Portfolio: Stone Poet | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Portfolio: Stone Poet 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:25 pm

Page 3 of 4

Q. Am I correct in noting that there is also an unearthly silence that can be heard in many of your photographs?

A. Could be. Someone once said that my pictures have a distinctive elegiac tone, that they are pictures taken in a minor key.

Q. Is it true, as a critic once observed, you work on one project at a time, and each project takes about five years to complete?

A. That’s about right. There is one project that I’ve been working on continually for more than three decades, mostly during winters. I’ve been photographing the woods, or “tangles” of various public parks in the outer boroughs of New York City, as well as the many overgrown preserves and sanctuaries—“pockets of wilderness”—in the metropolitan area. My photographs of these woods, except for one, do not resemble any of those taken at Thacher. Nor do they resemble the work of any of my previous projects.

Q. How did you discover Thacher Park and the Indian Ladder Trail?

A. Through a geology field guide of upstate New York by Bradford B. Van Diver, a professor of geology at the State University of New York, Potsdam, which I bought sometime in the 1980s. There was a reference to Thacher Park and the trail, along with a photograph of Minelot Falls. Van Diver noted there were cliffs 100 feet high. I couldn’t believe such a place existed in the east, only 170 miles from New York City, where I live. I first went to take pictures in November of 1987. None of the pictures were any good. I went back in the fall of 2001 with my 11” x 14” view camera to photograph the cliffs, not realizing then, because of the severe drought that year, that two waterfalls usually flowed over the ledge.

I went back in the spring of 2003 and continued to photograph at Thacher through the fall of 2006, and then once again in early 2007. Most of my photographs were taken in early spring or late fall. Photographing the cliffs in the summer is difficult because of the heavy underbrush. The trail is closed in the winter because of ice and snow.

Q. All your photographs of the cliffs appear to have been taken in the shade. Is that by choice or circumstance?

A. Both. By circumstance, because the orientation of the Helderberg Escarpment generally faces northeast, so that the only time the cliffs receive direct sun is in the morning in mid-summer. By choice, because shadows can make or break a picture, and for what I wanted to do they usually just got in the way.

Q. Has anyone ever told you that they prefer seeing your pictures of a place to the place itself?

A. Yes they have, but I don’t put too much stock in it. I would rather be told that my pictures reveal something about the place that they hadn’t seen before.

Q. Why did you use a large 11” x 14” view camera when you could have used a 4” x 5” camera and just enlarged the negative to obtain an 11”x 14” print?

A. Contact prints have a unique quality that enlargements can’t match. I started by using my 8” x 10” camera but found the prints too small, and therefore switched to my 11” x 14”. Another reason is the much larger image seen on the ground glass of an 11” x 14” camera. One simply cannot see as much detail on the ground glass of a 4” x 5”. I believe, for that reason, one does not take the same kind of picture with a 4” x 5” as one does with an 11” x 14”.

Q. Has Chinese painting influenced you at all?

A. Perhaps it has, if only by osmosis. I grew up in a home that had many Chinese landscape paintings hung on the walls. But if the influence was there, it did not play out at Thacher Park as it probably has in other work of mine. My pictures along the Indian Ladder Trail do not resemble typical Chinese landscape paintings. The subject matter—and the mood—are different. There are no looming mountains in the background of my pictures. Nor is there a middle ground with pavilions and people. Instead, there are cliffs, and the vista beyond of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys—a vast oceanic-like expanse reaching to the horizon.

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