Friday, April 16, 2010

Featured Photographs: New friend of Holyoke in Photos

I mentioned over the weekend meeting a photographer while out shooting. Bob Gordon, an amateur photographer from the Valley was shooting one of the crumbling mills when we happened to run into each other. Both Bob and I have known each other via Crush, Holyoke’s social network for some time now. We talked and discusses photography, Holyoke, and a few other personal interests. I recalled a few photographs of Bob’s as we were talking. One of the subjects we discussed was his interest with abandoned buildings. Bob is primarily concerned with and interested in post-industrialist America and the abandoned buildings that have been left throughout the cities of the country.

One of the most interesting things we discussed was the de-construction of the state hospitals throughout Massachusetts. Most residents of Western Ma are familiar with the Northampton State Hospital, and the new condo development that occupies the property. Bob described how he had visited this former property in combination with the now 12 other defunct state hospitals. He has a passion for exploring the once occupied places that now seem doomed by the ghosts of memories and the decay of unkempt property.

After talking with Bob for a bit and meeting one of his friends who stopped down to see where he was shooting, we parted ways with the intentions of speaking again. After a few email exchanges and a very eager to share photographer, I am going to post a few of his photographs. Aside from Tim Lastowski, co-owner of my studio, Bob is the first person I am featuring here on Holyoke in Photos.

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Most of the photographs displayed here are from Parsons Paper. Just a mere 3 days before Parsons burned down, in a sad blaze that took an historic paper mill from Holyoke, Bob and a group of people ventured around the inside of the mill. One of the most chilling photographs he made, can be seen here. It was as if a premonition presented it self in front of his lens. Subsequently, Bob made this quasi-iconic photograph that looms as an eerie reminder of the sad fate of the cities largest paper company. 100_6369 (2)

It is a very simple composition. A hard wood floor that has seen decades of use, a fire extinguisher, and the abandoned background of the mill. The natural light provides the perfect key lighting to fill the composition and light the subject matter. What is even more iconic of this photograph is the steep history Holyoke has with fire and arson. Which coincidentally, Parsons was a victim of.

The next photograph that I enjoy viewing, the clock that has stopped time.

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A simple still life. Time has stopped in an omniscient reminder that Parsons is a part of Holyoke’s rich history. The hands of time are frozen in a metaphorical sense and photographic sense. Sitting close to a window, this clock becomes the subject. A portrait of a clock that once sat in an office, perhaps the work floor. This clock provided the time to the employees day in and day out. Eyes viewed this clock time and time again in anticipation of a number of events. The beginning of a shift, the end of a shift, the start of a weekend, the end of career in paper production, or the ever lasting minute that Parsons was no longer open as a functioning mill. This simple still life is an image of Holyoke that I feel speaks volumes about the history in which we have heard of and learned of over the decades.

As you can see, Bob put a lot of energy into his images. I am very grateful to Bob for having taken the time to send these over to me. We have varied styles in terms of photography, composition, and why we make photographs. We both wont disagree though, we are drawn to make photographs to share with people. Bob’s main focus, like I said is abandoned buildings, in contrast to my work as a portrait photographer who has a style for producing fine arts images. We both share a passion for exploring areas and making images of what we find. I hope that you have enjoyed seeing his photographs, as it is a pleasure to feature his images here. 

Thank you Bob, for sharing your photographs.

1 comment:

  1. A sincere thank you, Jeff, for putting this together on your site and sharing it. I hope others enjoy viewing these as much as I have capturing them...Holyoke is an amazing yet often sad town, an icon of a time gone by - once bustling with the energy of America's industry and innovation, much has been left forgotten and silent for a long time. As nature returns to reclaim these seemingly ancient structures, we are presented with a curious study that often mirrors our own humanity. In the case of Parson's, there were relatively few signs of vandalism - As accessible as it was, we were puzzled as to was just as if everyone vanished one day and never went back. It was a mess inside, as everything that made it what it was was still there - raw materials and machinery, along with the personal touches of the employees - old shoes, magazines, ashtrays full of squashed cigarettes, girly posters, and fans to keep them cool... in every room, these items seemed to be waiting tirelessly for the workers and the electricity to return. Having followed the story of many such places, we knew that Parson's was yet another historical monument that could be lost at any moment because of the work of foolish people...vandalism and arson are rampant in such places. That Monday night, we watched the fire in silent shock, fearful of the possibility that we might somehow be thought responsible, and angry that the treasure we had found just three days before was being ravaged by a massive fire right before our eyes - although it was just some old building to most people, to us it's meaning was vastly deeper...These places built America. They employed entire families, created towns, and roads, and fueled our prosperity. They were the embodiment of American ingenuity, and because of those traits, they are historical and architectural treasures that should be preserved and protected...A friend recalled that as he took some pictures of the aftermath the following day, he came across an elderly gentleman standing by the wreckage with tears in his eyes..."Spent my whole life working in that mill..." he said. Then he reached down and took a brick from the pile and slowly walked away...
    In the past ten years, these historically and culturally significant places have steadily disappeared from the New England landscape, as our society presses on towards an uncertain future...With what little free time I have, I attempt to capture a glimpse of them before they go. It is simply that important to me.