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Eveningside: T&A Tools
The Familiar and The Strange
EXT. EVENINGSIDE - HARDWARE STORE - TWILIGHT
We are standing at the center of a street, gazing toward a brick hardware store with a large flat marquee overhanging the front door. A weather-beaten shingle hangs at the front of the marquee that reads T & A TOOLS. Beyond it, there is a row of several houses before the street disappears out of frame at a bend in the road.
It’s late twilight, and the light of day is fading. The long shadows of late afternoon have begun to mute into darkness.
There is a pickup truck with a utility flatbed facing camera, parked in the center of the street. A WOMAN sits in the passenger side of the truck. The driver’s side door of the truck is open, and a MAN stands in the street, gazing at a couple of large weathered WOODEN CRATES on the flatbed. Another crate is in the entryway of the hardware store, and a second in the middle of the street. A trail of dirt extends between the truck, the sidewalk, and the doorway, and the man’s hands and clothes are soiled. He looks upon the crates with a weary expression.
Written production description by Juliane Hiam
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In 2004, I made the below Untitled picture as part of Beneath the Roses. It was shot in Adams, MA, on Summer Street, using a rain machine; hence the unofficial title “Summer Rain.” If you zoom into the background on the left-hand side, you can see T&A Tools, the centerpiece of the above picture, and it becomes clear that it’s the same street, and the same basic place.
Untitled, [Summer Rain] is one of my favorite pictures, and locations. A couple of interesting anecdotes about making the picture: One is that, ironically, we had to cancel the shoot the first day we attempted it, because of rain (more specifically, the threat of thunder and lightning.) The other is that the man in the picture is actually wearing a wetsuit beneath his clothing, to help him stay warm while standing in the rain for so long. We generally shoot for about an hour, so it’s a long time to stand still and have rain pour down on you. It’s cold, even in the summer.
Almost 20 years later, I decided I wanted to make another picture here, this time in black and white. We’ve done several posts now making connections between earlier pictures made during Beneath the Roses (2003-2008), An Eclipse of Moths, (2018-2019) and Eveningside (2021-2022) in which I revisited the same locations, worked with the same crew, cast, themes, or iconography. I have spoken many times about the fact this is part of how I like to work, and part of my process: Exploring locations in new ways or from different vantage points; going deeper, finding new relationships and connections, telling new stories — yet circling around similar themes over and over. I like the cross-connections that happen behind the scenes that inform the pictures in ways that the viewer might never realize — or need to. The owner of the truck in T & A Tools, for example, is someone whose home and various vehicles I’ve used in pictures dating back 25 years to Twilight (1998-2002.) I like the way this fact is invisible but still carries meaning; it connects the truck, and the picture, to earlier stories, earlier settings and situations, and therefore adds to all the corners and nuances of the collective world of the pictures. On a more basic level, I also just enjoy working with the same people over and over. It gives a sense of continuity to the process. There are a hundred small examples of this in every picture I make. It’s part of the fabric of making work in the same area for over 25 years.
Though I typically use non-actors to populate the pictures, these two happen to both feature well-etablished actors. Reed Birney is the figure in the 2004 picture, and William Sadler the male figure in T&A Tools. (The female figure in the truck, by the way, is also an actor, Elizabeth Aspenlieder). In the case of T & A Tools, the cast definitely represents a sense of returning also. I have worked with William multiple times before, during Beneath the Roses, but for reasons that had nothing to do with him, none of the previous pictures — I think there were four of them — were ever released. I really like William’s face and his look and kept going back to him over and over, and this one finally worked perfectly. In the 20 years I’ve been using him in pictures, he has only gotten more and more photographic. Elizabeth Aspenlieder has also previously appeared in multiple pictures, in Beneath the Roses, and Cathedral of the Pines. She has helped with our productions in other ways over the years, too, and has become part of the process whenever we shoot, both on camera and off.
On each picture, I always start with finding or being drawn back to a location, and then through the process of returning over and over to scout for camera position, framing, and vantage point, the narrative elements come to me. While I was in the middle of that process with this picture, we came across the “crates” in an online listing. The owner was either giving them away, or selling them for a small amount of money, but they were kind of begging to be a part of a picture somehow — the combination of the way they were weathered and scuffed up, their peculiar shape and size and physicality — they had a structural element that felt very photographic, mysterious, and evocative. Someone from our art department went and picked them up in a truck, and the crates became part of the concept for the picture.
This street appears quiet, and abandoned in both pictures, but in reality, it’s actually very busy, and well-traveled, and is an essential throughway in town. So this presented more logistical complications than it might appear. We had to detour a great deal of traffic, and usher numerous folks in and out of local businesses and residences between takes. A school bus needed to come through right as we were starting to shoot, which was impossible to re-route. All of this made it difficult, too, for the firetrucks to reach us to do the wet down at the exact right moment, so at first we were attempting to wet down the street using a few tiny garden hoses. It was a little comical. Unlike Pittsfield and North Adams, though, the other two places we shot the pictures in Eveningside, Adams is technically a town rather than a city, so it has a Select Board rather than a Mayor, and road closures and other practical issues happened a little bit more informally. Adams is a very old town, with amazing unique architecture, and a laid-back spirit, and it makes shooting there really great.
One of my favorite elements in this picture is the way the background houses were the last thing the natural sunlight hit as twilight set in, before it disappeared completely beneath the horizon. It almost gives the effect of an illuminated scenic backdrop, the way it held the glow of day until the very last moment.
Editor’s note: This piece was written by Juliane Hiam, Gregory’s partner and creative producer, who also writes the picture “descriptions,” as above, which articulate Gregory’s vision on the page, and are distributed to the crew and to the figures who appear on camera ahead of shooting. To meet Gregory’s wishes, the descriptions provide no motivation, no before, and no after; only strictly what will be represented visually within the frame. The written form instructs the production team how the actual locations will be infused with narrative in order to create an atmosphere; a mood; a fictive world that draws the viewer in.
Eveningside premiered at Gallerie d’Italia Torino in 2022 as part of a survey of the same name, curated by Jean-Charles Vergne, which included the past 10 years of Gregory’s work. Eveningside, the survey, is currently on view at LUMA Foundation in Arles, France, at Les Rencontres d’Arles.
A book, Eveningside, published by Skira Editore | Gallerie d’Italia is now available in English, French, and Italian editions.