But I don’t.

* Old school tripods for exposure to salt water and sand.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Dr. Zinn's Last Experiment

Dr. Zinn's Last Experiment,
Specimen in Preservation Solution

Power poles spring up from late summer cornfields like robots frozen in battle march. Giants without hearts since the cold war ended and all the UFO’s went west to the desert with hopes of selling out to road side souvenir stands and made for TV sweeps week documentaries. Everyone is out for a quick buck. "Take the money and run" is a universal concept as well as bad classic rock. The ray guns of childhood are in the attic and the decoder ring has lost a few letters. Memories of monsters now yellow and smell like they have been packed away for years, wrapped in newspapers of the day. They smell like the inside of a thrift shop. The world got small and when it did, it became slightly less fun.

Johnny Quest sold out. He lives on my block, dives a minivan, and mows the lawn every Tuesday night. He's a midlevel manager in sales. Now, his only outlet is fantasy football and light beer. I’d call him out, but what’s the use. We both know that you don’t find adventure in soft shoes and Brooks Brothers slacks.

The bank's lawyers sold off all of Dr. Zinn's specimens in an effort to liquidate his empire of evil in order to make way for another phase one cul-de-sac. The old man was sold out to build a strange, sterile, neighborhood with identical houses with no trees or power lines. The image above is one of Zinn's last remaining experiments, I found it in a thrift store just outside Westchester County. I didn't buy it because I didn't want to contribute to the downfall of an icon.

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Urbex 1

[Left] Abandoned Warehouse
Undisclosed Location

Image part of
The Inexact Science of Abandoned Places:
A Photo Essay of Urban Exploration in a Post-911 World

Three nameless people stand in an undisclosed location. This image is part of two current photo essay projects, The Inexact Science of Abandoned Places and (Infra)structrure.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nauset Light Cross Processed

Nauset Light

Cross Processed E6 in C41

August was the last time we were on the Cape. The days were cool and the nights were cold. The summer's humidity dome had collapsed a few weeks before. Now, the warm weather is gone and I feel cheated. This is the first year without 90 degree beach days along the Atlantic.

Going back to Truro soon. The sky has changed color with the change of seasons. I have some medium format star trail photos planned, weather permitting.

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Chinatown Jumble

[Left] Umbrellas
New York City

One my favorite palces of any large city is its Chinatown and I never miss the opportunity to go exploring with my camera.

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Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper
Visher's Ferry Nature Preserve
Clifton Park,

New York

Parthenocissus Quinquefolia

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Marketing 101

[Left] Man With Sign
Times Square
New York City

Not all marketing geniuses are are weasels in squeaky shoes and Dockers dropping buzz words and shifting paradigms. What you don't see, just out of frame right, is a line of high school kids lining up with money in hand. Tax Free.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plywood Sans Serif

[Left] Classic Signage
Menands, New York
35MM Kodak Print Film

The typography of the sixties is still out there, hidden behind layers of national franchises, beauty supply stores, and strip malls. Beautiful hand made plywood helvetica knockoffs with shifting x heights slide down off kilter baselines.

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[Left] Fiddler
Newbury Street,
Boston, Massachusetts

The eyes tell the entire story.

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[Left] Whiteout on Cascade Mountain
Adirondack Park
Essex County
New York

Disposable Waterproof Kodak 400
One Time Use Camera

The latest and greatest isn't necessarily the best. Too many times I have seen photographers touting the megapixels they shoot with. Really, who cares? Megapixels don't necessarily equate to image quality and they definitely don't compensate for creativity. Seems like every gear driven endeavor contains a faction that equates how good you are with what you buy.

My collection of cameras spans two decades. Seems like I can't pass an antique store without scanning the window for an old and exotic camera. As a designer, I am drawn to cameras as functional pieces of art. As a photographer, I love experimenting with a new camera and discovering its unique image qualities. Each camera has its own personality. Although I still shoot a majority of my professional work in digital, I love film. I shoot with disposables, polaroids, toy cameras, old 35's, medium formats, twins lens reflex cameras, and a Quaker Oats pinhole camera I built in art school.

