DEEP DIVE #2: The Taxi Depot
One of my favorite locations of all time.
It’s not just the taxi depot itself that makes me like this location so much, though that is part of it. The building is a network of framing devices and visual textures: windows, loading docks, garage doors, entryways; all surrounded by structures of weathered cinder blocks, brick, wood, and sun-beaten asphalt. I also love the taxi depot, though, because of everything that surrounds it: the rutted dirt back lots, adjacent neighborhoods; the way nature, domesticity, and commerce abut, overlap, and fold into one other. There’s also permanence and impermanence; the buildings feel like they’ve been there forever, and yet, taxis are fundamentally transient and transactional; they pick up and deliver people; there’s a detachment; they’re impersonal, and anonymous. This particular taxi depot is positioned beside train tracks, which add something more; trains offer the promise of further destinations, of distant horizons, of hope, and freedom.
When I begin location scouting for a new project, I often find myself back at the taxi depot. I owe a decades-long debt of gratitude to Anthony, known as “Corky,” the owner, who has not only allowed me to scout his property for many years, but has also helped in myriad logistical ways on our productions. It would be much easier for Corky to not have me make pictures where he is actively running multiple transportation businesses; to fill up his lots with large crews and equipment, and get in everyone’s way. But he supports the idea of art. I go back again and again, because there is always more to see, unearth, and explore. Every time I go, the configuration of parked cars changes, the extent to which the building and fences are being swallowed up by greenery ebbs and flows, the patina on the buildings and some of the aging cars and trucks only gets better and better with time. I’ve made at least 10 or 12 pictures now in or just adjacent to the taxi depot, and still I feel I’ve only just begun.
Enjoying Crewdson Trail Log? Stay up to date with all our content by subscribing.
After scouting the depot for years, I finally made my first pictures there — two — in 2006. I revisited both those spots again in 2018, plus made several more. The picture below was the very last exterior location picture we shot on Beneath the Roses (2003-2008). I was happy with the picture, but later when I was scouting for An Eclipse of Moths (2018-2019), I thought of another picture I wanted to make in essentially the same spot, but with a much elevated camera, about 20 feet in the air [see above video.] Dan Karp and Zak Arctander were operating the camera on that shoot, and they spent two days in a telehandler accessible only by a ladder. What I wanted to capture in The Taxi Depot was more about the expanse of everything surrounding, the GE Factory buildings on the horizon, the sense of connection to the wider world via those train tracks; and perhaps something even larger and more distant, evocative of the great beyond.
The woman and children in the 2018 picture (enacted by my partner Juliane, my son Walker, and her son Davy,) seem in between, and slightly unmoored from the real world. There is also a flare in the sky in the distance, something I wanted to feel ambiguous. Is it a firework? An emergency flare? Something else? We had a fireworks company a half mile away, detonating over 40 flares in sync it with our exposures, coordinated by walkie talkie, which was an adventure unto itself to carry out.
This next picture, the title image of the series, was also made in 2018 on the same shoot for An Eclipse of Moths, in approximately the same basic location at the taxi depot, but from a different point of view:
I really wanted the red house in the background to be visible through the trees. Seeing the adjacent neighborhood, and the way it’s elevated above the foreground is a key element of the picture. That red house also felt very Hitchcock to me, mysterious, its paint faded and peeling. When we went to shoot it, the summer leaves had grown in considerably since I had first scouted, though, and the view of that neighborhood was obstructed, so we trimmed the lower branches quite a bit to achieve that view again, with the help of Bill Markham, who has been the greensman and part of my crew since the late 1990’s. I did another picture in the backyard of the house, Cherry Street, peering out from the woods [below]. I could make many more pictures at that house, inside and out. It’s an amazing location.
In the case of Back Lot, [below] and in several others in An Eclipse of Moths, we installed street lamps in order to highlight that as a central ongoing theme in the series. Back Lot gives yet another view of the taxi depot and especially the train tracks beside it, leading away to the horizon.
Editorial note: The drone video at the top of this piece was made by Brandon Taylor, key grip, shot during the pre-light on the day before The Taxi Depot was shot. Brandon has been on the Crewdson production team since 2006. This piece was written by Juliane based on conversations and interviews she did with the artist.