I'll have her wait in the kitchen. She doesn’t need to see the piles of excrement at the top of the stairs. I’ll do my best to cover it with an old sheet. The dust kicks up and I already want a shower. The sanitation wipes make it easier.
She needs help with the mask. The string tangles with her hair. I’ll make my way from behind the camera several times – fixing the rope around her, wishing that I had an assistant.
This is a day that assures me of my commitment.
Her hair keeps falling in front of her face and I’ll ask her to shake it away once more.
The Cellar Is Made Of Powder. All Colors Get Lost Down There.
I tell her that I enjoy working with her. That I would like to continue. I tell her that she deserves a much better shot. With some disappointment, I feel it necessary to succeed.
I’m alone. The farm tractor circles the house, getting louder with each pass. The room shakes and I remain calm. Stay away from the windows so as not to be seen. She sits and waits in another room. I can’t imagine what she is thinking now. Stay away from the windows so as not to be seen. The tractor makes one more pass before it is driven into the barn. The waiting begins. I slide into another room to get a better view of the farmer and his agenda. It seems as if he intends to stay for a while. I begin to wonder if he knows. Mind games. The farmer walks the edge of the bean field that surrounds the house and begins to pull weeds. The sun is starting to set. It will be dark soon. How much longer? I call the shoot.
I can tell that she is cold, tired, hungry, frustrated but she never complains. Packing up with a flashlight, careful not to shine too bright. Stay away from the windows so as not to be seen. We work our way downstairs. The front door is unforgiving – wanting us to stay. The only option is to exit from the back, the same way we came in.
Walking out to the road in the dark, we meet up with Emily’s waiting car. The farmer never leaves, only walks next door.
He’s probably still there.
Somewhere Else In August
The stairs were dangerous. Missing steps, no rails. An awful smell from the cellar. Decay and rot.
She brings a friend. This same person becomes my temporary assistant. The sound of an air gun carries through the windows from a nearby construction site.
She waits for the days of August to pass.
I wait for the wasps to fly away.
I’m as far back in the corner of the bedroom as I can go. It’s hard on my knees and I finally figure out why it smells so bad. A door slams hard downstairs. I’m sure that it’s just the wind, I hope. I quickly throw her clothes to her, just in case, and make my way downstairs. We won’t get caught today.
She’s been here once already. Another disappointment.
Another re-shoot. She understands.
Bobby Fruin lived here once.
A decaying mental hospital in Manteno, Illinois.
A project started by artist and photographer, Kristyn Vinkour in the Fall of 2001 known as the Gennie Sessions.
I take no credit for the painted walls.
This is an awful place.
The Gennie Sessions:
Upon her admission, a physician noted that Gennie was neat, clean, tidy. Extremely quiet, but friendly and agreeable, cooperative. In ward and routine. Later, he charted “no active signs of pathology.
The examiner probing for paranoid tendencies asked if she had any enemies. “Everyone has”, Gennie said. Her brother was an enemy because he had threatened to hurt her.
The therapist asked Gennie what she would do if she were released from the asylum.
Gennie said she would like to have a job, clothes, some books.
She would buy powder and have some teeth extracted.
The therapist noted that Gennie had repeated a statement several times during the examination, “a person that is 25 years old should be away from family entanglements.
Several months later, Gennie was subjected to hydro-therapy repeatedly plunged in and out of ice water. Afterwards she asked: Is life a farce?
Shortly after her admission, a physician asked Gennie if life was worth living. “What I have of it is” she replied. She felt normal except for the stigma of insanity.
Hardscrabble Road Queen
The house no longer stands.
In it’s place is farmland. I appreciate the opportunity.
Birds nesting in the back room. Flying in and out, panicked and confused. The shot goes quick. She does well.
I’d like the chance to work with her again.
Everything falls into place. Once the piano is moved I’ll concentrate on composition. She looks so beautiful in the mask. They become one in the same. The shot is better than I imagined.
She thinks about her lost love, lost opportunities, lost life. One that can be remembered in music.
Little Girl Blues Pt. 1
My last shot of 2006
I can’t remember if I wiped the mascara away. We talk for a short while. I make a promise that I hope to keep.
When it starts, I wish it hadn’t.
I see indeed.
You’ll bleed instead.
So save your beer for later.
I miss the boy.
That loved the girl.
Now blue is our favorite color.
My first black model.
I’ll turn her away the first time. The lighting is wrong.
The chair breaks but she is quick not to fall. It happens so fast. I’ll search for another chair downstairs.
We walk to my truck. It’s parked in an empty lot down the road. She tells me nice things about what I do. This is not the last time that I shoot at this location.
Talk until your hands turn blue.
The kids all know it hurts.
I’ll stretch your mouth, I know I will.
But the truth won’t come today.
It was one of my first shoots in 2004. I remember the heat. I couldn’t keep the sweat from dripping off of my forehead. Maybe it was nerves that made it so hot. Probably both.
