The Pane in Empty Rooms

A stand of white pines near the Robert Frost Cabin.

Just up in the Green Mountains from me is the remote mountain cabin where Robert Frost lived while teaching at the summertime Breadloaf Writer’s Conference from 1940 until his death in 1963. I was looking for a project to work on between assignments and a friend of mine suggested I visit the cabin and make some photographs.

What I knew of Robert Frost came only from my high school and college literature classes, but after a few visits, I decided to dive deeper and read everything I could get my hands on. Very soon, I learned that there was more to the man besides the glimpses I saw in his well known poems “Mending Wall” and the “The Road Not Taken”. There was a feeling of darkness and loneliness, and I began to see the cabin, the farm grounds, and the surrounding lands of the Breadloaf Wilderness in a new light. It made me wonder why he sought out the solitude of this remote cabin and spent so much time there.

I spent portions of 2010-2012 visiting and photographing the cabin and the surrounding lands of the Breadloaf Wilderness, looking for areas that Frost may have visited and scenes that evoke imagery from his poetry. What began as a way for me to kill time between assignments ended up as my very succinct visual impression of the man and his adopted environment.

 With The Pane in Empty Rooms, I’ve tried to create a portfolio that conveys the natural beauty of the farm and the surrounding lands that Frost explored and served to inspire him, while simultaneously communicating a little of the darkness I found in those empty rooms in Ripton. 

The Pane in Empty Rooms exhibition at the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, Vermont

The Exhibition + Technical Details 

 I made the photographs in Pane using traditional large and medium format film cameras. Despite the incredible advances in digital cameras of late, I still favor the look and resolution of black and white negative film for certain projects. The cameras used included a 1950s-era 4x5 Crown Graphic, an 8x10 Deardorff, and a Hasselblad 6x6. Once exposed, the Kodak Tmax 100, 400 and Tri-X Pan Professional 320 film was developed in either Kodak D-76 (diluted 1:1) or HC-110 (diluted 1:49). The processed negatives were scanned on an Epson 750 Pro flatbed scanner, edited to remove dust and scratches in Adobe Photoshop, and then toned in Adobe Lightroom. 

The exhibition is comprised of a series of 30”x38” fine art quality prints, produced on an Epson 9890 printer using Epson’s Advanced Black and White capabilities on Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag paper. I hang bare prints in the show — no frames or glazing to separate the viewer from the photograph. They are hung using simple, thin roofing nails from the hardware store in the wall and neodymium magnets over top of the image borders to affix them to the underlying nails.

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