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DEEP DIVE #1: From Harry's to Redemption
One location yields two interconnected pictures, 15 years apart
Some photographers travel far and wide to make pictures. I’m the opposite. I make the majority of my work in the same small area. My brother, who is a mushroom forager, often talks about how people in that world have their favorite “spots,” places they consider theirs, that they know will yield treasure. That’s kind of how I think about picture locations. I have my favorite spots, and I visit them over and over.
When I finally decide to make a picture in a certain location, I commit to it. It then transforms from being just a “spot” to being the world of the picture. Place is the most important thing. It informs what will be “happening” and what figures, cars, props, or lighting elements will exist there — not the other way around. Unlike a movie shoot, location comes before story.
There are so many factors that might make a location feel right to me. Some I can articulate and others I can’t. Sometimes it’s that something in the landscape and the way the architectural elements fit together feels balanced. Or sometimes the buildings, roadways, pavement, and surrounding nature feels slightly outside of time. Sometimes there is something that feels mysterious to me, or slightly haunted, like you can sense the presence of generations that came before. In all cases, I see something beautiful that I want to capture.
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In the case of Redemption Center, a picture I made in 2018-2019 as part of the series An Eclipse of Moths, I revisited a location that I had made a picture at 15 years earlier during Beneath the Roses. The supermarket that was at the center of the earlier picture had since been torn down, leaving only a grassy footprint and an empty deteriorating parking lot. I liked the loneliness of the place, and the way it seemed like the supermarket had become an absence/presence. I felt there was a new story to be told here, but the two pictures would nonetheless be inherently connected.
The streetlamp is at the center of each picture, with a figure and a shopping cart positioned beneath, as if drawn to the light. The light fixtures that were there in 2004 no longer existed in 2018, so we installed some older discarded pieces the city no longer needed — pulled out of a dumpster at the local DPW. The central figures are in fact positioned in the exact same place in the parking lot, though we are looking on from different angles. It creates a beautiful symmetry between the two distinct scenes. The shopping cart beside them is, in the earlier picture, faced toward the supermarket, and then, in the later picture, faced away from where it once stood.
In making the later picture, I knew the blank wall in the center needed a more visual element, and I wanted “Redemption Center,” which in fact is what the building is, and what is printed in smaller letters on the front, to be more prominent. (The term redemption center is a name for the places where cans and bottles can be returned for deposits in this region. It obviously has a poetic double meaning.)
Perry Grebin, a graphic designer, has been working on our productions for a number of years now. He designed several billboards and other signs on An Eclipse of Moths, including the ones in Redemption Center. Dan Courchaine, a scenic artist, often executes his designs, and has been part of the team dating back even further, to Beneath the Roses.
Lone figure lost in moment of contemplation
Prominent pale yellow residential house introducing surrounding neighborhood
Harry’s Supermarket, and the footprint where it once stood; also important to note that both pictures have a prominent graphic element as a focal point: “Harry’s Supermarket” and “Redemption Center.”