Monthly Archives: October 2015

Walking / Schoolhouse

I’ve passed by this corner schoolhouse countless times, walking the road named after it. The abiding presence of the abode always slows my stride. Its placement in the wooded landscape, across from the old orchard, is what draws me in. The fieldstone facade angled there above the creek meets the bend in the road in perfect form. The schoolhouse came first. The road’s bend was once a schoolyard.

Schoolhouse, Michael Ast, 2015

I have yearned all the times in passing to peer inside. An elder couple has lived in the house since we settled in the neighborhood. Last week a giant dumpster was parked in the dirt drive. Today on my walk I found the dumpster gone and my face pressed against the windows looking in. I could make out handwritten notes left on furniture, “leave this”, “keep for Richard”, “trash”. A fresh pumpkin sits on the front porch, a rocking chair, a blooming mum.

On the small iron table beside the front door a friend, I suppose, from the neighborhood, left a note, already yellowing, “. . . please let me know your new address.” The tone, addressing them by their first names, didn’t help my foreboding concern. I looked in the grass and brush, no fallen Sold sign, no Sale. I walked around the schoolhouse slowly, one lap, making pictures in the October calm. A hydrangea. The dried leaves of the patio grapevine. A Bethlehem star above the original doorway. Some Windsor chairs. The candle chandelier above them. The dining room window. Reflections. Looking again and again through the glass at the old school floor boards, the peeling paint on the wainscoting and crown molding, the residential modifications, the idealized values of the past settled among the disrupted new. A vacuum cleaner was left sprawled in the kitchen, still plugged in. Dirty dishes. Dim light coming from the hallway. A haunting in the history. Yet, all of it has the cliche’ mechanisms of romanticized cinema.

I walked the long way back home, Spinnerstown to Orchard Road, kicking the damp leaves, smelling the ground in the air, feeling a bit hollow – at once, the romantic fool, next the melancholic, always milking or inventing more grief.

(Walking / Schoolhouse, 10.25.15)

TIS Books – Publisher’s Talk, Philadelphia 10.15.15

Photographers Tim Carpenter, Nelson Chan & Carl Wooley gave an intimate talk last night at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, presenting an inside look into their publishing imprint TIS Books. Already, since their 1st release in spring, they’ve produced 3 solid publications. In April, at Philadelphia’s Art Book Fair, they unveiled their collaborative 4-photobook set TIS01 demonstrating a pensive, meditation on the notion of place, and Steve Smith’s exceptional Waiting Out the Latter Days, employing the clear-sighted, descriptive principles of documentary photography, gazing at Utah’s Mormom culture perpetually “waiting” / fearing the ultimate doom that a once-looming Cold War promised. Smith’s monograph came as a breath of fresh air amid the present photobook scene, which seems a bit over-saturated with conceptual work. Most recently, they published the poetic call and response dialogue of photographer Justine Kurland and poet John Yau in Black Threads from Meng Chiao. Kurland and Yau battle the woes of home-confinement due to the responsibilities of parenting, in Kurland’s instance, now that her young son Casper, her “on-the-road partner”, begins schooling, and Yau who’s been forced to rest and recover after intense surgery. Tim, Nelson and Carl (along with contributing photographer J. Carrier) have some great publications in the pipeline for 2016, certainly one photographer many folks will be happy to find published in an ample-size edition. I’ll keep it a surprise. Each photographer talked about their inspirations growing up and venturing into photography. It’s the background of each of them that lends to such a dynamic collective of minds and makers. Nelson spoke of his admiration for the punk rock, do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos that came with the post-punk scene and such record labels as Dischord Records, Epitaph Records & SST Records. The notion that such successful enterprises were created by musicians / artists confirmed their legitimacy to him. Carl spoke about the influence of cinema, especially from Japanese directors Akira Kurosawa, Yasujirō Ozu, who exemplified the power of editing, sequence and narrative. I concur wholeheartedly with Carl’s admiration of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon! Tim expressed his faith in literature, the idea of writing not only being descriptive, but also evocative, owing inspiration to writers such as Virginia Woolf, Flannery O’Connor, John Irving, David Foster Wallace and Marilynne Robinson. Tim also felt a deep connection with music in his early teens and onward, mentioning R.E.M.’s Murmur album affecting his artistic sensibility, (also Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks), with the sparseness and elliptical quality, requiring some work on the audiences behalf to fill in the ambiguities. Hearing the TIS crew’s background and seeing their books demonstrates an exciting, varying batch of publications to come, let alone other endeavors they have going on at their website, including essays by contributors. Keep your eye on This Is Sausage . . . Das Ist Mir Wurst!

view TIS here

TIS Books, TIS, this is sausage, photobook, photobooks, Tim Carpenter, Nelson Chan, Carl Wooley, J Carrier, NY publisher

TIS01, By Tim Capenter, Nelson Chan, Carl Wooley & J Carrier, 2015

Pennsylvania Turnpike (10.2.15)

Pennsylvania Turnpike, PA Turnpike, Bensalem, rain, rainstorm, rush hour, drive-by, milk, storm, driving, raindrops, Michael Ast

Pennsylvania Turnpike, 10.2.15 © Michael Ast