Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Parrots drunk on impalpable words...

I'm sick of reading and writing about insanity and murder tonight; the new job is just plain bizarre, the 16 part philosophical treatise on Studio Ghibli is stalled, I still can't bring myself to finsih the Mermaid Day video, so I revisited an ongoing project that had kind of slipped off my radar.

For several years I've been photographing power plants and oil refineries. Given my propensity to spout about politics and history of writing for environmentalist publications, you'd think I'm trying to make a stupifyingly obvious political statement with these photos, but strangely enough, that's not the case. I genuinely find these things beautiful. Perhaps there's something deeply buried in the human psyche, part of our collective unconscious, that finds billowing clouds of smoke beautiful.

Anyway, I've had a few adventures during this project. Security has tightened quite a bit since 9/11. Sometimes, considerably after it's too late, I realize that I am trespassing. It takes awhile for the meaning of those ubiquitous no trespassing signs to sink in, and by that time I have my photos. I am slow to comprehend. What can I do?

And it's not unusual to be confronted by rednecks asking why I am taking picture of power plants. It doesn't help that I usually have New York plates. Most of these places are so deep in Redstateistan that regular people consider it a toss up between who is worse -- Al Quaeda or New York. But even when I borrow a local car, I'm usually confronted by some suspicious types, especially when I'm parked outside of their houses taking pictures of the power plant that dwarfs them, or standing in their yards.

But I am honest and honesty is usually disarming. These things are beautiful, I tell them. and it's beauty that I'm looking for. The typical answer is that I wouldn't find it so beautiful if the fucking power plant was sitting in my back yard, smothering my house with pollution. And I've heard a few stories about eminent domain abuses that would make you shake your head, but still, I separate the beauty from it's consequences and am pretty sure that if I lived there I would spend the evenings of my shortened life rocking back and forth on the porch swing, awestruck at the giant clouds billowing majestically into the sky while I contentedly sucked in carcinigens that would kill me before my time. Honestly, if I lived in such a place I'd probably have a joint in one hand, a whiskey in the other, and a cigarette or two burning in the ashtray. It would be a mad race among the poisons and carcinigens to take my life.

Anyway, if you want to see a larger image if this particular example, you can find it here.