Same Place, A Time Apart

One of the benefits of shooting on location is having the opportunity to travel to places both near and far and finding interesting subjects to photograph along the way.  On many occasions I’ve returned to, or at the very least, passed through many of these same places and sometimes the things that caught my eye are still there, though not necessarily in the same condition or color scheme, and sometimes they’re simply gone. Times change.

Hunt’s Casino, an old Art Deco movie theater in Wildwood, New Jersey is one of the places that’s still there. I first came upon Hunt’s Casino years ago while working on a series of old amusement park structures. At the time, I shot everything using a 4×5 camera onto Tri-X, and when feeling adventurous, an occasional sheet of Ektachrome. The final B&W prints were sepia toned and hand-colored using Marshall’s Transparent Photo Oils and Q-Tips, which seemed a proper way to present the images.

My second encounter with Hunt’s Casino occurred about 4 years later. It was shortly after dusk and the combination of the neon signage of what was new called the ‘Hollywood Casino, against the last hints of blue sky was enough to make me slam on the brakes with the same sense of urgency I had the first time I set my eyes on the building years earlier.

The signage wasn’t the only thing that had changed since my last rendezvous with the old building – my gear changed too. Gone was the 4×5 and all that went along with it and sitting atop my Gitzo was a Nikon F3 and a 28mm/f3.5 PC lens, a far lighter and flexible alternative for shooting architectural photography, and a lot more forgiving on my back and shoulders. Gone too was the black & white sheet film, replaced by Kodachrome 64, an amazing film that too has become an iconic piece of the past.

Sometimes you realize you have photographed the same subject on more than one occasion long after the fact, as happened with an old fishing shack that used to sit alongside the main road heading east into Orient Point, Long Island. The first time I hit the brakes to photograph the shack was at dawn as the sun burned through the morning mist. Muted colors and theatrical lighting aside, I particularly liked the ‘home, sweet home’ feeling of the flower boxes, and the way they played off the ramshackle appearance of the rest of the structure. The camera was a full-frame 35 with a 24mm lens, a favored focal length for landscapes and environmental portraits, which is precisely what this style of photograph is.

My next encounter with this fishing shack was 2 years later, but it wasn’t until recently that I recognized the connection between the 2 photographs, which dynamically are quite different from each other. Unlike the earlier photograph, which was taken at dawn with a wide angle lens, the second photograph of the shack was taken late in the day, from a distance, and with a 300mm lens.

The dynamics of the two images couldn’t be more different. In the earlier wide angle view, the shack appears to be sitting on an open island of reeds, whereas in the second image, which was taken with a far longer, image-compressing telephoto lens, the shack seems shoehorned into a tight, cluttered spot along the water line. In the second, more recent shot, the flower boxes are gone, and though the shack is not much worse for wear after all those seasons since I last took note of the scene, without the flower boxes, the place finally looked abandoned.

Text & Photographs Copyright Allan Weitz 2011

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