"How do I look … snappy?" The Father of All Chelsea Salt Piles, patriarch and founder (?) of Eastern Salt Leo Mahoney as a Master of the Universe back in the day, photographed against the backdrop of an immense salt pile as attribute illuminating the character of the portrait "sitter." The image is featured in "Landing Salt," an exhibition currently on display at The Pearl Street Gallery in Chelsea.
"It seems we may have some great events coming up in a couple weeks at the gallery," emailed Eastern Salt Imaginator extraordinaire Dan Adams the other day, offering a showcase for some of our blog's "light fantastic" waterfront images. We're talking huge blow-ups that would be mounted between acrylic sheets and hung — together with quotations from sisu — front and center in the windows of Chelsea's Pearl Street Gallery as part of the "Landing Salt" exhibition, with back-to-back prints so they would be seen from both outside and inside.
"I have looked through the photographs more carefully now and have edited the collection down to twelve photographs, which I am envisioning presenting in six pairs," emailed Dan. "These would also be paired immediately next to quotes off your blog." Above left "Life imitates art" in a closeup of the superstructure of salt ship Storm Ranger (right) in the early morning light that "would have pleased the eye of Modernist/Precisionist painter Charles Sheeler," we blogged four years back.
Dan's the bright young Harvard Design School idea man behind Chelsea Projections, a visionary project — blogged here from time to time — begun three-plus years ago when he was still a student to "reveal the spirit of the place [the salt piles across the street] and generate an enlivening dialog between the city and its citizens." Right up our alley, as opposed to the good intentions of certain self-appointed community "activists" whose delicate sensibilities are offended by the "visual presence and unsightliness of the stored salt." The "Landing Salt" show — latest iteration of Dan's ongoing project — was originally curated and designed by Erin Urban and Ciro Galeno of the Noble Maritime Collection of Staten Island, NY, in collaboration with our man Dan, who is now working on a "new, improved" version of the show. Enter Sissy's "beauty in unexpected places," stage right.
"Always in search of 'beauty in unexpected places,' I've found [the working waterfront across the street] to be a motherlode of visually stunning and thought-provoking imagery through the seasons, grist for my photographic eye and politically philosophical tongue," we wrote members of the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals in support of Eastern Minerals' "proposal to redevelop the Coastal oil terminal" last year. Above left, salt-ship cranes and a lonely gull in the early morning light; right, Christmas card design based upon the view from our side yard at Christmastime.
"One immediate question I'm having is a resolution one," Dan wrote:
I'm returning to thinking about how to translate your blog-work into a medium that could be presented in the gallery context.
Is there a way to take your blog images and text and beef up the resolution so that if printed out in a large-ish poster format, we'd be able to avoid drastic pixelation?
Or do we accept the pixelation as a simple reality of the media? Do you have the images saved from their original files in higher resolution?
Talk about beauty in unexpected places, feast your eyes on photographer and gallery director Joe Green's "Henza," where white swans, white depth marks and white ship's name become calligraphic flourishes scrawled across an abstract color-field painting of horizontal stripes created by a close cropping of weatherbeaten hull and water. Update from our imail correspondent: "'Yet, a secret life awakes … silent only sails a swan …' in the throb of salt-unloading. Great juxtaposition."
And here it gets technical, so feel free to skip this paragraph if you're not as determined as we were to beat the computer. We did, indeed, have the high-resolution originals somewhere in the nethermost parts of our iMac's C drive, but finding them wasn't going to be easy. One day last September, all of our thumbnails — going back to the summer of 2005 when we "Made the switch" from Dell/Microsoft XP to Apple/Tiger — had suddenly disappeared from our easy-view iPhoto digital contact sheets. Imagining the worst, we went through the various stages of grief before jumping back into the ring and wrestling this thing to the ground. Googling for help didn't help. Eventually we stumbled upon the originals, filed away obscurely in hundreds of individual folders — each presumably containing the images from one photo shoot — with no indication by title or date of what was in them. To find a specific photograph would be needle-in-haystack territory. And that's where we've been at during the last couple of days, trying to blog the issues of the day between bouts of tearing our hair and banging our head against the computer screen. But the blog's loss was the gallery exhibition's gain. Our brain addled, at one point we opened iPhoto, stared at the screen and robotically checked out the drop-down menus along the top. Under "File," we clicked on "Add to Library." Up popped an "Import Photos" window. We typed "originals" in the search box, and up came the list of those hundreds of files. We selected all and clicked on "Import." There were over 5,000 files to be imported, and it took perhaps an hour or so for the computer to complete the task, but when it was all done, the digital contact sheets were back where they belonged. Feeling our oats, we went back to our external hard drive, which stores our pre-iMac photographs, and imported those too. Now every one of our digital photographs is at our fingertips in full, glorious color. End of technical section.
"Moonscape" salt mines by Michael Falco from "Landing Salt" exhibition.
"Can you also start thinking of a 'title' for the eventual collection … as a whole," Dan had written after receiving our hard-won original image files yesterday:
I think it's really an interesting characteristic that most of the photos are taken from a relatively consistent vantage [the Willis porch or yard] … the consistent vantage subtly illuminates how much the salt pile landscape changes in time … which is one of the most interesting characteristics of an active port. I think we should emphasize that in the title.
We sent along some links and quotable quotes this morning, and back comes this:
More and more I like your theme/title "Beauty in Unexpected Places."
Not unexpected, but we found dozens of cute kitty pix we hadn't seen lately when we imported all those files into iPhoto. Above Tiny and Baby go eyeball to eyeball with things we don't see.
Our virtual images stepping out from behind the computer screen into the real world: Beauty in unexpected places isn't just about changing light effects anymore. The show opens to a Boston HarborWalk audience on Tuesday evening, June 24. Let us know if you'd like an invitation.