The Blacksmith

A short writing from a few years past…..(click the image to open full .pdf version)

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The Wet Plate Chronicles – Part 1: Over Saturation

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There are a great many aspects of the digital image experience that are liberating. The unrestrained flexibility – the unbridled appetite of vast onboard storage – and the simple ability to share across miles with nominal effort. But I will confess that I am fatigued. Fatigued by the very craft I loved so early in life and creative experience and expression it fostered. I suppose it is not a wholly uncommon consequence, that of a slow and all too frequent, bludgeoning from something that used to be so thoroughly enjoyed.

The first digital camera I purchased was a 1mp Fuji. In retrospect – the images were awful digitized ordeals that weren’t too far afield of taking someone’s thumbnail and expanding it to an overly enlarged proportion so as to see every grain of unnaturalness. Colors were pale. Depths were flat and I swear to god they are fading away as my laptop sits in the sunlight of the dining room.  But I was fascinated by the concept that I no longer had to concern myself with a ratcheted countdown from 36 or the pit-stop (both drop off and pick up) at the local film processing location. Pixel counts and lenses improved – new hardware followed and frankly ,  once I set down my much beloved Nikon FE2 to experiment – the transition was abrupt, unrepentant, and permanent.

Unfortunately, and despite a wide variety of rationale, I was not alone in my experimentation with this new realm of photographic hardware. As a decade + span of digital photography advances, and the amazing results that can be generated by our handy phone pieces, we have invoked the unholy *deluge*….a torrent of marginally filtered, repetitively composed, and overtly publicized images.  I realized I had crossed the threshold of tolerance when a friend of mine shared a “gallery” ( not a single image – a gallery mind you) from a recent trip to a local, somewhat touristy pond. In it swam two very elegant, chummy, and highly photogenic swans.  Rather than include 1, 2 …*maybe* 3 images of said swans in agreeable calming light – this page contained a good 20 images or more of the swans in various positions, angles and repose. Swan neck, swan feathers, swan reflections, swan currents, swan ass.  I was possessed with that odd and unpredictable claustrophobia akin to when you have to feign engagement and attention 5x past the actual invocation of your disinterest (Tammy believes I am like that in any social situation more than 30 minutes in duration). Both hobbyist and semi-pro alike have come to assume, and unfortunately promote, that *quantity* is somehow a better showcase – that inches in variation are actually something someone wishes to emotionally consume. I don’t need to see 15 “like” images anymore than I need to see 15 “like” renditions of Winslow Homer’s “Snap the Whip”. Its too much to process let alone view through an artistic lens.   For the first time I realized digital photography was the equivalent of a large (and of course dry) basement  – we have a natural tendency to fill the void with at-one-time pleasing, crap because – dammit – we have open space without rules imposed.

I felt the love draining. My camera began to miss events out of boredom or the root sensation that had taken just about every picture that I had really ever wished to take. It certainly didn’t help my growing discontent when some folks began to expect me to have my camera on the ready for various drivel and events – followed quickly by the proverbial “Can you send me the files?” slapstick routine. Technology, democratization, convenience, and the masses had evolved the craft & stretched its frame of the familiar.  To note, I am a technologist by trade, so I didn’t experience this trajectory with some weepy wax poetic of the bygone era (i.e I  just really love the delicate and profound listening experience of wax cylinders  or “Remember how great and pure we used to feel after a bloodletting?”)   – but I can say, I recognized that what was working so wonderfully for the general populace, was not working for *me*.  The voice of the muse had become nothing but prattle.

I grew up in a household that respected and admired history. Our home was not particularly old (as are so common in these parts) but it was filled with the remnants of the early New England attic and their display a common theme of our décor. With the exception of a few legendary playtime avoidance pieces of 18th century porcelain and glass – most of the artifacts could be handled and touched. In particular, my Mom dedicated one entire kitchen wall to the hanging display of antique household Americana. It had an effective level of visual balance despite its hodgepodge of disparate items and sizes and never looked like the rationalization of an over- zealous hoarder. Perched over the kitchen table hung a retro-wired brass Pullman car gas lamp. On the adjacent wall – small 19th primitive oils. There I would sit – munching away at a bowl of Life cereal before I walked off to elementary school – soaking in 200 years of the household utility.  As a child, I came to understand the textures & construct of early American wood, cast brass and iron and it is a foundation of perspective that still permeates my worldview.

