Aug 2, 2009

1901 World's Fair shoot in Buffalo NY

This past week I photographed the 1901 world's fair site in Buffalo's Delaware Park. Unfortunately I cannot post any digital previews as my digital camera bit the dust (after getting drenched in Niagara Falls!). It was a strange city to work in, and I realized I definitely absorb a very subjective, intuitive feeling about an entire city during and before I shoot a world's fair site. For example, in Chicago I already had an inkling of the mystique and splendor involved in this event. Prior to the shoot I met with a staff member of the photography department of the Art Institute of Chicago, and together we pored over boxes and boxes of original photographs of the construction of the 1893 world's fair structures and site design. We were staying in the north side of the city, and every day would drive through and past all of the wonderful buildings throughout the loop and the rest of Chicago. It was cold but not freezing, the air sharp and clear and the leaves still changing color. All of these elements combined to make an extremely productive week of shooting; all elements meshed physically, mentally, technically, and research-wise. This was an Olmstead designed park, as was Buffalo.

However, while I feel I absorbed the sophistication, nuance, and mystique of Chicago 1893, Buffalo was a harder read. The downtown was packed with impressive architecture, but had a vacant, desolate feeling. Sprawling around were decrepit neighorhoods full of rambling, boarded up wooden turn-of-the-century houses and closed stores. The park had the typical Olmsteadian elements---lagoons, promenades, a beaux-arts pavilion---but was smaller, and had shrunken since the time of the fair, which was a difference from most of the sites I have been to. Around the park was an Olmstead-organized idyllic suburbia, with huge, sprawling beautiful old homes nestled upon one another, but just far enough apart to create an illusion of privacy and spaciousness. This was the first time I photographed a large part of the fair site that had been turned residential. It was a good challenge. Other parts of the site were industrial lots and strip malls, definitely offering the opportunity to use a variety of conceptual and visual approaches.

I will post some photographs once processed; we shall see how this odd city affected my way of thinking and seeing the fair site.

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