2021 will be known for the many changes brought on with the COVID-19 pandemic, but at Middlebury College I will remember it as The Year of the Hammock. Free from the indoor mask protocols, students sought the outdoors and hoisted hammocks between any two structures that could support them, enjoying the lingering summer warmth late into the fall season.
A "quiet photograph" from my portfolio Bread Loaf Seasons for Middlebury College. I made this photo with the pocket-sized Fujifilm X100s, one of my all-time favorite cameras.
Looking vs. Seeing"Always carry a camera," was the stock advice for new photographers before smartphones put a camera always within our reach. These days the more apt advice should say, "Always be seeing."
Photography can be a reactive exercise: we look at something that catches our attention and we record it to review later. If we never return to those images to think about what made them important to us, we're just looking and not seeing. There's a difference between the two. It's not just semantics.
Looking is a reflexive act. We scan a scene and our brain catalogs and labels the items within it. These labels are then filled in with the symbols we've accumulated over a lifetime. We look at icicles and think "long and pointy"...shipping containers are flat, gray boxes.
These days the more apt advice should say, "Always be seeing."Seeing is a deeper dive into a scene where we consider the space, shapes, colors, and patterns that comprise it. How do they all work together and form relationships? How does this gestalt make us feel? When seeing, we strip away our biases and assumptions to examine the details that form a photograph. The icicles are now translucent and take on a variety of shapes, some longer or shorter. The flat gray shipping container is covered in regular folds that create interesting shadows. The reflected sky light appears unbelievably blue.
Those that have visited the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and have availed themselves of the men's restroom should recognize the view depicted in this photograph. When I ski I usually have a compact camera on a neckstrap and tucked inside my jacket to keep the battery warm. Before walking out of the restroom I was arrested by this view through the window above the wash basins. I found the monochromatic patterns of the icicles against the corrugated steel of the shipping container mesmerizing.
And yes, I washed my hands before making this photograph.
I photographed the Printer's Cabin on the Bread Loaf campus as part of a series I was doing on Robert Frost's summer cabin in Ripton titled The Pane in Empty Rooms. I made the entire portfolio using traditional black and white film cameras and developed the negatives myself. After I showed the portfolio to Pam Fogg and Carey Bass at Middlebury College's Communications department, they asked that I expand the portfolio to include all of the Bread Loaf and Snow Bowl grounds so that they could dedicate an entire calendar to the black and white series. This became the 2013 Middlebury College Engagement Calendar.
You never know where personal work is going to take you.
Professor of Dance Christal Brown demonstrates a series of moves in this long exposure photograph made inside Middlebury College's dance theatre.
Using the low-level illumination provided by the stage lighting, Christal performed a series of moves from right to left across the frame. At key moments of her sequence, I used a radio to trigger a pair of small hotshoe strobes at stage left and right, freezing those moments in the image.
This was probably the most fun I've ever had on a shoot. Christal was wonderful to work with and we had the freedom to take a chance and experiment creatively with an unconventional technique. I believe it paid off.
Very soon the landscape of Vermont will be swimming with the rich, bold colors of fall, like in this aerial image from 2018.