August 24, 2000

Fort Warren (Boston Harbour, Massachusetts)

My prime reason for visiting New England was to work with more of the American forts from the same era as those in Halifax. While the main focus was to be on the largest fort in continental North America, Fort Adams, I also had made plans to work with several other forts, including Fort Warren, located on an island in Boston Harbour.
35mm transparency film
The scale of Fort Warren is somewhat lost to the visitor until they actually begin to walk towards the main gate. From where you land on the island only the eastern flank of the fort is visible and, while it was more than large enough to impress, the reality that the eastern face is one of the shorter sides of the forts is not readily apparent until one ventures inside. Like the other American forts I have worked with in New England, I encountered reflections of the British defenses in the architecture of Fort Warren but with a different approach to the same issues.
4"x5" film
Probably the biggest difference between the two systems was how many more guns the American forts were designed for, in contrast to their British North American counterparts. The difference is quite astounding, with Ft. Warren mounting more than five times the British arsenal within a similar sized structure. Like some of the other differences, I suspect the root of this response to the question of static defense lies in the fact that, while Britain was trying to keep its empire secure and intact, the United States was concerned with the defense of home soil - the two having very difference definitions of success.

As with Fort Knox in Maine, I worked extensively with the Tamron 14mm lens within Fort Warren, finding its extreme wide-angle perfect for the close quarters of the spiral stairways, and the expansive, sweeping barrel vaults of its interior emplacements. In black and white, I worked in a similar manner, working almost exclusively with the 75mm wide angle lens (equal to about a 20mm on a 35mm camera) and focusing more on the spaces in their entirety as opposed to the small details. This was as much a response to the limited time I would have with the fort, as it was an outcome of the spaces themselves.
4"x5" film
As I worked through the north-western and western edges of the fort, I gradually became aware of its size. The largest fort in Halifax, Fort George, (also called the Citadel), could comfortably fit within the walls of Warren and many of the smaller forts that surrounded it would hardly be noticed beside the broad walls and extensive gun ranges of the American fort. After spending the better part of a day within the fort, I had documented less than a quarter of it, and totally ignored the exterior. While the day was more than successful, for an image-making perspective, it left me disappointed at how little of the structure I had actually worked with and hungry to return and continue what I had started. As the rest of the trip was still unplanned, I would have to wait to see if this could come to pass.

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