I took the image above with a disposable, waterproof, Kodak 400. My hiking partner and I climbed Cascade in thigh high virgin snow in the dead of winter without snowshoes. The last thing I wanted was the extra weight and worry of my DSLR. Part of the fun of shooting with old, hoopty cameras is overcoming the technical challenges.

Droppin' History: Alberta Korda captured the iconic image of Ernesto Guerava with a camera that in today's dollars would have cost $40. The most reproduced image in the history of photography, Earth Rise, captured on the 1968 Apollo 8 mission to the moon, was taken with a modified point and shoot camera.

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The Once Loved

[Above] Antique Car Sequence,
Coxsackie, New York
Kodak 400 Color Print Film

All prized possessions eventually suffer this fate.
Entropy can only be held at bay for so long.

Storm front moving in today. I am headed to the mountains.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Delivery Bike

Delivery Bike

Somewhere in the East Village
New York City

I love discovering the strange cycling mutations of New York City messengers and delivery people. Equally impressive are the nerves of steel required to thread one of these frankenbikes through the rush hour traffic around Chinatown, risking life and limb, just to deliver hot Kung Pow chicken.

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The Invaders

Woman in Red Beret

Somewhere in the East Village,
New York City

Kodak Supra 800

The woman in the red beret stared at a point miles past us as she announced the arrival of the invaders inhabiting the unused subway tunnels under New York City. She claimed to have first hand knowledge of their plans, which included and command post and staging area in the abandoned subway tunnel under Central Park from 57th to 63rd and Lex.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


[Left] Surfer's Memorial
Newcomb Hollow Beach,
Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Cold day on the New England coast. Rain and white water above the high tide line. The ocean coughs up strange objects of unknown origin: a green and white flip flop, a blue barrel, remnants of a commercial fishing net, a toy horse, a few feet of yellow nylon rope, wood of various sizes, and a Sherman Williams painter's cap. Empty beach parking lots mean all the tourists are down cape at the mall. Makeshift memorial stuck in the sand for an unknown surfer.

The rain blurs the words the way mascara runs with tears.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

House at Coast Guard Beach

[Left] House at Coast Guard Beach

This hundred year old Coast Guard house overlooks the open Atlantic. Its beams have weathered some of the worst weather on the east coast, including the devastating Blizzard of '78 (a stormfront so powerful, it sucked Henry Beston's famed Outermost House out to sea.) This image was shot digitally for a design project promoting a fundraising initiative for the preservation of historical architecture on the Cape.

The days are getting shorter, but the temperatures are still in the mid 70's with 90% humidity. I have a few cycling related projects planned this week. Tonight, I am researching cyclocross races across New England. I love the battlefield vibe of a good cross race on a wet day. Images of muddy winter courses have changed little since the races of 1940's Belgium. Getting some epic cross photos is definitely on my tick list for winter.

There are nothing commercially available for mounting cameras to bikes, kayaks, snowboards, or any other unstable moving object. I have been building camera mounts for years from cannibalized tripods, climbing gear, neoprene, and stainless steel hardware from Home Depot. Over the years, I have accumulated an entire self of bombproof mounting options for bikes and snowboards. I started building prototypes in the mid 1990's from small plastic Ultrapods, frame pump mounts, cork bar tape, and Blackburn bottle cages. Attaching a camera housing to the downtube of a mountain bike isn't exactly a new concept, but every year I feel the need to make my contribution to the collective body of extreme angle cycling photos. The shortened days and rapidly degrading color pallet of the landscape give this project an increased sense of urgency. The gray landscape of winter in the Northeast is quickly approaching.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Cutting Down the Hillside

[Left] Trees in Fog at Sunrise
Orlando, Florida

Scrapped the kayak trip at the last minute. The morning was warm and sunny and the notion of peak foliage lured me to Vermont. I am not a fan of cliché New England landscape photos, however, finding myself with an empty schedule, I was gone. Taking New England photos in Autumn is like shooting fish in a barrel. Much like wedding photography, autumn landscapes are emotional and visual plagiarism. The upside is R7 currently has a few design projects that will require fall imagery. I will file the day’s images away in the stock photo vault for a few months. In hind site, my time would have been better invested in a trip to the Gunks and some late season rock climbing photos.

