Photo Exploration: Empty Cabinet

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.