Often in the spring (before the leaves appear), as I walk around my neighborhood in Portland, Maine, I am moved by the powerful tree shadow/shapes.
A few years back, I shot one or two rolls of medium-format color negative film, but was not satisfied with the results. The prints stubbornly read as a section of a house with a tree shadow in it. Which of course it is; but, it wasn’t only the subject matter that intrigued me. I was after a more complex visual feeling which I was having when looking at the scene.
In late February 2020, I decided to try again. I think maybe I’m looking up too much; and, maybe, the perspective is throwing it off. Therefore, I put a ladder in my car and go around the block. I shoot medium-format color negative again. But this time, I decide to shoot square, intuitively thinking this may read as more abstract.
I drop off my roll at the camera store and have the 12 images printed 4 x 4 inches on luster paper with a white border. When I pick the film up, I get to my car and immediately look at my prints. I like many! Later at home, I lay out a sequence of nine that look well together. The photographs are still the same subject matter, but this time, they read much more as a metaphor, especially in a sequence. I load another roll of film, walk around my neighborhood again. It’s now early March—yes, just before COVID-19. I’m scheduled to go to The Tyronie Guthrie Center, an artist residency in Ireland, on March 26th. I have been looking forward to this very much. I have my tickets, and all is in order. Until it isn’t. And then, there’s no way I’m getting on an airplane. Needless to say, everything gets canceled.
My exposed second roll of film is living in my refrigerator, unprocessed for at least a month or so. I have several former students, now friends, who volunteer to grocery shop and do occasional errands for me. I feel very fortunate. I ask one friend if/when she goes to Photo Market, she’d drop-off my film. “Sure,” she says, “I’ll be going soon.” I put the film in an envelope and write explicit directions as to the size and paper I want. Two or three weeks go by. I call and find out that not many people are going in to work and my film is still not done. A few days later, I get a call that it’s ready. I know the guy who calls me as he’s worked at the store for a while. It’s just about closing time when he calls. Uncharacteristically for me, I ask him where he lives—thinking if he lives near me, maybe he’d drop my film off. I’m desperate to see this second roll!
“I live in Windham.” (Nowhere near me—a town northwest of Portland.) “Why, where do you live?” he asks. “I’m in Portland, in the West End.”
“Ok,” he says. “I’ll drop it off.”
“Really, but it’s way out of your way.” He insists, and I thank him very much. About 45 minutes later, I get the processed film and prints. As I open the package, I’m extremely disappointed as they forgot the white borders, and the print color is off quite a bit. But suddenly, I forget about all that. I instantly start making several of these composite groups of photographs you see here. With the borders gone, everything looks and feels much closer to how I was experiencing the shadows. It even took me a couple of days to notice that they gave me two prints of one image—in the first composite above.
A few weeks later, I decide to go into my archive and find the older prints, the rectangles, that I originally made as single images. But this time, I cut off the borders and make composites with these. And, suddenly many years later— Yes!
I continue this work on my walks around town during this COVID-19 time we are all experiencing.
Rose Marasco, Parallax 1-7, photographs, 2020.