August 19, 2000

Returning to Fort Knox (2000) (Bucksport, Maine)

One of the wonders of architecture for me is how much it changes from day to day, no matter how many times I return to the same space. This is a change not brought on by growth, or decay, but simply by the wonder of light, and the changes brought on by different days and weather.
35mm transparency film
Fort Knox is one of my most visited sites in New England, and was the first American fort I photographed in 1997. It is also the most intact 19th century fort I have ever worked with. Many of the forts I photograph are amalgams of various eras of fortifications, with later evolution of military technology being build on top of (or right into) the earlier architecture. This leads to a wonderful stratum of military technology, readily visible to the knowledgeable eye.

On this visit to the fort, my interest was twofold: I wanted to continue my general documentation of the site, and I wanted to work more with the spiral stair, using a 14mm rectilinear lens on loan from Tamron Canada. Though I've been at Fort Knox numerous times, there are still elements of the site that I've been unable to record, and this visit provided the opportunity to photograph several areas which were previously closed to the public. The interesting thing to me about these sites is how much they mirror each other while still having an infinite number of variations on the same themes.
4"x5" film
The work with the spiral stairs was a continuation of the images I've made in the past. This time, however, I was using an ultra-wide angle lens, which helped open up the small spaces, and give a better sense of the sweeping arch of the stairs. As before, I worked with the underside of the stairs, avoiding the handrails and keeping the lines as simple as possible. The first (and most disconcerting) discovery with the 14mm lens was how much flare it exhibited. This is to be expected with such a wide lens, but as it came with a petal shaped hood attached, I had expected it to be somewhat mitigated. Not so. I had to be careful to shelter the lens from direct side light, but even with this care, many of the images I made had strong flare within them.
4"x5" film
In spite of the flare issue, most of the session was spent on two stairways, working with the 14mm lens, and taking advantage of its sweeping viewpoint to record the spiral stairs. The resulting images (at the top of this entry) are very different from my earlier stair images; for the first time, it was possible to include the entire stairway within the camera frame, and I was able to explore the possibilities of colour with the stairs. The stone used in Fort Knox is unusually warm for granite, and this, combined with the bright green of the algae growing on the rock, made the colour work particularly engaging. For a short (4 hour) session, the results were very pleasing, and a good addition to the other images I have made within the Fort.

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