I’ll move objects around -- each with it’s own special place. The room becomes my canvas. I’ll use boots found from one of the bedrooms (checking them for anything “unpleasant”) and a rope that leaves marks on her neck. The calendar is untouched, the drawers pulled out some or shut completely. Angle the flyswatter and the soda can on the dresser.
So close now. Lifeless and still now. You are my sad. You are my lonely. You are my doll.
Our Littlest Moment
The air in here is what I fear.
But you may stay for dinner.
He’ll come home soon.
Take back your room.
And hide the keys for later.
I watched him cut the bloodline. It would have been faster with a sharper knife. All of the entrails and skin are to be collected and placed in plastic bags. The body is his, the head belongs to me. I place it in a cooler and fill it with ice.
She brings a friend. A few discussions about an Elvis record. A few laughs with an old can of shaving cream. Getting louder now, I am concerned that outsiders will hear.
The idea doesn’t bother her and she sits down at the table’s end. I’ll bring the cooler in soon.
A Boar’s Tale: Response To, “A Pig”
Not certain, not sure of what that shows.
Off in lost corners, restricted and closed.
Weight that wears thin and smells of a waste.
Down goes the dog when refusing his place.
The farmer, powerless until he reigns.
Again what he will, see just what he gains.
Be of sound body and tired, soiled hand.
Down goes the cow when grazing foe’s land.
Less be them giants, named after might.
Half souls have been lost with riches in sight.
Seeing is wonder in your wise mind to go.
Down goes the horse when moving too slow.
Curse days ago being weather so cold.
Hearts will soon do as hearts are soon told.
Bye we wave at flocks – hungry and poor.
Down goes the sheep when living costs more.
Cannot predict this make-believe farm.
Her’s is the secure, the safe with no harm.
Ropes alone cannot kill off your son.
Down goes the pig when shot by the gun.
She answers an ad in the local newspaper – in the Help Wanted section. The ad is vague because I’m not allowed to use the words that I want. Small town rules. Another something to get used to.
She’s on time and brings a portfolio when I first meet with her. And now we have something in common. We talk and she gets to know me, my work, my direction, my passion and intentions. I give her my business card so she can contact me if there is any interest.
She calls and agrees to schedule our first shoot. I’ll work with her for the following two summers.
Small town rules. Another something that I’m used to.
Twice before, I’ll fail with this idea – with two different models and one different dress.
I arrange the drawers and tie the rope. She trusts me and I hike up the skirt a little more. A noise from the courtyard is loud enough for me to be concerned. I’ll tell her not to move and that I’ll be right back. I find nothing. Probably a squirrel. Now I hear footsteps. Another interruption. I’m extremely quiet as I listen to the footsteps fade. Snow White wants to finish up quickly. I don’t blame her.
Shooting A Celebrity (It's Her They Came To See)
Entrance into the house was made much easier. This year, the farmer planted corn in the field that borders the house.
She’s surprised that she can sit in the stroller. The mask is a little small but I like the look. She gives me experience working with older models.
Shooting A Celebrity (It’s Her they Come To See)
Washed up, hopeless, a short career.
You fooled us all -- keep smiling, my dear.
Straight to shelf you’ll find your fame.
The stars are brighter without your name.
Ellen Over Easy
The road is gravel and the house sits by itself. By far one of my safest locations. There will be two trips just to get everyone inside since my truck only fits three.
It’s slippery and unstable but the east entrance seems to be the best way in. No one falls. I immediately start to dis-assemble the bed. This is the only solution for getting it downstairs.
The girls begin to change into the waitress uniforms found at a local antique dealer. The uniforms smell like an attic – musty with moth balls. The girls begin to change. It’s hard not to laugh at their jokes.
The composition is more difficult than I anticipated. My stick- figure drawings can only take me so far.
A car pulls into the lane and everyone remains still. I relax when the vehicle starts to back out. What are the chances. A reminder to not let my guard down.
The day turns into early evening and I’m exhausted and ready for the drive home.
I’ll push the wheelchair into the hallway for the third time this year. I’ve never been bothered around this campus and I hope that it remains so. The location at Diversatech is too perfect not to honor it with a great shot. It’s early evening. The lighting today is what I’ve been waiting for.
She is a good friend and is willing to help me out. I don’t mind that the wedding dress rips under the arm. We laugh about other titles that we could give this photo. I hear people carrying on with conversation from the next building over. I feel safe.
The wheelchair sits in storage now.
The building was leveled.
Something Blue stays.
The Cold Wind Is The Girl. Tomorrow She'll Be Alone.
It’s a test. I don’t remember the red pickup truck before. I’ll hesitate for a moment before driving down the gravel lane that leads to the farmhouse. Model and boyfriend ride with Emily and me. It’s important not to show concern. I need her to feel comfortable. She knew it might be like this.
