They say you can’t go back. But, who ever said that wasn’t thinking as a photographer.
Going back to a place or subject that you have previously visited is the best way to look differently and add depth to your project.
In the initial visit, you see and interpret your subject in broad strokes, to borrow a painting term. More often than we realize, what we see is based upon our preconceived notions of what we think is there. In our mind, we have already composed and taken these shots. These pre-conceived images can be thought of as the compulsories; the obvious ones. We all take them, and probably need to in order to get them out of our system. Once we get past these obvious ones, then we can really explore the subject deeper on our own terms.
So, when Matthew Malkiewicz asked me if I would be interested in going back to the East Broad Top shop complex as part of a small photo event he was organizing, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! While I’ve been there a handful of times within the past few years, each visit allows me to see something that I previously didn’t.
For me, going back is like re-watching a favorite movie… each viewing unveils a new visual detail or dialog that I didn’t catch before. That unexpected revelation not only adds to my comprehension and enjoyment of the film, but also gives me that ‘aha’ moment….a sense of wonder and surprise. I have to be receptive to it and allow the same thing to happen when I’m photographing.
At the East Broad Top site in Rockhill Furnace, I had four hours of access to the roundhouse and shops. While the time went quickly, it was enough time for me to uncover new compositions and details that I hadn’t seen before. Totally immersed, I wasn’t ready for the session to come to an end, as I could have easily spent the entire day there. My consolation is that I know the next time I will see things differently yet again.