“Fancy cutting down all those beautiful trees to make pulp for those bloody newspapers and calling it civilization.”
-Winston Churchill

As I sit here typing this, I can hear the sound to falling trees. Our neighborhood is the epicenter of two construction projects, a complex of $300,000 condos and an office complex. A few miles away, green farm fields evaporate into dusty craters as heavy machinery clears the way for yet another strip mall. Any undeveloped land is a suburban sin. Trees fall so some ill conceived start up business can have an office for a few months and then go belly up. Progress marches on.

I suffer from a severe case of why-can’t-it-be-like-it-was when I think of the neighborhoods of the early 80’s. I miss the diversity of mom and pop stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. Every neighborhood is a rotating cartoon background of chain stores and restaurants. There is nothing pleasing or imaginative about the office parks of the late 20th century. Squares built of squares to house people sitting in squares staring at illuminated squares. Trees are always the first victims. Humans are remarkably efficient at clearing away in one afternoon what has taken nature decades to build.

The above image was taken with department store Kodak Gold 400 color film using a flea market 35mm. Sometimes when you travel, you have to make due with the materials on hand.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Infrastructure as Art

[Left] Wharf Infrastructure
Provincetown, Massachusetts
Summer 2006

[Below] Canal Street Station
New York City
Winter 2001

The world under the city is beautiful and seldom seen.* I took this image of the underside of McMillian Wharf in the summer of 2006 and I just rediscovered it tonight on a laptop I seldom use.

The image of Canal Street Station was my first time back in New York City after 911. The city I knew so well seemed different and surreal. I set my 35mm to infinity and shot this image of an unknown woman carrying groceries to the train.

* That is, except if you are looking to head uptown at rush hour and the 6 is down above Astor Place. Canal Street Station becomes a maze of white tile mosaics and long corridors that always seem to lead to the wrong side of the street. Up the stairs, the sidewalk vendors sell bootleg Sean John and $10 Gucci glasses to bargain hungry tourists from somewhere near Syracuse.

Last minute kayaking trip tomorrow. Tonight, the cameras sleep in their waterproof housings.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Good Luck is an Illusion

[Left] Statue
Somewhere in Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada

"Fools wait for a lucky day."
-The Buddha

Is the smile good luck or ridicule? Watching down on the double down. Everyone has a smile when they want something. I thought of this as the midwestern kid in the denim jacket talked to me as I waited for the monorail to take me to somewhere near the Luxor. He was one of those guys with a vacant smile. A smile without joy used as a device. He seemed like an isotope of one of those characters in a Marlboro ad. He seemed unstable enough to give me low grade anxiety about riding uptown with him in the same abandoned train car. Too many $20 margaritas and late night TV shows.

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Bodega as Refuge

[Left] Bodega
New York City
Summer, 2005

Cold bodega air waits at the glass door. I snapped this photo just before I crossed the barrier that held out the 91 degree New York city afternoon and the bone collectors with chipped teeth and paper cups with a few dirty coins and endless stories that leave them stranded in the city with no way to get back to Buffalo. They always seem to be one dollar away from salvation.
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Winged Figures of the Republic

[Left] Winged Figures of the Republic
Black Canyon,


Everything is bigger out west. The landscapes, the hotels, the all-you-can-eat buffets, and the bar tabs. There is no no denying that the world lost a bit of soul when art deco was deemed irrelevant. At least now there are plenty of abandoned big box stores turned highway churches. There is nothing subtle about modern architecture. Everything is a box made up of smaller boxes. Everything is made to assault the senses.

