Towns Less Occupied: part 1

17 years ago, as a recent graduate of the Fine Art Photography at the University of Akron I had a problem. With degree in hand I had no more class critiques to work toward. Senior projects all wrapped up. Working at Dodd Camera in Cleveland and then later as a photo assistant in the area. Though I was working in my profession I had to get out and photograph for myself. Personal work as it would be called by career coaches. Except my personal work was truly personal, not just spec work made to get the attention of agencies. I continued to work like a student and make a dozen images every other week. Quickly a pattern emerged, weekends with good wether, old commercial areas of towns and cities, and midday light because I had to travel in the morning to the areas I photographed. In 2011, as a new resident of northern Utah and with only part time work I continued this pursuit with fresh eyes placed on towns I had not seen before. A collection of these images are on display at Gallery East in Price, Utah through December 8th 2017. The gallery is in the new Fine Arts Center at USU Eastern, a regional campus of Utah State University. Since many if not all of the viewers of this blog will not be able to see the show in person, I’ll share some images here on the blog.140413_Idaho Falls_ID-33

Above: Idaho Falls, Idaho 2014. The post card image for the show and one of the best images to some up the show title. I went to Idaho Falls specifically to wander around it’s old commercial district and see what I could find and the above image I like to think of as a gift from the photo gods. A perfectly clean ally sets up a single point perspective with many hard lines and a beautiful shadow. The order and tension is broke by the twisted power pole and its diagonal shadows in the center and the minimal intrusion of leafless trees and pitiful clouds. The image modulates between looking deep due to leading lines and flat due to limited tonality.

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Above: Malad, Idaho 2014. The documentarian photographer works like a hunter gatherer, with a list of suitable subjects in their head and ideas as to how they would like to order them. In the case above the image was shot for a collection I call Silo Survey. Recently I have started to merge parts of that collection into my Towns Less Occupied series. Like the image from Idaho Falls, this image revels in detail and the play of order and disorder. Mostly vertical lines with a few horizontals, mostly tin with a few wood planks. Unusual for me is the time of day but in this case the warm summer light adds to the overall success. I’ll continue showing images from this show in the next few posts. Not all of them are as hard lined as these two I have talked about today.

Photographers are always curious about what you used to make the picture. Both of the images in this post were captured with a 24mm perspective controlled lens on a Nikon body. The image from Idaho Falls I was using a tripod at normal eye height and the Malad image above I was using a giant tripod and standing on a small ladder. Both images were processed in Capture One Pro with the major adjustments being lessening contrast and shifting the blue sky to a slightly pail tone.

Exploring Promontory: Golden Spike National Historic Site

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Just over an hour away from Logan Utah and on the way to the Spiral Jetty is The Golden Spike National Historic Site. Usually I’m bringing friends out to the Jetty and we pass by much of what the site has to offer and just stop at the visitor center. This past trip was a bit different as my passengers were meeting me at the center and I would have some time alone to get off the main road and photograph along the East Grade Auto Tour. It was amazingly still and the only sound to be heard was that of a cow off in the distance. That changed with the unmistakeable sound of small caliber gunfire, and close too. Above and below: Looking East from the Central Pacific Grade on a beautiful spring evening.

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The landscape of Promontory is unforgiving and it is that aspect along with it’s austere beauty that attracts me. On a previous visit the wind was so fierce that one could hardly stand outside of the car, it’s no wonder few people live here.

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Take a moment and consider that these rail cuts were made by men with hand tools. Looking east through the cut toward Brigham City and the Wellsville Mountains. It was at this point I heard the gunfire and thought that it sounded pretty close. After returning to my car that was parked on the road I went through the cut and there I found the family using the Golden Spike Historic Site as their personal shooting range. As a reminder “Firearms may not be discharged in this national park or along the scenic drive and should not be used as a wildlife protection strategy”. Say what you will about firearms the thing that gets me is the attitudes of “it does not apply to me” or “I’m in the middle of nowhere so who cares”, in this case there are multiple public shooting ranges with in view of this location.

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Promontory has a lot to offer if you have the patience to travel there and empathy for what you will discover. On this day I was pressed for time and had to get back to Cache Valley but I will no doubt return and continue to photograph the landscape around the Golden Spike National Historic Site in the near future.

 

Images and text © Andrew McAllister-Looking at the West.