Today’s thought provoking post is by my good friend Lorraine Healy.
Like most photographers, I always have three or four projects going at the same time—a number of themes/ideas/questions that I want to keep exploring photographically. How do these projects land on my lap? There is no commission or big payday at the conclusion of any of these. It can be things that I love, like old signs, or an exercise like taking the same photo every month for an entire year and see what changes the seasons and weather bring to one same spot. Frequently, projects are the result of visual obsessions, those things that I can photograph until I collapse: anything connected to Route 66, for example. Or Skip’s small grain town of the Palouse.
But how does something become a photo project? I suspect one can get as many answers to that question as there are photographers, but here is the answer to how a particular project started for me. About this time last year, one of my best friends in Argentina sent me an email with a web link. Her email just said: take a look at this. Paula and I email each other constantly, several times a day, and in general the point is to make the other howl with laughter. So that was my expectation when I went to the link. Instead, I found a YouTube compilation of photographs of the most fantastic monuments I had ever seen, located in the unlikeliest places I could imagine: small towns spread out in the southern and western parts of the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina. All designed and constructed by an architect and engineer I had never heard of, Francisco Salamone, who had built all of these astounding creations within a span of 4 years in the mid 19030’s. Massive constructions in cement, in the Brutalist style of the era (think Mussolini’s Rome, think Hitler’s Berlin), in these far-flung towns in the middle of the Pampas. Salamone seemed to have concentrated on building cemetery portals, town halls, and slaughterhouses—in the mid 1930s, Argentina was the world’s largest exporter of premium beef, so local slaughterhouses, right in the urban centers surrounding cattle country, were of the essence. Why not make them architecturally stunning, too?
I was floored. When could we go? I was going to Argentina to visit my family in late March, so Paula and I quickly put together a two-day trip to the Salamone place that was the closest to Buenos Aires, the city of Azul. But in my mind there was a big “PROJECT!” sign already flashing. Azul would be the start, and in subsequent trips, we would attempt to visit all of the extant Salamone marvels, hopefully before many were torn down (yes, sadly this has happened).
I took my Holgas, a couple of digital cameras, and my iPhone. Here are some samples of what I got with my Holgas and the thinking behind some changes I made.
Side view of the Azul Cemetery portal, with statue of the Archangel Michael and a massive RIP behind. Holga N, Fuji color film, 400.
Angled view of the Azul slaughterhouse—the water tower designed to look like a giant knife, in keeping with the function of the space. Holga N, color, 160 iso.
A view of the train station’s old “Gentlemen lavatories” sign in the foreground, and grain silos in the background. Holga N, 200 iso slide film.
I thought the results were okay, but nothing was showing the kind of impact I got from being in front of these pieces, a sensation I wanted to come through in the images. I converted my favorites to black and white with Silverefex 2.2, and then I felt I was coming closer to what I wanted.
Statue of the Archangel Michael shot from a sideways angle, close to the base, to emphasize its massiveness. Holga N, color 400 film, converted to B&W
Same as above, only a more frontal shot. The bird was a lucky catch!
The slaughterhouse shot from above, converted to B&W in Silverefex, choosing the “underexposed” setting (#2) to stress visual contrast.
The “Gentlemen” sign converted to sepia in Silverefex. Tried a variety of B&W options, liked the old-time feel of the sepia better.
The very first shot (did you notice the frame numbers on the edge? It’s a merge of 2 consecutive negatives) converted to B&W in Silverefex, choosing the “underexposed” setting as before.
This is “early days.” Photographically, the “Arquitecto Salamone’s Marvels” project has barely started. There are a number of logistic and scheduling issues to plan around for each stage. But guess where I’m going this April?
Lorraine Healy is an Argentinean poet and photographer living on Whidbey Island. The author of the eBook “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder”, a manual for the Holga camera, she is a longtime friend of Skip Smith’s, with whom she also shares an inordinate fondness for Golden Retrievers. Visit her website, www.Lorrainehealy.