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Past Houses of Light

The toned, silver gelatin photographs in the series Past Houses of Light document a form of vernacular architecture: the wooden and glass greenhouse that has mostly disappeared from the eastern United States. The focus is on family run greenhouses that have gone out of business or where the business is moribund. Once I discover a site, I track it through the seasons and over the years until whatever structures are present have vanished. The photographs document sites as they reverted back to undisturbed nature or, more commonly, they became places for something else. Whenever possible, I collect information about the history of the business and the family or families who worked there. As in so many things, serendipity has played a large part in this project.

On one level the series is about a type of vernacular architecture and how its fate has been affected by social and economic conditions. But, over many years, the subject’s metaphorical implications have gripped me. Glass greenhouses—the few that still survive—are relatively fragile structures. When a business declines or fails, a greenhouse is quickly reclaimed by surrounding nature or, as is often the case, it can be demolished in a day or two. One could say that wooden and glass greenhouses are emblems of ephemerality like few other structures in our built environment.

A solo exhibition of the series was shown at the Lancaster Museum of Art in 2005.


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