I have photographed in the Pacific Northwest for over 40 years, using a 4X5 view camera, film, and traditional darkroom processes to produce gelatin silver prints in limited editions.
Much of my work reflects change – changes in the countryside near my home as the economic focus transitions from agricultural to industrial; changes on the coastline from decades of wind and wave action; and changes occurring across seasons in my garden.
With such an emphasis on the natural world in my work, I never thought I would be inspired to photograph so much plastic.
It began in 1996, when a motel under construction near my home was wrapped in plastic. The sight of it glowing against black storm clouds grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. I squeezed through the fence, exposed a few negatives, and figured I was done. I wasn’t.
Plastic draped structures captivate me visually and emotionally. These temporary sculptures represent transition, transformation and the mystery of change. Are the buildings of new construction, of new lives? Or are the structures being renovated to their former glory?
I am fascinated by the way the wrapping defines the shape of the building, and yet disguises it. There is a symbiotic relationship between the fabric and the building: the building and scaffolding support the plastic; and the plastic protects the building from the elements. Whether a structure is rising anew, undergoing repairs, or getting a fresh coat of paint, I am reminded of our own ability to change our lives, remain structurally sound, and gain new life.
After my wife’s successful brain surgery last year, I began to notice how much the wires and staples securing the expanses of plastic to the scaffolding resemble the sutures that held her skin together. The thought that healing and positive transformations are going on under the protective “skin” of these buildings really resonates with me. The structures seem grateful for the covering of their exposed state, but cannot contain the anticipation of their completion. Their breath is held and exhaled almost unwillingly for fear they will give away their excitement at the opportunity for wholeness once again.
I have a backlog of two years worth of negatives to add to this portfolio. I intend to use any grant award to print the images and prepare them for exhibitions in Portland, OR and Santa Barbara, CA.