Bronze Sculpture: "Winged Figures of the Republic" by Oskar J.W. Hansen

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Observation Deck

[Left] Tidal Pool
Nauset Light Beach
Eastham, Massachusetts

The warm weather arrives as swarms of tourists descend on the Bourne rotary. The locals look toward the summer invasion with mixed emotions. A simple equation: the revenue is needed, but the sudden population boom makes life harder. The increase in summer residents increases everything. Gas prices rise, lines at the Ben and Jerry’s snake out the door, beaches fill up at 10am. You can’t have paradise without the infusion of outside capital. The summer may seem chaotic, but for year-rounders, there is precision in the absurdity.

People measure life here by summer seasons.
The seasons come and go as do the traffic jams and rear end collisions along Route 6. The summer is invaded with interlopers in minivans with cargo carriers, endless, black SUV’s and BMW’s up from Boston. For the locals, it is the price of living here.

The Cape depends on the countless people who travel here every year with hopes of a few days of a life less ordinary. Kids mug for one time use cameras. Vacation memories to be stored, undeveloped, in a small 24 exposure cardboard container. Oversized beach umbrellas bloom like flowers in the mid morning heat. There is a delicious sense of rebellion in being at the beach at 10am on a Wednesday. Where would you be right now? Staring at a computer? Having the same conversations about the same obvious observations? Discussing morning traffic over paper cups of coffee service coffee?

Roadside ice cream stands burn bright under bent neon. Up in Provincetown, the lots are all full and Commercial Street is a sea of shoppers, people watchers, vendors, and drag queens. There is a sense of crowding and of limited space, but these are the memories that will endure into the winter, when there is no green and the daylight seeps out in mid afternoon. But for now, life is easy. Your desk is empty and you are still securely insulated in dislocation of a week away. Your time away is a precious commodity and there is still plenty to enjoy.

All over the cape, people feel the distance and space in different ways.
* At day’s end, a man stands on the observation deck above a national seashore beach. Slowly, he scans the horizon through binoculars looking for information in the blackout of the Atlantic. It is an opportunity to use his binoculars for something more exciting than trying to discern the make and model of the neighbor’s new TV set. He feels like the star of a National Geographic Special, like what he is doing is supremely important. The wind whips at the beach grass below the wooden platform and he thinks to himself how we would give almost anything to be capable of bottling the feeling of nights like this one. Behind him, the world could fall away and it wouldn't matter at all. Stores could cut the lights and close without notice, there could be breaking news of celebrity DWI's, the cable could be out, the network down, spam could be closing down the inbox with promises of something for nothing, but it wouldn’t matter. He would trade all the Monday nights wasted watching football for just one evening like this one, once a year. None of it matters right now. The ocean smells beautiful. He exhales in the same way, at day’s end, beach grass exhales moisture back into the air.

Soon the teeth of night will be upon the observation deck and that would be just fine. He could stand there all night, watching the colors change before eventually fading to a black that is impossible over the city where the light pollution muscles the stars out of the sky. But tonight, he could stand there and watch unattached lights moving in the darkness. Boats travel under the cover of night and there is a story attached to every deck light out past the white crescents of the breakers. Darkness and distance erase pattern or logic. He could stand there. Stand there until the cold beats him back. It is times just like now that are perfect for speculations that are often buried somewhere far below the day’s chores. It is perfectly O.K. to philosophize while standing on the edge of something as large as the Atlantic. For that brief instant, your place in the world is completely understood. Raising such questions in the over engineered confines of a Starbucks seem silly. But here, as the salt air whips around your legs, the moratorium on clichés [even this one] has been lifted. Live it to the fullest because you know, somewhere in the places in your mind that never seem to quiet down, not far from the surface, the knowledge that real life is waiting for you exerts a gentle pressure. You will be back chasing down actionable tasks soon enough. Paradigms need changing. Quotas need to be met. But for now, the world falls away, nothing exists outside the black framed circles of a pair of $200, waterproof, nitrogen filled, digital zoom binoculars.

