September 02, 2000

Fort Warren (Boston Hrbour, Massachusetts)

My final day photographing during the New England Expedition was spent on Georges Island, photographing the parts of Fort Warren that I didn't have time to work with on my first visit. I got up at 6 AM, rode the commuter-train into Boston, meet up with a friend, Jim, and then took the first ferry to the island. We arrived at the island shortly before 11 am, and would be able to stay until the last ferry returned at 6 pm. A full, undisturbed day working with one of the most enjoyable visual spaces I have ever had the pleasure to work with, which was a wonderful way to finish the fortnight.
4"x5" film
My first goal for the day was to circumnavigate the fort, documenting the exterior walls and defense before I ventured back to the interior. When I started working around the fort, I was initially reminded of Fort George (the Citadel) in Halifax, with its high walls and deep dry ditch around it. The entire exterior of Warren is done in granite brought from Maine, and provides a foreboding barrier to any attacking army. When I reached the eastern side of the island, I discovered another layer to the forts defense - an entire separate battery on the ocean side of the ditch, originally linked to the main fort by a removable bridge. Encompassing this, the walls, the ditch and the seaward gun-line, was a challenge, but using the extreme wide-angle lenses (65mm and 75mm) on the 4"x5" it all came together, and did justice to the scene.

I completed up the circumnavigation shortly after 1pm, and met up with Jim, who'd gone ahead, photographing the other visitors to the fort. We walked to the western side of the island, where we sat in the shade and ate lunch. Because I often work in often work in remote or isolated places, I frequently forget how unusual a wooden view camera looks to the casual passer-by; over the half-hour we spent eating, easily a dozen people stopped to ask about the Wisner sitting beside us on its tripod .
4"x5" film
The last half of the day was spent inside the northeast bastion of the fort, working with the arched casements and gun rooms which are shared by all the forts of this era. To some degree, baring the subtle differences, these spaces are interchangeable between the forts I have photographed - an image of an emplacement at Fort Knox looks much the same as one in Taber or Adams. What was surprising at Warren, and unique as far as I know, was that the north-east bastion has its interior walls and arches faced with wood; I have never seen this before, and suspect it was a later addition, possibly during WWI or WWII, to improve the winter conditions within the fort. Regardless of the reason, the whitewashed wood lining of the high-arched rooms made for a very difference image from those I have made elsewhere.
4"x5" film
Overall, the New England Expedition was a great success - the weather was phenomenal (it only rained once, and we were indoors in a museum at the time), the models and spaces I worked with were stunning, and the results, a sampling of which are presented here, speak for themselves. A great debt of gratitude is owed to our hosts (you know who you are), for facilitating the entire trip's accommodations, and to Joy, for doing so much of the prep work . The pleasure of long, sustained periods of image making, first encountered in Alberta in 1999, again filled my life, making my mind's eye reel with each day's work. I declined to call the Expedition a holiday for a reason - for this two week period I worked harder than I had in almost a year.

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