Terrain: Remnants of Nineteenth Century Industry
In 1870, New York State’s Ulster County produced over half of the nation’s supply of cement. Near the confluence of the Rondout Creek and the Hudson Rover, a bustling community surrounded this industry until its decline circa 1900. Lime kilns, the subject of many of these photographs, were built into steep hillsides to facilitate charging and unloading the stacks. Their function was to burn the limestone, or natural cement, which was mined from rich deposits in the Rondout Valley. These stacks, vertical chambers approximately thirty feet deep, were carefully filled with the mined stone and added coal, then set on fire. The kilns would burn continuously for one week, causing the rock to become calcified and crumbly. The burnt stone was then removed from the arch at the base of the kiln and crushed into powder. Rosendale Cement, from this region, sets as hard as steel and was used on the piers of the Brooklyn Bridge and the foundations of the Statue of Liberty and the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
These photographs address the residue of American History. In a country hungry for the results of progress, we have cast aside hundreds of structures, remnants from the crude days of industry.
Standing before these structures, one sees clear evidence of how human utilization ahs shaped our landscape. In turn, when the hand’s work is done, the natural world reclaims the structures and reduces them to the elements of wood, rock, and metal.
I began photographing the stone-lined depressions of house foundations, and imagining the stories of the people who had lived there. This evolved into investigating the remaining walls of mills where these people worked—where boards were sawed for building and grain was crushed for flour. Our recent ancestors’ hands ran these mills, and at twilight I faintly heard their voices within the roar of the stream. These spaces retained a subconscious familiarity. I strove to subdue my chattering mind and just visually intuit the function of the space. The photographs resulted from the physical sensations of being engaged with the mood of each place.
These feelings were reinforced upon my first encounter with a lime kink and the processes of the early cement industry. Initially ignorant of the kilns’ workings, I created a personal mythology surrounding them. I felt an instinctual bond with how the kilns were engineered: hand-built and placed in harmony with the undulation of the earth. These visceral structures were intelligently constructed to serve one purpose—hard work. My photographs attempt to honor these remnants and serve as a linkage between past and present.
“The purpose of my work is to create a rich and complex sense of place. The town of Marlboro, Vermont is both my hometown and a place I’m defining through my photographs. The sum of all my work in Marlboro will create a balance between documentation of our present time and an “imaginative history” of this 230 year-old town. I use the 8 x 10” view camera to carefully collect the vestiges of the town’s past and to clearly delineate our time for future generations.
In 1999 I photographed two hundred different Marlboro families standing in front of their houses and compiled short, accompanying biographies of each family. My present work builds upon this millennial catalogue by further exploring the complexity of the town’s life, placing emphasis on its human-made landscapes and community traditions. I have selected fragments both personal and public, past and present, to show the quality of time building upon itself.”