This was a commission for Kosta Browne in Sebastapol, CA. I spent a week at one of their properties Mendocino County properties called Cerise Vineyard. The text below comes from my observations while I was documenting their property with my 200lb. mammoth camera.
Arrival at Cerise. Oaks dominate the hillsides between vineyard blocks. The clean air creates a silvery fairy moss that hangs from tree branches and will turn an otherworldly bright green in winter. Manzanita and amorphous boulders fill dells and gullies or dot the long, golden, grass-covered slopes. There is a real sense of the wild here.
There are woodsy corridors that attracted the most beautiful light and caught my attention frequently. I dubbed them Narnia on account of their almost magical property. I heard mysterious noises coming from these places but never saw more than moving foliage and rustling grass. The quiet of Cerise makes one’s senses extra keen when it comes to unidentified sound and movement.
There are no animals in these landscapes, at least few you can see. The process is lengthy and not suited to capturing movement so the creatures that abound at Cerise and rule this fantastic landscape are best imagined by the viewer.
What kinds of creatures live here? Bobcat, coyote and mountain lion all left their mark. Deer, rattlesnakes, wild turkeys, owls and other birds of prey were observed almost daily, often when the sun was going down around the numerous springs throughout the vineyard.
A favorite moment was a morning encounter with a mother wild pig and her litter of 15 piglets. They crossed the road in front of me but the runt lagged behind, then stood in front of my truck, snorting and protesting. Precocious and aggressive beyond his size.
The physical nature of this work meant that it took almost a day to create each one of these plates. Measuring 20 by 24 inches and with the image resting on fragile glass, it often took many attempts to capture the right light and moment. Positioning the immense camera along bumpy roads and steep hillsides was challenging yet allowed me to actually step into the web of the property.
I came here expecting to be an observer. Armed with the medium of wet plate collodion photography – a process which in the 19th century set itself apart from other artistic mediums by way of its veracity and inherent ties to the physical world – I believed that I could observe my subject matter objectively. However, the slow pace of the medium and that of the vineyard formed a bond. It would sync with me and I with it.