September 07, 1997

An evening at Fort Popham (Prospect, Maine)

4"x5" film

Fort Popham was constructed to defend the Kennebec River and the town of Bath, Maine, from naval assault. It was never completed however, and to this day piles of unlaid stones litter the inner courtyard of the fort. The remarkable thing is, even though it is unfinished, it has stood for over 150 years virtually intact. The basic design was drawn from Fort Knox, though there are specific elements which differ.
4"x5" film
It took me a while before I could get past the visual beauty of Fort Popham, and begin to photograph it. The light which filtered through the open arches and into the gun casemates was soft and delicate, lighting the barrel vaulting in a very sculptural way. Almost 50% of the negatives I made at Popham were of the casemates, the repeating arches and the light that moved through them. The ultra-wide angle lens was critical at Popham - it allowed me to covey a sense of the massiveness of the casemates, while ensuring enough information was in the photos to give a sense of the openness of the space.
4"x5" film
The other element that drew me in at Popham was its spiral staircases. There are two of these at Fort Knox to the North, but those were obstructed by construction, and had modern, shiny hand-rails in them. Photographing these stairways was a challenge though - the enclosed tight space made me rely upon the 65mm lens, and for the final two images, I took the camera off the tripod and placed it face-up on the stairs. The image here was made in this manner. The exposures for these photos were over four minutes, and the fact that two people passed right over the camera and through the image is totally unapparent in the final image. The power of photography to record the elusive, and ignore the apparent is incredible to me.

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