Given my usual & over abundant self analysis – I began to realize that the potential creative salve lay in the merging of passion and to, most importantly,  take a very broad 150 year step backwards . To become part chemist – part artist – part tinkerer/builder – part photographer. To embrace my love of history via the do-it-yourself wonders of the first true, pioneering days of photography. To create a singular image of one – all nuance and influence –  reflective of time, optics, mixology, weather, & movement. And so began the journey.

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Meandering in the Berkshires

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The Humor of Simple Life

~ ” They’re running all the meat off those heifers trying to catch them.”

~ ” My doc has a green thumb. Everything he touches grows.”

~ “Dr. Prince. Confinement causes a speciality. Wood sawed at fifty cents per cord when not professionally engaged.

” Anyone can tell from her looks that you never carried a lantern when you courted your missus”

~ “How can you have faith in that watch without good works?”

~ “Do you want these monkeys mounted? God no – my wife would raise hell. Just have them holding hands.”

~ “She made a soup of tails and tongues. It was the only way she could make both ends meet. “


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TW :: Wit & Wisdom

My grandfather, TW (Thomas W), had a Maine manner of words – simplified, youthful, poetic, insightful, profoundly wry, & self deprecating. He was a long time lawyer by trade and amongst his stores – I found a small black binder with entries in TWs fluid hand.

It is a non-descript notebook & from what I can discern – it is a veritable stream of consciousness, thoughts, and anecdotes neatly jotted, more than likely, during court time.  I suspect, when one would observe our beloved counselor, it was assumed he was taking notes of great relevance to the case at hand, when in fact, it was everything from absurd comments uttered during trial, guiding principals of life,  drafting jokes, commentary on Calvin Coolidge, to  short missives and reflections on home.

Here I will endeavor to share some examples that exemplify his wit, wisdom and vibrant perspective.


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Projects & Other Creative Insanities

A gallery the clearly illustrates a simple sampling of my creative A.D.D malaise. There are a great many more undocumented offspring. I do try to stay focused and tune a certain approach, medium,  palette, or design – but fail miserably after crafting an initial prototype.  Economics have provided some guidance – and I have been a bit more disciplined over the last few holiday seasons to create productively -but have found I will most often just fall back and define and conclude an endeavor based on the immediacy of what materials I may have on hand and for it provides at that specific moment and time.

The “full” (and evolving) gallery can be found HERE

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The Wonders of Super 8

It was around 1978 that my closest buddies (Rob & Dave most notably) and I became immersed in film and fascinated by the prospect of creating our own Super 8mm masterpiece.

We had already spent a number of years experimenting with tape recordings when we were all but 12 or so. Crazy, spontaneous, clunky, non-scripted affairs that reflected our love of Monty Python and the last gasps of radio comedy and storytelling. Our high pitched awkwardness belayed our time and creative focus – trying things such as recording on real tape, flipping the physical tapes, and recording with a secondary device to produce a backwards layers. Our breakthrough was finally using Realistic hand held microphones – and have the amazing privilege provided by condensers and the metronome glories of audio meters.

Our playtime in these years seeded a desire for new canvases ~ new methods ~ new mediums. By the time we hit the shores of high school – we felt like sophisticates pop culture art mediums. Experts in music, the history of film, the nuances of classic radio all the way back to The Shadow and Dick Tracy. High school afforded new avenues of exploration and Film was the epitome of an academic, elective lottery win.

Our final assignment was a homemade 8mm production. We had all grown up with some amount of 8mm interwoven into the family archived fabric. Whether the blistering obviousness of reflector lighting, the hand wound mechanics of cameras, the diminutive smallness of reel stacks in a cabinet, or the strange haunting silence of sharing such films with others. As with our audio years ~ our scripts and storyboarding was all but non-existent. We composed the core assets in real time – leaving assembly & storyline flow to the final *director* (as we could rightfully call ourselves in this case). Each of us 3 created a unique vision and each of of 3 became the extras and actors for execution. Our neighborhood was a short walk from the last Green Line stop of Riverside outside of Boston- and we spent countless, liberating hours exploring both it, as well as the venues and experiences it could transport us to. At the time, as it was *end* of the line – it was used as a repository and yard for repair and cast offs. It was a gritty, unsupervised, old fashioned, and potentially dangerous by modern parenting standards, but *the tracks*, its surround ghost machines, mechanical misfits, oil, grease and heat were a boundless adventure land for teenage boys. To this day I can remember the smell of the rails and the tar soaked ties – and their worn, cast metal smoothness.