* For an enhanced experience, please read the above aloud while at a coffee house while wearing a black sweater, oil paint splattered jeans, and a paste on goatee. A monotone beat generation drawl is strongly recommended. I wrote this after an evening's photo session on the Cape in 2005. Listening to Soul Coughing' s classic Screenwriter's Blues, I amped up the fake spoken word drama. I was sitting in the car at the edge of the Nauset Light Beach parking lot. Less than a hundred feet to the east, Nauset Light swept the horizon with light at regular intervals. A man dressed in that psuedo-safari gear and a Tilley hat stood at the edge of the observation deck staring out into the blackout over the Atlantic. Vacations bring out all the gear accumulated from a year's worth of trips to Eddie Bauer and L. L. Bean. After all these years I still can't explain why some men feel the need to look like Magnum PI while on vacation. I wondered if he was the typical, suburban American: 2 weeks vacation and hundreds of hours of overtime in order to keep a McMansion and 2 luxury SUV's afloat.

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Monday, October 15, 2007


[Left] Elevation Marker,
Panther Mountain,

Shandaken New York

[Below] View from Giant Ledge,
Panther Mountain,

Shandaken New York

“Many come to the wilderness that they think will save them from the evils of a more crowded world.” –Sheila Nickerson, Disappearance

Last minute trip to Panther Mountain in the Catskills yesterday.

Seems like everyone in the state of New Jersey had the same intentions. We just wanted to get out for the day, nothing more. There were no agendas, no heavy bags of cameras and lenses, no lighting logistics, no racing the sun, and no stress. I took along an old 35mm, just in case.

The parking lot was full, and the trail to Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain was well worn from a weekend’s traffic at peak foliage. Everywhere humans go, there is trash, this is a universally true statement. The trail to Panther is evidence.

I am used to heading out midweek, so the crowds took a little adjustment: people in jeans and sneakers on a muddy rock garden trails, people smoking cigars and cigarettes on the rocks on the upper mountain, the usual assortment of weekend warriors in crispy, new gear from their local EMS, a few through-hikers with backcountry packs, and one scary guy with a brand new knife in a hard plastic sheath that reached from his belt to just above his knee. As we passed him, I wondered what he thought we was going to encounter on a crowded trail up a pimple of a mountain. People want to get out and use their toys, no matter how ridiculous that look.

The weather on Panther was an mix of cold wind and spitting rain, but the sun in the distance painted the fall colors in vibrant oranges and yellows. There was a warm autumn day somewhere, but not where we were standing. As we reached the picnic table sized rocky summit of Panther, a Japanese man appeared. Wearing thousands of dollars of spotless, new gear, he looked as though we was plucked out of the pages of Rock and Ice and airlifted to the summit of Panther Mountain. He stood for a minute, contemplating the view, before pulling out a cell phone and placing a call. As he started shouting in Japanese, we turned and left. I kept repeating Sheila Nickerson’s quote in my head as we passed group after group of sneaker clad hikers asking directions and moving far too sluggishly for 4:30PM on an October afternoon.
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Friday, October 12, 2007

Hard Won Truce

[Left] Hoover Dam Moonscape
February Sun Behind the Fountains at Cesar's

The landscape surrounding the Hoover Dam is pure science fiction. It draws in the large American rental cars from Las Vegas like a mother ship’s tractor beam pulling back an invading force. Angular lines of steel and concrete rise out of knotted, and seemingly uncontrollable red rock. Architectural outcroppings look out over expanses of desert air cut into slivers by miles of power lines. There is a hugeness that can’t be described adequately on letter sized paper or a screen full of pixels. Nothing but real life will do it’s scope justice.

