Two years ago, we lived in Burlington. Remember this snowfall well. Can feel the cold, the wet and the chill. Today, just a perfect 80 degrees. We had some rain and it went away.
My heart breaks inside. I shed tears for her. I shed tears for all of them.
I knew her, you could say, as well as you can know anyone you meet on the street, Church Street. Bought her paints and paper for her art. Bought her coffee. May have loaned her a buck or two or three. Never got them back. Didn’t know Amos. Can’t know too much about someone you meet on the street, either.
Beaten to death for not a good reason. And, in a homeless camp where she spent the night, because she missed the bus back to Milton where she had a place to live and family. I hope the killing wasn’t motivated by gender animus, but who knows?
No way to die; especially when you don’t want to and aren’t ready to. So many I knew on the street suffered undignified deaths as they struggled to understand life. She was always looking up, even when she wasn’t.
Amy tried to help others, despite her own personal problems, as much as she tried to help herself. Knew a ton of people and didn’t like a whole lot of them. A noble person she was. And that isn’t easy when you don’t have comfort zones to hide out in or a complete understanding of whom you are.
Before I left Burlington, we spoke. I suggested that she not come down from Milton every day and that she find things and people up there who would be of interest. “Nope,” she said, “Burlington was where her life was.” And, that is where it ended. Badly.
Every once in a while, I go back and look at shots I had taken earlier in my photographic career. Since I wasn’t charging people, many didn’t even return to look at the images, yet alone order any prints. I’d print one, put in my portfolio and that would be it. Never played with them, added any toning or conversion techniques or photoshopped them. That takes some cooperation from the sitter.
Jordan here, didn’t come back. He said he wasn’t looking for images dark or edgy. We haven’t spoken since then; not unusual for me and my sitters. People want their photos to be like they want them to be. And I want mine to be like mine. In a good portrait shoot, the great images are something of a compromise.
Great looking guy. We did well during the shoot, surprisingly well, in light of the fact he is a fine art photographer and teacher. That we share a love of photographic history made it fun, but I never looked at the session until today when I was doing some housecleaning in my catalogues.
Not bad, I’d say. Still have some work to do on it, if I have time. More importantly, it tells me that in those files and folders sitting on my computer may lie some shots I would appreciate.
So, Hilla Becher died at 81. She was too young. Another photographer who should have lasted longer.
What she and her husband brought to the party now seems banal and commonplace. But before them, people didn’t give the industrial plant any notice. We have all seen big building and smokestacks. Water towers in certain places are breeding grounds for microbial diseases. They not only saw the beauty in factories, silos and storage, they recognized them as art. Then they arranged them on posters, deemphasizing their importance, for a second, while heightening your interest in seeing what they saw. No one had done it like this before. And all our attempts are lame.
When I lived in Burlington VT, a town where the people were colder than the temperature, I wanted to shoot the Moran Building, a dilapidated structure on Lake Champlain. They had their people, their artists, their crew. Me. I just lived nearby, visiting everyday. Angry at the damage the plant did to the Lake and wondering if the next incarnation would make it healthier, I longed to get inside with my camera. One day I did. Just a short visit, enough to snap and show what I would do if given more opportunity.
The two recent UVM graduates, whatever Gov’t agency gave the money for coming up with a development plan and the fund raisers didn’t recognize my desire to contribute my work or my ability. They got people to paint images on the wall and make paintings. The architects sent me one message and probably went back to their photographer. I never heard from the Mayor or whomever controlled the art. One person told me I was on the team, though I didn’t get a jersey or a cup.
Never made it onto their list. Not a member of the inner circle of Burlington Artists. Didn’t work for the Free Press or 7 Days. Not a donator to BCA. Not sure they let people with attitude inside. They be happy with the same-old, same-old. So, we left.
The Bechers. They live within me, too. Taught me how to see, better.
Everyday I walk into my building, I pass this grate. Yellow tungsten light plays with the grate from the outside; bluer fluorescents on inside walls divide the inside. Empty space partitioned by shadows with no particular message.
I shot this without thinking about the shot, except to shoot it. Then when I converted it to black and white, I saw what I didn’t see. Just the magic of photography.
I don’t do winter, well. Don’t ski. Don’t snowshoe. Don’t skate or play hockey. And I sure as hell don’t ice fish. I tried it once or twice when I lived in Salsibury, VT. My friends took me to their well appointed shack on Lake Dunmore. We drank beer, ate deer bourguignon, cooked to perfection on the site and laughed and told stories. Good friendship. But, every once in a while, we had to go check the lines. I held the flash light. Across the Lake, drivers did wheelies on the ice. We caught a few fish, little ones. The guys cleaned, cooked and ate them. Couldn’t wait to leave, though I admit I did have a good time hanging out.
Last great day, maybe; maybe not.
Jim O’Donnell, hobo with a car. Traveling through Burlington. Knows the street and its people. On his way to Maine. Has bags in his car where he sleeps.
Cheryl’s still on the steet with Ryan. Had her baby. Says she’s homeless and hungry.
Sam said he came from Maryland. Carried his bike on the train. Who knows? He slept on a picnic table.