Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Magical Mystery Tour

(Snapped on 10/30/10)

The older I get (and the more decrepit my vehicles) the less I like to venture very far from where I live. I've always been a bit of a homebody, but over the last few months I've become more and more content to keep busy in my studio during the quiet times when my kids are with their dad. Yeah sure, I go out and about to do my pictures (mostly around my immediate "neighborhood", though) - but outside of visiting my daughter at her boarding school - I rarely travel solely for recreation. And even then, my fingers are crossed the whole time, that I won't end up stranded - my car completely kaput on the shoulder, with no AAA and no money to get myself towed. In other words, unless I'm going someplace where the risk of breaking down is somehow worth knowing that if I get there, I will be productive - I prefer to play it safe and stay at (or somewhere close to) home...where I'm certain to get plenty of stuff done.  

The reason I'm boring you with all of this, is because I'm trying to illustrate how out of character it was for me to take precious time away from working on my blog, and risk car-tastrophe by making the 3 hour + drive down to, and back from - where my friends Copeland and George have homes in central Virginia...not just once, but on two separate occasions now. Only something exceptionally enticing, could make me break tradition like that.

Obviously I went, fully intending to spend quality time with my friends, but I made no false pretenses about the fact that for me it would be more of a working holiday than a time to kick back and relax. 

You guys may remember how blown away I was, by my first visit to the region back in September (see entry, "On "The Land" and Off the Grid"). The combination of coming home with a treasure trove of pics., and a long mental list of venues where I longed to snap more pictures there some other day, all punctuated by my new friend George's invitation to shoot at his place - was ample reason to get my butt back down asap!

(Snapped on 10/30/10)

I blabbed on and on in the last post, about the two cool spots that I'd noticed (and where I was absolutely dying to shoot) while on my way over to meet George. The crumbly, old house seen here in the three topmost pics., was my first stop - after departing a prosperous afternoon spent with George...and his land...and his trailer.

I initially caught only a fleeting glimpse of the old house, and had been so captivated by what I'd seen of the facade that I made up my mind to shoot my self-portraits using the exterior of the house as my backdrop. But upon arrival, I realized - that this would not be feasible. The entire yard was a tangled, dense mass of head-high overgrowth, which completely enveloped the abandoned abode. I pulled my car as much off of the road as I could, barely onto a makeshift driveway (presumably the resting spot of the bulldozer that I'd seen parked there earlier in the day - yipes) My precious SONY Cyber-Shot safely zipped-up in my pocket, I grabbed the rest of what I needed and struggled to navigate my way through the sea of hateful brambles and weeds. 

After clambering up and into the front hallway, I literally gasped and let out an audible, "Oh my god..." I was jittery in my amazement to have ended up in a place, unlike any other I'd ever seen before.

The late-day light spilling in through the pane-less windows and doorless doorways - was beyond stunning, and a cold breeze teased my diaphanous dress (also now translucent - since I'd cut out the pesky, black underskirt) There were vestiges indicating that the once proud and fine homestead had been repeatedly raped for it's desirable mantles, stair treads, light fixtures and doors. Savagely stripped of its distinguishing features, and consequently - protection from the elements - the old house was succumbing to malignant decay...after decades of neglect, betrayal and abuse...

It was terribly sad and beautiful all at once. I have chills and feel inexplicably emotional thinking about it, even now. 

(Snapped on 10/30/10)

I could've easily stayed there shooting for hours, but unfortunately I knew that my time inside the house would have to be brief, since it's situated close to the road in a small town where everyone knows everyone, and nobody would recognize my car. To have stayed there much longer, would've been asking for trouble...

(When I got back home and downloaded the pictures that I'd taken inside the old house, I was floored. Miraculously most of the pics. needed minimal tweaking...besides cropping, I left several of them otherwise untouched)

As regretful as I was, to say goodbye to the house, knowing that it might not even be there next time (that bulldozer that I'd seen parked out front, ominously predicted a grim outlook for the perpetually deteriorating structure) - I was ok with it, because of my urgency to shoot at the last location on my list. 

(Snapped on 10/30/10)

This lonely general store sits so close to the road, that I barely had room to park my car much less keep it out of the pictures. More so than at the old house, I was blatantly advertising my presence at a place where I really had no business being.

The other tricky thing about this particular shoot, was that I had to change costumes inside of my car...

(Snapped on 9/22/08)

How's this for a fishbowl-type dressing room? Ya' think there's any chance that passing motorists and the folks living in the house across street - couldn't see what I was doing? Haha! No matter, it's the adrenaline rush that comes from such things, that injects me with the courage to make a spectacle of myself...

(Snapped on 10/30/10)

It's kinda hard to explain, and it may sound silly but after two fortuitous photographic excursions to this specific part of Virginia, I'm convinced that there might be something magical about the area...

There's this strange serenity about the landscape, a sort of quiet calm blanketing each pristine acre. The way the light behaves, seems totally different to me - could be it's more intense because the air is so clean? I know it seems crazy - but I really can't make sense of it! The architecture although humble - is arresting and oft eerie. And somehow I manage to always stay safe from harm. I mean like seriously - I go to Richmond to attend an innocuous party and end up in the ER with stitches in my arse. But in this special place, I have repeatedly scaled the walls of a collapsing building, and tromped around barefoot through tons of brittle plaster and lath riddled by thousands of nails - remarkably impervious to injury. I've been alone in old buildings, remote locations and public spaces - for extended periods of time, and never been bothered by any single spirit or living soul...

It's entirely possible that I could travel a fraction of the distance from my home, to countless points in any direction (and I fully intend to do just that) and discover equally enchanting locations to shoot. But I have this hunch that that no other place will replicate the exulting feeling I get - while in and around that part of Virginia. And...much as I detest driving long distances, the je ne sais quoi of Charlotte County and her environs - will inevitably lure me back.

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