The heroic scale of the Hoover Dam’s achievement is breathtaking. The clash of rock and cement speaks of a time when strong backed workers braved the elements for dollars a day in the constant blood feud between the natural world and the manifest destiny of the United States. Now those two forces appear to exist in a hard won truce, but only a temporary one. The force of nature will eventually win out. It may not be in this lifetime, may not be the next. But eventually, the pressure of the water molecules against man made surfaces will win out. Time is on the side of chaos. Always is.

The highway leading out of the neon distractions of the Las Vegas strip winds out through glass and moving light into the low slung streets inhabited by check cashing storefronts, taco stands, Starbucks, and electronics stores. Eventually, the architecture increases in size as the hulking prefab Christian churches that ring Las Vegas come into view. Corrugated steel boxes painted in the earth tones of the southwest give the impression of a military installation and not a place of salvation. Opportunity communities. And their placement just outside the largest adult playground in the world is more tactical than coincidental. They are a sort of installation in the war of the self appointed righteous against the vices of the Vegas strip. Much like the Hoover Dam holding back millions of tons of water, chaos will win out. It is only a matter of time. Always is.

With the warehouse churches falling from view, the horizon opens up. The only indication that the Hoover Dam is lurking nearby is the constant presence of power lines. Everything in Las Vegas plugs in. Everything is illuminated on the grandest of scales. Vegas sucks electricity like the tide drawing out before a tsunami. Only there is no crescendo. No wave. The draw is staggering but it is constant. Huge transformer stations route power to where it is needed. The grid holds strong against the demands of Danny Gans, Wayne Newton, and the Blue Man Group. Their counterfeit reality burns bright, night after night at $100 per ticket.

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Train Station, Parts 1 & 2

Part 1, Renesselaer:
[Above] Train Station in Fog, Renesselear, New York

I captured this image of the Renesselaer train station over the course of a week in the winter of 2006. The days had been mild and wet for upstate New York in December. As the nights cooled and then warmed, a dense curtain of fog would descend on the city. This weather pattern lasted for almost before winter's trademark flooded into upstate. Out every morning at 4.30am, I wanted to make the most of the warm weather and abandoned streets. In total, I spent five mornings at the station in order to achieve the perfect lighting and composition. During that time, I developed a friendly rapport with the workers at the small coffee stand inside the main entrance. I became known as the “the guy with the tripod.” They thought I was press, and for reasons of accessibility, I never corrected their misconceptions. After shooting for the day, I would sit at the round, metal tables of the café and answer emails while backing up the morning’s images onto my laptop. Watching the morning’s commuters grew into a welcomed diversion. The following are the notes from that week:

Heavy rain falls and settles into the low spots. The imperfections in surface are impossible to hide as water finds entry into everything, through expansion joints, through the sills of the portico, in the zippers of a backpack. Tempted by gravity, from thousands of feet up, water molecules gather and barrel earthward seeking out the exposed patch of skin on the back of your neck. The cold water continues downward before being absorbed by your shirt collar. What a way to start a Friday. The weather makes everything feel heavy and uncomfortable.

I sit in the train station and watch people with bags pass by. Urgency and velocities vary, but they are all headed somewhere. Some for pleasure, others for profit. The lucky few are able to combine the two.

The interior of the station is darker than usual and the rain adds to the weight of travel on the last day of the week. A woman walks by pulling a suitcase on wheels. She thinks to herself about getting out of the city tonight. It is going to be hell. A Friday afternoon rush hour is like a full moon. It drives them crazy. Makes sane, rational people do things they won’t describe to anyone. The pent up energy of the workweek is expelled with nowhere to go. Like a ricochet, it bounces off the interiors of cabs, cars, trains, and subways like the bullets in cartoons.

I take it all in.

