Thursday, October 25, 2018

Roadtrip: Art is what you can get away with in Western Pennsylvania

The evening after we returned from the Blue Hills Reservation, I took my little Promaster tripod out of my pocket and one of the legs had broken off. It has been almost constantly with me since 2011 and has been the support for half the photographs on this blog. Farewell, trusty old friend.

The Populist

I had brought a spare along, the foot of which you can see in the lower left hand corner of the image above.

I had two 35mm Populists with me, The Populist and The New Glarus Populist. Both were loaded so when one ran out of film, I could just switch to the other without everyone having to wait for me to reload. This occurred while we were visiting Cape Cod.

We went back to Wisconsin through Pennsylvania.

We spent a day in Philadelphia. I had great fun photographing some notable sights including interiors of Independence Hall, a sunbeam in Betsy Ross's bed room and lunch at the reproduction of the historic City Tavern. I finished the roll at the Philadelphia Art Museum on their evening hours night. Can you see where I'm going with this?

Exhausted after a day of history and art appreciation in 86°F temperatures, we sat down at the bottom of the famous Museum steps to call an Uber. Since I had been on the prowl for opportunities, I had the camera on the tripod in my back pocket. When I sat down on the concrete step, I took camera and tripod out and set them down beside me. After clicking Confirm Pick-up on Uber, it said the driver's arrival time was one minute! I looked up and saw him waiting in the drop-off zone rolling slowly ahead looking around for his fare. Fearing he would drive away, I jumped up and ran toward him. When we got to the hotel after a 15-minute, 2-mile drive through bumper-to-bumper traffic, I noticed I didn't have the camera. Or a working desktop tripod.

I have this fantasy that someone will find the New Glarus camera, discover pinhole, and submit a picture with it to Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day.

The next day we drove through the mountains in copious falling water for about four hours.

Our first destination on the other side was Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece of domestic architecture.

We purposely arrived early to have a snoop around the grounds and get some photographs at our leisure. I took along the medium format cameras and the big Manfrotto.

On our way to the Classic View, we accidentally went to the Bird's Eye View instead. Despite being partially obscured, it probably gives the best look at the general layout of the place.

Long John Pinhole. This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The Classic View, which the guide later described as the image on the cover of every book about Fallingwater ever published. It's about the only view in the steep, winding and heavily forested Bear Run Valley. Everyone expected Wright to build the house here to get the view of the waterfall, but he thought he could get away with hanging it above the stream. I love that the trees form an opening that seems to perfectly frame the house and then turns to follow the creek. It's probably managed to look that way, but a nice touch.

Long John Pinhole. This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
We returned our cameras and tripod to the car. Camera bags and tripods were specifically discouraged from being carried on the tour. I'm not complaining. You get to walk right into every room. No velvet ropes. I've had to manage a tripod among precious artifacts and it's not my idea of a vacation. Photography is allowed on the grounds but not in interiors and not on the terraces. I'm sure people would fall off taking selfies. Inspired by Wright's structural and design uses of the environment and Andy Warhol's cheeky quip, which I saw on a book cover in the gift shop just before we started, I went ahead to see what I could get away with by resurrecting my little recently created bipod and making do with whatever surfaces I could find to support The Populist.

The Visitor Center, designed by one of Wright's students, echoes his intention to make sure you notice that you're out in the woods.

This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The tours meet their guide on a little bridge across Bear Run, which offers the second most photographed view of Fallingwater. Wright used semicircles as accents in many places including the tops of the railings on the bridge which makes it an unstable place to try to hold a bipod against. In addition to the pinholey movement, the not quite parallel camera results in some classic wide angle stretch of space which gives a little instability to Wright's geometric arrangements.

This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

After the tour, I of course took a picture of the back of the house. What got me about this scene was how Wright used a big native rock outcrop to support some of the structure of that terrace.

This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

There are many woodsy paths to wander through the grounds. About half the trees near the house are rhododendrons. It must be crazy in the spring.

This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Going back to the Visitor Center over the bridge, I got a little more rectilinear, but still pretty shaky, version of the cantilevered terraces.

This photograph is used with permission of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Now on to Pittsburgh for the giant retrospective of the quipster himself, The Andy Warhol Museum.

The presentation is mostly in chronological order which begins on the seventh floor. This is the top of the stairway.


There are three large galleries per floor, plus a central hallway.


The stairs on the rest of the floors are different because they have to go both ways.


One gallery contained his piece Silver Clouds, a black room with a dozen or so large pillows of silver mylar filled with something to make them neutrally bouyant, being moved around by a fan with spot lights shining on them making really bright highlights, occasionally escaping out into the hallway. Do you think he thought of pinhole photography when he designed that?



Otherwise he didn't do much sculpture, and he didn't do this one. It's by Keith Haring, probably inspired by Warhol's Elephant series.


To get the camera to tilt up a bit, I was leaning it against my jacket, another sort of unstable support. In this gallery, trying to be gentle, I didn't quite get the shutter pulled out all the way, and blocked part of the pinhole.  But it works pretty well graphically, so let's see if I can get away with it.


Next, sandy shores in the Midwest.

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