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Grimm Switzerland

Turning bucolic Switzerland into a dark, mythological landscape has often struck me as a little impolite. After all, my Swiss grandmother taught me to sing goofy, patriotic folk songs while hiking the mountains, and to think of this beautiful country with simple, upbeat pride. Maybe that’s why I’ve generally shied away from photographing my motherland with black and white film, which easily turns any subject into something dark and foreboding.

But it wasn’t so long ago that Switzerland, like much of rural Europe, was in fact poor, dark, and, mythological — a far cry from the affluent and pristine country we know today. Until Rousseau and then the Romantics rehabilitated their reputation, the Swiss alps were viewed as a hellish landscape inhabited by demons. In the high mountains, where villages were cut off from the lower valleys for months at a time during the winter (see the terrific Swiss movie “Alpine Fire”), farmers kept totemic masks made from gnarled branches and cow’s teeth over their doors to ward off the evil spirits that visited their homes during fierce winter storms. There are any number of traditional Swiss festivals that still include frightening monsters and ancient mythologies (see Carsten Peter’s photography book, “Alpendämonen,” or “Demons of the Alps”). This was not just culture as entertainment — this was a response to the fears of everyday living, to the spirits howling in every gust of wind.

Mary Shelly famously wrote Frankenstein on the shores of lake Geneva, drawing inspiration for the dark novel from her experience in the nearby mountains.  Wind and rain, thunder and lightning, and barren, rocky glaciers provide the dramatic landscape for a story of confrontation between man and monster.

Even Tolkien, who traveled to Switzerland in 1911 on a wave of British tourism that began with the Romantics, found inspiration in the Swiss Alps for his mythological Middle Earth. He explored Wengen and Grindelwald — just across the deep Lauterbrunnen valley from Gimmelwald (see my photos) and was so taken with the region that, according to at least one author, some of the names that populate Middle Earth have their beginnings in this landscape.

My friend Erika suggested these black and white images of Switzerland are kind of Grimm’s fairy tales meets the Blair Witch Project. I’ve never had the stomach for horror movies so I can’t speak to the Blair Witch comparison, but I like the Brothers Grimm association. Scratch the surface of any bucolic Swiss landscape and you find all the dark woods, evil stepmothers, witches, wolves, and trolls you could hope for.

Gimmelwald_1

 

Good Website Exposure

Between the recent Dumbo Arts Festival and a couple of terrific online mentions, Pinholeny.com got some much-appreciated exposure during the last week.

If the crowds were anything like those at last year’s festival, then over 200,000 people showed up to the 16th annual Dumbo Art Festival. Over the course of the weekend I had over 700 visitors to my own studio and generated enough follow-up interest to get some solid traffic to my website.

And Immediately following the festival, Pinhole New York was mentioned by design blogger Khoi Vinh of Subtraction.com. A real honor and a big boon to traffic! If you enjoy smart writing on design, technology, culture and more, check out his site!

PinholeNY.com was also picked up by Lomography.com, “a magazine, a shop, and a community dedicated to analogue photography”. With deep archives of articles, photos, and Lomo, Holga, and pinhole cameras to buy, Lomography.com is one of the motherships of the low-fi photography universe. Check out the article they wrote on my photos here.

And then just this morning Getaddictedto.com posted a story and link to my site. A terrific blog with great articles, they bill themselves as a DAILY MIX OF CREATIVE CULTURE, a digital inspirational review network from the worlds of snow and street culture, graphic design, web design, illustration, photography, fashion, film and art, as a consistent source of inspiration for all involved – briefly speaking INTERNATIONAL STYLES. Check out the article here.

Thanks to all the visitors at the arts festival, and to Subtraction.com and Lomography.com for their links to Pinhole New York!

Welcome to Pinhole NY

Pinhole New York is a website and blog to showcase the pinhole photographs I’ve taken in the metropolitan area over the past 20 years, as well as the new ones I’m taking now. To a large degree the purpose of the blog is two-fold: a) to gather my thoughts for several personal projects I’m developing and, b) to hopefully gain some traction with an audience that I can use as marketing muscle down the road. Translation: if you like what you see please “like”, “share”, and subscribe to my site. The more of an audience I get the better.

During the next few weeks I’ll post a handful of “newsworthy” items. A half dozen of my photos are included in Out of Focus, a gorgeous new art book by Peter Olpe, a Swiss  teacher recently retired from the Basel School of Design. There’s an exhibit associated with the publication of the book at the Swiss Camera Museum running from September 8 through January 13. The Dumbo Arts Festival is coming up (September 28-30)  and I’ll be participating in that for the fourth year running. Beyond that I’ll be posting some of the 800+ photos I’ve taken around New York City in the last few months as part of several projects that are in full gear but which, for now, will remain unnamed. Finally, I’ll dig into my archives and post some older photos, relate some technical info, and share fun stories of photographing with my scary-looking little black box, such as the time I was instructed on a NY Water Taxi to stop whatever the hell I was up to (taking pictures) because it was making the other passengers nervous!

If you’d like to stay in the loop on what I’m doing here (I’ll be posting regular updates in the next 6-12 months), please subscribe to my blog or “like” my Pinhole NY Facebook page. You’ll be notified whenever I add a post.

Thanks for reading!