Notes from the Penland Winter Studio Residency

I recently spent four weeks at the Winter Studio Residency at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. After not having had access to a darkroom for quite a long time, it was nice to be able to re-immerse myself in that environment and the darkroom processes. I really do miss it if I'm away for any length of time. I realize, when I stop to think about it, that I've been doing darkroom work for slightly over 25 years. It hardly seems possible, but... 

I had initially planned to spend the residency making images much like some of my previous black and white work... but often it was too cold and windy for setting up the kind of scenes I envisioned outside (though sometimes the weather was wonderfully photogenic in its own right... see below), and I soon found myself doing other photographic things instead. I like it when circumstances allow us to discover what we can do when we're not making the kind of art we always make, what other images live in us that we may not have realized. 

Foggy road at Penland at dusk. 

But when I wasn't wandering around in the fog, in awe of how amazing actual weather is (um, too much time in southern California, and it's all too easy to forget what weather is like), I was exploring other things. Like setting up still lifes. When was the last time I set up a still life in the studio? I have no idea. But good things happened. This is the first image I made, and it was the start of the series "Five Meditations on the Nature of Gravity and Weightlessness" that you can see elsewhere on my website. 

And I kept shooting. And wandering around in the changing weather. And began noticing the way the leafless trees in winter created simple linear forms against the sky. And I began shooting those. Lots of those:

Not what I usually shoot, no. But satisfying in their minimal compositions nonetheless. So I shot and printed piles of these (I'm dealing with the piles now... just wait and see what I do with them...). 

At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum, I also photographed some of the amusing things  to be found near Penland, one of which I'll share below:

Pick a door, any door... 

Four weeks went by quickly, and I'm already deep into the next residency, in South Carolina... I'll post some photos from that soon.