Over the past year, I began photographing almost exclusively with a compact 4×5 field camera — the kind of camera that most would associate with a bygone era of antique photography. It has accordion-like bellows coming out of the front end of the camera while the photographer patiently composes the shot, hidden beneath a dark cloth. I first encountered this type of camera in graduate school at Indiana University where I was immediately drawn to its very controlled and deliberate way of composing a scene and the ability to correct the perspective by adjusting the film plane in the camera to create strong horizontal and vertical lines.
Making pictures with this kind of camera is a slow, almost meditative, affair. On a good day, it can take as long as 15 minutes from the time you plant your tripod to the moment you press the shutter release to make a photograph. The 4-by-5-inch sheet of film you use to make the exposures is so large that the level of detail it is able to record rivals, if not surpasses, most digital cameras today.
I moved to Columbus, Indiana, after graduating from IU in 2015. Inspired by that town’s architectural heritage, I began photographing the various landmarks in a way that incorporated them into a wider scene within Columbus, rather than isolating these buildings on their own. This allowed for the landmarks to become just one element of a greater composition still rooted in a wider sense of place. With a more critical eye toward detail and complex composition, I moved beyond the architectural landmarks and began photographing around and outside of Columbus. One of the most defining characteristics of the Hoosier landscape is the sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring juxtaposition of the urban and the rural in the same place. These elements blend together so well that it is difficult to determine which is encroaching on which, be it a lone streetlamp rising above a cornfield or a housing development abutting an agricultural field along the horizon line.
While driving back and forth from Bloomington along State Road 46, I was constantly on the lookout for photographic possibilities. Sometimes I had to drive past a place several times before deciding that I needed to photograph something. Other times a scene would stop me in my tracks, and, if I was lucky, I’d already have the camera with me in the car. All of the images in this series were made in south-central Indiana.
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