If I were catching a train south, I could never be this tranquil, but today is like any other day for me. There is a café anchored to the east end of the station. I listen to conversations and try review the morning’s images. The manager loves gay club music. The sounds of Cher, Animotion, and the Pet Shop Boys echo through the marble veneered interior, probably making it as far as the boarding platform before losing momentum. There is something slightly obscene about so much synthesizer at this hour. The music is a constant source of tension between the Amtrak conductors and the café staff. One wants silence, the other, diversion. Thinly veiled insults are passed back and forth. No one ever wins but neither side takes the conflict that far. The café has the coffee and at this hour, no one wants to alienate the only source of caffeine.

I imagine back-stories about the people rushing in from the rain.

A woman and a boy walk in and sit at the table next to mine. The boy has no left ear, only a scar. I wonder how many fights that will get him into when he gets a bit older. They sit for less than a minute and then leave. They walk in an irregular arc through the station trying to figure out where to go. Travel is disorienting. All the stories here are temporary.

A man walks in wearing a backpack with a yellow rain fly. He is dressed in shorts and a Gore-tex shell. In a sea of gray suits and black trench coats, the yellow rain fly stands out like a flower growing in concrete. As I watch him disappear around the corner that leads to the departure deck, I feel the clock close in. Time for me to start my day. I had forgotten the joys of people watching and that is a necessary skill for a professional photographer.

Part 2, Poughkeepsie:

[Left] Woman with Monocle
Poughkeepsie Train Station, Poughkeepsie, New York

I love the feeling of train stations at night. The empty parking lots under cones of light are no different, and just as beautiful, as a dark lake under a blanket of stars. At regular intervals, trains appear out of the darkness, heading north out of New York City. You can hear them coming, like a monster in the ink. But the brute, angry, sound of an air horn doesn’t fit their elegance. Internal cabin lights skirt along the edge of the Hudson and dance more gracefully than they ever could under the harsh analysis on the daylight. From the far shore of the river, trains travel like mercury poured over black velvet. From the distance beyond their sound, they are nothing more than light traveling north. The night hides the small details and allows for romantic generalizations in much the same way black and white movies seem more distant and sublimely mysterious than vivid color. The color is too close to real life, and aren’t we all in some way looking for a life less ordinary? If even for an instant?

A train station suggests possibility in much the same way a map represents escape. The final part of the equation is intent. You can see it in the faces of the people getting off of the train from Grand Central. Stepping off into the night, their shoes still carry the dirt of New York City in the grooves of rubber soles. People in the midst of travel have purpose and momentum.

At this time of night, the interior of the Poughkeepsie train station feels almost sacred. The massive interior chamber is dimly lit and the air is heavy. As quiet as a library and as empty as a church, the hardwood benches look like pews bolted to the floor at odd angles. The giant chandelier is crown of jewels that is long past its prime. The last remaining artifacts of a broke down empire. Everything is covered in the film of overuse. Scuffs and gouges cover the floor from years of traffic. Frames around the ticket counter have been painted and repainted countless times giving them the rough and pocked texture of commercial fishing vessel fighting the corrosion of the Atlantic. In contrast, the marble countertops and railings have been worn smooth by millions of fingers and elbows. Through their overuse, the details of the station are becoming timeless in the way that is easy to understand and hard to describe. They are details that are the targets of complaints, but will be missed when replaced with prefabricated glass and aluminum. They won’t be missed until they are gone. And then they will be mourned.

It is easy to envision this station as the jewel it once was in the time when trains were the only method of long distance travel. We lost something as a culture when we each bought a car. 18 miles away, the interstate cuts a science fiction, sterile, and untouched path from north to south. The thruway has no crowing jewels to invent stories about. Concrete no-where’s and automated toll booths don’t provide the same sort of escapism. They are constructed of the vivid color that can be so ugly. As a collective, we are no longer inspired by the subtle. Disposable glass and brick façade restaurants anchored by oversized gas stations and enormous bathroom facilities offer the only refuge from the 75 mile per hour rhythm of the Thruway, but offer something less to the imagination.

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