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Photographs by Carl Weese
September 6 - October 2, 2007
Opening Reception September 7, 2007 5:30PM- 7:30PM

In 2001 I first heard about Centralia, the "ghost town" in the anthracite coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania. When I was able to detour to the area on a shooting expedition, I found the nearly deserted town to be haunting and strangely beautiful. Frequent return visits over the next two years to make more photographs enhanced my fascination with the town. Centralia has been almost entirely evacuated because of an uncontrolled underground coal fire that has been burning for more than forty years. Sections of the town, and highway 42, have subsided into the ground as the coal below burns away, while dangerous combustion fumes vent into the air. But the eerie beauty remains. Some of the remaining structures are single units carved from the original row housing, now standing forlorn and solitary.

On these visits I began to explore the towns surrounding Centralia. There, less drastic but still dramatic visual evidence of the region's coal mining history can be seen everywhere. Again I found a surprising beauty to this human-altered landscape where mountains of coal dwarf adjacent towns.

~Carl Weese

About the Prints

All of the pictures in this exhibit were made on 8x10-inch or 7x17-inch film using traditional fully-adjustable view cameras (a Deardorff built in the 1950s and a Korona dating back to the 1920s). The lenses used, like the film, are modern. While I also work with smaller cameras, including digital capture equipment, nothing but a big piece of film could begin to capture the tonal range and detail needed to describe the buildings and landscape of Centralia and the Coal Country. I develop these large negatives by hand, in trays, in a traditional darkroom.

To make the monochrome digital prints in this exhibit, I begin by scanning the negative. The digital prints are interpretations of the negative meant to make the best possible print in this exciting new medium. It is only in the past two years that inksets and printing hardware have been available to produce monochrome digital prints that meet my standards for both beauty and longevity. I "print" the scanned file-work on the tonal balance of the picture-using Photoshop on a Macintosh computer, and "output" the file with an Epson Pro Stylus 4800 printer using highly stable pigment inks on cotton paper prepared for digital printing. Getting the print exactly the way I want it is a process of trial and error, quite similar to procedures in the traditional silver or platinum darkroom. Many of these pictures were made long before digital printing reached its current level of maturity. The 7x17 negatives were too big to enlarge with traditional optical equipment, so it has been a fascinating experience to print the panoramic pictures at twice the size of the negative, twice the size I ever expected to print them. Details that I studied carefully while making the pictures, but lost track of in contact (same size) prints suddenly jump out at me, a pleasant surprise. The pictures are also available as limited edition, hand-made platinum contact prints, a medium that dates back to the 1870s but remains unsurpassed for richness and subtlety of tone.