You Never Know

When I took this photo of Paula – it’s one in a series titled “Palenville” shot in a dilapidated mansion since torn down in Palenville, NY – I was deep into my 20mm lens, infrared film period. When this print came out of the developer (remember I’m still in red light but can see pretty well) and I put it into the fixer I couldn’t wait to turn on the light. I couldn’t believe the veins! So cool, I thought, weird in the way I like weird.
I spent a long time on this series deciding what paper, what paper developer, how large. I made them all 20″ by 24,” an imposing print.  How to present the very weird images. How to expose and/or make “art” of the characters Paula was being, the house and its eccentricities.  I wish the photos could smell because the raccoon excrement made it hard to be working in the building at all nevermind how stable anything was. Paula is always game for anything and rolled around in that unforgiving place for longer than I could stand in it!
So when I saw it in the fixer, those veins were amazing. That’s what the infrared does, it picks up heat and the larger veins in her legs were picked up. I had shot a lot of faces and had some smaller veins come out but hadn’t see this kind of interaction before. So I had a show coming up and decided to use the Palenville group. I put this one in expecting it to draw some attention.
Opening day and I saw this woman staring at the photo. I was pleased. I waited for her to move on but she stayed there. Finally I went up to her. Her eyes were sad, her brows knit together. She looked at me and said, “Oh, the poor woman! Look at those legs! Is she in pain?”

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