Photo Exploration: Empty Cabinet

March 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

Mis­sis­sippi is a bit of home. There isn’t any­where I’ve spent as much time, and very few places I’ve done as much pho­tog­ra­phy. I tend to tread care­fully with that imagery how­ever. It’s a loaded space to pho­to­graph — nearly every­one I’ve known has his­tory there, and not all of it pleasant.

How do you go from broadly painted strokes to per­son­ally vivid, nar­rowly focused work? Where is a start­ing point, maybe a touch­stone for focus­ing in on a sin­gle moment? If that can be found, then we can work back­wards and build a nar­ra­tive that involves the his­tory and the pres­ence of the area. Instead of a few vague thoughts, we will have cre­ated a solid con­struct to han­dle all the infor­ma­tion and emo­tion from engag­ing such an over­pow­er­ing entity.

I had the excep­tional oppor­tu­nity to pho­to­graph in two dear places in late Feb­ru­ary. One, the town of Natchez, was where I was born and spent a great major­ity of my early life. Walk­ing around down­town and vis­it­ing my grandparent’s old home and church, tak­ing pho­tographs of places I’d been pho­tograph­ing since nearly my first roll of film. It was remark­able in the quiet and noth­ing­ness of a sunny Tues­day after­noon. The other loca­tion was around my in-law’s fam­ily farm house. My wife’s great-aunt passed away in the late 1990’s and the house had been untouched in many ways since. Although the prop­erty is occu­pied with equip­ment and horses, the house itself has been devoid of per­ma­nent res­i­dence in over a decade. Being granted per­mis­sion to pho­to­graph the rooms as I found them was a lux­ury — the insight into what is still a very accu­rate por­trait of life there was amazing.

Using those two loca­tions as the gen­eral map for track­ing a path across Mis­sis­sippi, I gath­ered mate­r­ial for a series ten­ta­tively titled “Where the Dust Set­tles.” Below is one of the pho­tographs from that series. All film, either Ektar 100 (120) or Ilford HP5+ (35mm).

Empty Cabinet

The sim­plic­ity of a bath­room — a heater, a cab­i­net. Left ajar for a dozen or more years. To be hon­est, I don’t even know if the cab­i­net is empty. There could very well be med­i­cine, band-aids, old mag­a­zines and Maalox wait­ing for a bit of light to shine in. But it was not my turn to dis­turb the scene. I set up, metered/focused and exposed the film.