It’s not until I get out and walk towards the pickup that I discover the 4 flat tires. Satisfied that we are alone now, the stoplight turns green and everybody grabs equipment and walks towards the house. Emily knows to drive away. She’ll be waiting for my phone call. I can’t help but to pick up some burrs from the tall weeds that guard the back entrance. There’s a "beware of dog" sign on the side door. It’s filthy with claw marks. I begin to wonder if the dog decided to come back. I’ll be the first to step inside. Seems safe.
It’s cold outside. I think that this will be one of my last shoots of the year.
The Last Days Of Aryon's Mom
It was too dark on the first floor. Overgrown bushes block out most natural light. I have greater expectations when I reach the second floor. I’ll move a few objects around a bit but touch mostly nothing. She wants direction. I’ll suggest a few things. Patience works much better here. Not one vehicle will drive by. The tattoo doesn’t bother me.
The Last Days of Aryon’s Mom:
She waits for him but not just now.
Sleep comes, sometimes for days.
You’ll laugh and love but maybe not.
It’s cold out there I hear.
The Quietest Place
I will not be able to find the house.
A waste of time, money and gas. I pay her before she gets out of the truck. This was suppose to be her weekend, her house, her shoot.
I’m aggravated and hard to live with for the rest of the day. So sure of the location. The crossroads were written down on paper. Time passes by when driving country roads and my sense of mileage gets lost sometimes.
My poor memory reminds me that this is the road. I remember the phone tower. Next, a warehouse. The house sits within the trees just to the West.
This is the place.
It’s unlike her to be late. At least I get a phone call.
She brings a friend. He helps to move a refrigerator and a small table to another room. For laughs, I include him on my last roll of film.
Luck to be you.
Too bad you ain’t two.
I’ll soon take the blame for this mess.
There was only one wheelchair at the top of the hill. I was told that there were many more. I got what I came for. Thanks for the tip.
A simple shot. An old woman, a young girl.
I’ll see to it that the mask is worn again.
It’s always a pleasure to work with her.
Crying To The Songs We Know
By the end of the shoot, there will be three combines harvesting three of the bordering fields.
It’s cold today. But the portable heater makes the room warm. Almost too warm. I excuse myself for a moment – walking past a room so full of crap that it’s hard to open the door.
She remains comfortable and that remains important. I’ll change guitars. I’ll change shoes. I’ll change masks. The pop cans are pushed aside and an exercise bench is moved. I tell her boyfriend to move away from the window.
Bad Karma when we leave.
Look at the years, babe.
Just look what they done.
You open your mouth now.
You open your mouth.
Someday’s are diamonds, babe.
Someday’s I’m stoned.
You can’t feel my heart now.
You can’t feel my heart.
You passed on a chance, babe.
You passed on a throne.
If it were up to me now.
I’d pass you along.
Your tears coming down, babe.
Your tears, I’ll ignore.
The worries of us now.
Are worries of one.
Make no mistake, babe.
Can’t you see that we’re done.
You open your eyes now.
You open your eyes.
I decide on a small room on the West side.
The bed is heavier than I remember. I couldn’t have carried it in alone. Everything looks awful in color, just as I thought it would. Black and white tells a better story.
She turns her head the wrong way. She’s reminded a third time and then a fourth.
Running low on batteries, the wait becomes too long. I’ll drive to the nearest town. The air feels nice on my face. Back in twenty minutes.
So quiet when I return.
The afternoon is spent in here.
No air, one window. It’s dark in here.
Just how hard it is to breathe in here.
Please now put on your masks.
Breathing In Dust She Sits
I walk into a house and find family photographs (all in frames – the kind that mother’s might like to show off). Plastic garbage bags packed with children’s clothes. A dream catcher. A roll-top desk. Two rifles.
I walk into a house and find a kitchen floor so covered in garbage that it’s hard to balance. Cd’s (some of my favorites) next to a box of records. A chest upstairs that holds jewelry, blankets and albums. A school jacket. Lamps, tables and chairs. A bowling ball that looks like a bloodshot eye.
I walk into a house and find a fishing rod case. Shoes and boots. A wind chime. Litter boxes. A porn magazine in the bedroom closet.
A tour of another’s life.
Memories of someone else’s memories, I’m busy to make my own.
Her allergies are getting worse. I’ll look back from time to time to see how she is doing. The corn is still green. Walking against the rows, I’ll use my tri-pod to separate the stalks. The field offers our only safe access into the house. She stays with me and I appreciate her efforts. I think she knows how important this is to me. By the time we reach the end of the field, my clothes are damp from the morning dew. Using the trees as cover, we step into the house. It changes every time I visit. Small town kids having fun in small town ways. She sneezes once again and I offer one of my handkerchiefs. Bone Doll is shot upstairs.
Life, existence looked over some.
Where soon your bones will pass.
Up the stairs where little girls fail.
And men won’t even ask.