A look at my work from behind the curtain
Getting the grove back with Tom Hanks, et al.
David Plowden is an American photographer known for stunning black and white images of steam locomotives, abandoned buildings in decaying small towns, and rural scenes that take viewers back to the days of the viable family farm.
I discovered David's work early in my photographic journey; his images gave me the courage to point my camera at falling down barns and farm houses. And that led to my book, “Wisconsin Barns.”
He was also the first photographer I heard admit to failure..lots of it.
“If you take all the negatives I've produced and laid them end to end, you'd probably have 14 miles of images,” he once said. “Maybe one mile would be presentable.”
I was thinking a lot about David Plowden the other day as I navigated a creative dry patch in my work.
I had been generally happy with my images, the first hurdle my photographs must clear before they are seen by anybody.
But I tend to live in the moment and yesterdays triumphs are old news. More recently, things had dried up.
I hoped to get my groove back when—buoyed by a forecast of a cloudy afternoon and a new location-- I headed out to a nearby lake. Hundreds of lily pads floated near the shoreline and small boats moored at the dock. Very promising elements. All that I needed was a sun setting through that partly cloudy sky, casting nice soft, yellow light over the water.
Nice idea; but it didn't happen. The sun came through a cloudless sky producing a harsh, glary light that blotted out the detail in the lily pads and the boats.
Hoping for some clouds to roll in later, I headed to a forest preserve along a country road a few miles away. But the vistas of tall reed grasses cast in a golden sunset that I longed for were no where to be seen, another victim of the harsh light. I made a couple of images anyways, mostly out of frustration.
Time for one more try: a savannah on my way home. But the results were the same.
Later, after licking my wounds from an 0-for-3 day of shooting by scrolling through social media, I stumbled upon an Instagram video of Tom Hanks.
He was sitting around a table talking to, among others, Robert De Niro and Adam Sandler.
“You feel bad right now,” Hanks asked. “You feel pissed off and angry? This too shall pass....Time is your ally, and if nothing else.... just wait.”
Pretty good advice, I thought.
Then my artist wife, Maureen looked at one of the few images I made that frustrating day.
“You should do something with this one,” she said of shot of a solitary tree standing alongside that country road.
I did, and “Rollins Roadside” is the result. I'm happy again.