Unsailed and Shoreless

I like to get closer than this. Some photographers love wide open shots (and who can blame them?). That feeling of far-off observer is a beautiful thing. But I want to get closer.

In places like this, however, it’s not always possible. Closer means drawing attention. If I were in a white pickup truck, that might not be an issue. But I’m in a car with out-of-state plates. I’m clearly an outsider, and that needs to be taken into account when driving the backstreets of rural Montana (or anywhere) towns.

Just because a place is public, doesn’t mean that you’re welcome. It doesn’t automatically mean you’re unwelcome, of course. Usually nobody cares at all. But once you turn off the main street, you’ll see heads poke out from curtains and residents step out onto porches. It’s just curiosity. Everybody generally knows everybody else. When they see an unknown car (of all things), they figure that I’m visiting someone they know.

But when I stop, pull out a camera and start shooting houses and businesses owned by their friends, their curiosity turns to defense. These places are guarded – sometimes for good reason, often because that’s just how small towns are. I do my best to empathize, tread lightly, and keep stepping.

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‘Unsailed and Shoreless’

Camera: Argus C3 (1957)
Film: Tasma Mikrat 300 (x-1975); 6iso
Process: HC-110; 1+100; 60min

Fort Shaw, Montana

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4 thoughts on “Unsailed and Shoreless

  1. Sounds like any other place in the US … you’ll never know what guns are stored behind the curtain.

    You’re a modern type of adventurer … and you should always be aware of trouble.

    Nevertheless your images collected this way are gorgeous 😉

  2. I’ve been exploring a lot of old rural churches (I’m in Sussex, England) in recent times, and 9 out of 10 the doors are unlocked, often with some kind of “all visitors welcome” message.

    Mostly they remain empty but for me during my time exploring and photographing. But sometimes someone else will walk in, and some of those times they’ll find a pew and kneel to pray.

    Obviously there’s no threat of the kind you might stumble across in a backwoods US town, but I do feel a little bit of an intruder/imposter.

    By the way I like your format (based on your last three posts) of sharing one photo then a few hundred words.

    On my blog I tend to write long posts with 1000-2000 words sometimes and many photographs.

    I think I’ll try a few smaller posts, with fewer images, and post more frequently.

    1. That honestly sounds like heaven. The vacant buildings here are almost always either dangerous or technically off limits. I was greeted by a porcupine last year (it scared the hell out of us both!). Here, however, people are automatically suspicious of you. Always. Even if you’re on a public road, they’ll stop you and ask why you’re here. “Do you know anybody around here?”

      It’s that weird combination of paranoia and curiosity. Generally my encounters end very well, but I’m obviously not some hooligan and, to be frank, I’m white.

      My format changes here and there. Sometimes I’ll post just a photo. Other times, i’ll post a photo with some history. Sometimes it’s camera talk. Sometimes it’s random. But It’s almost always a single photo. This is probably because I also post on Instagram. It’s my least favorite of the photo platforms, but that’s where people are, so I guess I’m there too. Also Flickr. But both IG and F are mirrors for the blog. It’s all so redundant, and I wish I could just settle on one.

      1. I love pictures of abandoned and derelict buildings, but aren’t brave enough to climb fences or risk guard dogs etc to explore. Places here tend to be made secure pretty quickly. I love what people like @liz.bd on Instagram find and share – https://www.instagram.com/liz.bd/

        Fortunately the churches here need no such daring, you can generally just walk in.

        I think I realised a while back that the reason I take so many photographs in churchyards and churches is because they are such quiet and contemplative places. Away from the chaos of the day to day. There’s nowhere else I know that has such tranquillity really – even in the woods there are usually birds singing or something.

        Very interesting thoughts about your blog, Flickr and Instagram. I recently wrote a post about why (and how) I use Flickr, and have one in draft about Instagram next.

        But whilst Flickr is core to a lot of my sharing and archiving, I’m struggling to completely see the point of Instagram, and more often than not can’t be bothered with it. It seems so fleeting, so superficial. And how can you really enjoy a decent photograph on a phone screen, even a large phone? But like you say, there are so many people there it seems logical to have some kind of regular presence to encourage new readers back to my blog. I hope you figure out a balance that works for you – it’s an ongoing process I think…

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