Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Powerlines

Naugatuck, Connecticut

Something like fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, a grown-up who knew I was intensely interested in photography asked to look at some of my pictures. One of my 8x10 b&w prints showed giant "high tension line" towers marching off into the distance through the hundred-yard wide alleyway cleared in the forest near the Passaic River for their passage. The grown-up pointed out that this might be a really nice landscape picture if I had only figured out a way to keep the powerlines from showing.

A dozen or so years later, someone who knew I was working as a freelance photographer was excited to tell me about a book of photographs she had seen recently. The photographer had traveled all over the country—this would have been around the 1970s—and was able to find ways to make landscape photographs—without retouching!!!— that showed no evidence of human presence. No phone lines, no roads, no railroad tracks, just like it was two hundred years ago. I politely refrained from asking why anyone would want to do that, not to mention that the pictures certainly couldn't look anything like two hundred years ago. I still find the landscape, as interfered with by humans, endlessly fascinating.


4 comments:

James Weekes said...

I got a chuckle out of this. Almost every Photoshop how-to book has a chapter devoted to getting rid of power lines. I love them, they're so graphic. Nice shots.

Carl said...

Right, James, clone out those strip mines! Put the tops back on those mountains!

Scott Kirkpatrick said...

Still, Carl, are you value-neutral about all the human changes to the land? How does it feel to take a picture which looks graphically appealing but when you think about it is also disgusting? Look at the lovely brutal shapes of those shaved mountain tops, the sinuous form of the Great Wall of Israel (Koudelka's recent book -- his disgust dominates his graphics, but he does both).

scott

Carl said...

I'm not value-neutral about anything I photograph, but I think my task is to observe, react, and convey something about the encounter, not to editorialize about it. Viewers will bring all their own interpretations based on their past experiences.