Like using our backyard for location – Rob created *Terror* as embedded below. I hope he forgives me for posting

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A moving moment in Venice

Tammy & I stumbled on the Northern Ambassadors student choir as we meandered back into the Piazza San Marco in July 2011. They paused on their entry into Basillica and presented this lush, spontaneous rendition by a simple, unpretentious group of America kids. 

It was an amazingly beautiful performance – made all the more moving by the sheer history & spirituality of the locale (pigeons & all). Fortunately, we had an opportunity to speak with the director (Mr. Swingen I believe) – and it turned out this group was comprised of students from Montana & North Dakota – and hence we were able to discern their identity when we got home ot the states.
While we missed the begining – we still wished to share.
Gorgeous & poignant.

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Here we go again….

Yes – its that time again.  As I am sure is a familiar exercise for most ~ I once again pull out my tattered, well intentioned and very familiar list of yearly objectives so as to meet the arbitrary line of demarcation that is New Years. I cant help but wonder why I torture myself with the self revelation that few items are ever soundly removed ~ but rather return like persistent, perennial weeds of partially framed focus. Despite this doomed repetition, I will play along so heartily that I will even belief I can meet these objectives myself. So as to counter said pragmatic Corey ~ the following is a vastly more realistic portrayal of personal targets for this upcoming year 2012. It must be duly noted, as well, that I am more than pleased to put 2011 in the rear-view ~ it was an unrelenting turbulent sea of fog and reactive adaptation. Bring on the calendar based thresholds as catalysts of change & motion.It is time.

Things I may actually get done :::

  • Getting back into an aggressive gym regimen with the 1000s of other people eager to work off the obsessive holiday eating
  • Taking a nature walk 2 times a week
  • Reducing/eliminating my photographic focus (pun intended) on intriguiging architecutual elements and replacing it/them with a greater concentration on the uniqueness of people
  • Writing more regularly
  • Get my hands in the dirt more frequently
  • Reduce the amount of outwardly expressed words in my daily life
  • Digitize and share important archival stuff (images, stories, papers, etc)
  • Oodles of personal relationship stuff that I dont wish to share with the internet universe

Things I hope to accomplish but probably wont :::

  • Be more patient with others
  • Eat healthier
  • Be less opinionated and judgemental
  • Get back in a band
  • Travel less
  • Stop immitating Dick Clark on New Years Eve

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The Woodland Bench

Being fortunate enough to have a well wooded, but modestly sized, house lot brings a number of subtle benefits that most home owners would look on as a suburban nuisance. Winter and the annual visitations of Nor’esters invariably cast a variety of oak, maple, pine and poplar throughout the yard and make for persistent early spring assemblage of sticks, branches & other exceedingly stubborn fall leaves.  While certainly annoying ~ like the seemingly endless discovery of balsam needles in one’s home that step well into the subsequent holiday season ~ there are times when I cant help but be thrilled by the sheer breath of available inventory that can be utilized to spark the news years creative endeavors.

This particular bench was a byproduct of a particularly aggressive and windy winter ~ that afforded just the right dimensions of raw material to take my Lincoln Log experience to a new level. I had never sketched, nor crafted any of the classically styled “twig” furniture, although I was very much an admirer of the design aesthetic.  In typical, spastic Corey fashion, I grabbed a pencil & notepad and jotted down some ideas as I walked around the yard with a tape measure ~ reviewing my abundantly stocked yard waste with new-found creative interest. (who the hell knows where my original notes end up….but I can surely attest they are not with me any more)  I figured most joints would be best served by dowel joinery to reduce the stress requirements on my usual standby construction companion~ Mr. Drywall Screw.  After framing with the main spans ~ I hand-cut corner edges to ensure uniformity of line and then capped the base bench seat with a red oak planks from my local Home Depot. A quick run of a router smoothed the edge surface of the seat area plus a few rounds of spar urethane to lock up the weather proofing.

Woodland Bench

Utimately, this humble creation, made its way as a holiday gift to my Mom & Dad.

Lessons Learned:

  • Probably not very smart to design a bench for elderly parents that was freakishly heavy and more worthy to be in the decor of Scottish Highland participants
  • Projects like this are uneven and out of square on almost every dimension known to man. As such, I began to question if my garage floor was even flat.
  • Bark on? – Bark off? – I think only Mr. Muyagi knows for sure which is best

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