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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Time to Put on Your Tinfoil Hats

There's a semi-famous photograph by an artist named Steven Shore. It's called "Holden St., North Adams". Here it is:

It's one of my favorites for a number of reasons. I have an affinity for the city of North Adams. I like industrial architecture. And I really like the way the light works in the picture, and the contrast between the downtown and the farmhouse.

Anyways... this is what got me thinking about that picture: a couple of weeks ago, I was driving home from work late at night, and I was listening to Art Bell. I love Art. I love the way he treats every off-the-wall guest and caller with his own strange brand of folksy respect. They can be relating the most insane contention and he just sits back and gives them their say. So one of Art's callers is a guy who spent 20 years in a coma. And the guy is talking about the changes he's observed since he came out of the coma. And the thing the guy kept harping on was the sky. "The sky is different.", the guy says, "The light is different." The caller didn't know what, exactly, the difference was. He thought it had something to do with pollution. Art, of course, blamed chemical contrails.

And I got to thinking. I think the light IS different from what I remember as a kid. I remember a lot more yellow quality in the daylight. I think it's hazier now.

Take a look at that same Holden Street in North Adams today:

Now, I know there are thousands of variables in play here. The time of day, the weather conditions, the camera used, the camera settings. I know film is made differently now, 40 years later. I know the developing process is different, even for professionals.

But man, look at the difference in the sky. Look at that vague blue quality that pervades everything. 40 years of midwest pollution drifting our way has changed the light.

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