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A new gig

Cris

On 1 July I started a one-year stint as an Affiliate Artist at the Headland Center for the Arts. I think this is a fabulous development.

My model for landscape study is strongly shaped by positive experiences in the South Bay, a landscape with visual intrigue and a rich backstory. It has become clear that the South Bay study benefits from frequent, iterative engagement – a repeated blend of photography, research, and time spent simply experiencing the place. This process was inspired in part by the Lake Project, David Maisel’s fine study of the Owens Valley landscape.

After retirement, with more time available for photography, I started formulating my next project. My South Bay work is constrained during the summer half of the year by nesting season restrictions. Over the last few years I have experimented during the off-season with a couple of landscape projects in collaboration with the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI). These involved forays to more distant subjects – wagon train tracks along the Hastings Cutoff Trail in Utah (near Sun Tunnels) and cold war aerial resolution targets in the Mojave Desert. While these were fun, distance prevented the nuanced engagement of landscape I have experienced in the South Bay. I faced similar limitations while photographing Sea Ranch for Donlyn Lyndon’s book.

So, for my next major project I considered candidate landscapes more readily accessed – the headlands at the Golden Gate, the Pt. Reyes seashore, and Central Valley agriculture. I was particularly taken with the idea of photographing the headlands landscape and have, in fact, been taking aerial photographs of the gun batteries there since the 1990s. There is clear compositional potential in the purposeful geometries of the defense works flanked by the foil of encroaching nature. Plus, the landscape offers a compelling backstory. As my interest in the headlands grew I made contact with historians Steve Haller and John Martini, both experts on San Francisco’s coastal defenses and have secured permission from the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, part of the National Park Service, to take KAP images. I also started more serious research into the fascinating history of the defense works, a story in which multiple epochs of technology and construction have left their mark on the landscape. My informal Coastal Defenses blog summarizes some of this work.

Marin Headlands - Three Sisters

In this view you can see the three Quartermaster’s buildings located above an old Nike Missile Base. I am in the longer of the buildings below the more distant dormer.

As it turns out the Headlands Center for the Arts, located right in the middle of the Marin Headlands, offers programs in support of artists. Each year they host visiting artists from around the world in 4 to 10 week residencies. These are highly competitive with over a thousand applications for several dozen slots. They also offer an Affliate Artist program that provides a year of studio space in the lovingly remodeled Building 960, a quartermaster’s storehouse built a century ago for Fort Barry. This is where I sit now happily ensconced in pleasant compact studio space surrounded by a truly beautiful landscape. I can hear the sonorous tones of fog horns in the distance and a Beaufort 5 breeze whipping the status over our roof – no photos today. Still. it is a special place and I am quite excited about the prospects ahead.

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