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10 Edgewater

Each work in this series is a pair of photographs. The first in each pair was shot by either my mother or my father in the late 1960s. The second in each pair was shot by me in 2004 from the same angle and vantage point of the same place.

In ways both obvious and invisible, these works belong as much to my parents as to me. They met when they were both te
aching junior high school in Greenwich, Connecticut. Their faculty romance yielded two sons and a marriage that continues to this day. Just before I (their first child) was born, they bought a little house in town on Edgewater Drive. In the two years or so that we lived there before moving on, they shot a few hundred Kodachrome slides in and around the house. When they sold the house in the summer of 2004, I realized I wanted to re-photograph some scenes of those slides.

I met up with my father in the vacant building four days before its ownership changed hands. At my request, he had brought the pictures and we projected them on a wall that appears in some of the slides, revisiting the rooms of their origin when it seemed necessary. With help from him and, via telephone, my mother, I spent the next three days choosing my favorites and re-staging them, minus the people, by finding the vantage point and angle from which they’d been shot. Working slowly with a geared tripod head and the precise movements of a 4 x 5 view camera, I found that, under the dark cloth, I could use one eye to view an illuminated slide and the other eye to view the illuminated ground glass, simultaneously looking at different times of the same space, as it were, adjusting their positions until they coincided. By closing one eye or the other, I could make very young versions of myself or my parents reappear or disappear from the scene right in front of me.

I don’t remember living in this house because I was so young when I left it, but I came to feel attached to the place by working on it. John Locke claimed that we come to own things by mixing our labor with them; ever since I was nine or so, I helped my parents (and later my brother) to own that house between tenants—scrubbing, hosing, scraping, priming, and painting its vacant rooms. Not so different from struggling to compose a photograph with a view camera, or to print one, in some ways. I learned to use tools in that house; I learned how to work on empty spaces.

Click here to see these pictures.