Hanging Day

“We’ve got a slider!”

I looked up at the picture of The Railsplitter, which a few minutes ago was in the perfect position, but now was slowly sliding down the cable, its modular hook slowly losing its adhesion.

I know what that meant.  Back up the ladder I go.  With a small pair of pliers in my hand, I tightened a screw on the back of the hook, and the picture remained in place.

Five artworks down… a dozen or so to go.

Albany County Rail Trail: The Railsplitter
The Railsplitter. Nikkormat FTn camera, Kodachrome 64 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Yesterday was “Hanging Day” for “A Dream in The Dash,” my solo gallery art show at St. Agnes Cemetery’s newly-built “Living Room” art gallery and meditation area.  With the show opening Friday, May 17 at 430p, yesterday St. Agnes Cemetery historian Kelly Grimaldi and I were arranging and hanging artworks and Dream Windows.  There will be two Dream Windows on display; Dream Window 6: The Beacon and Dream Window 7: The Sacred Shore, as well as a beautifully ornate and detailed print of Midnight at the Palace Theater and many others.

And yesterday, I learned the fine art of gallery hanging.  We arranged all the artworks on the floor first, making sure that each piece fit aesthetically and securely and thematically before hanging them on custom-built hooks and locks.

At this moment in time, as I hung each piece, I thought about my journey as a photographer.  How I challenged myself each time to create something new with my camera gear.  How I took old, abandoned cameras and found a way to get a great picture out of each one of them.

Some of those cameras are no longer in my collection.  I sent my Kiev 19 and my Nikkormat FTn to a club that helps aspiring film students with SLR cameras of their own.  My little Ansco Cadet, I gave that away at a county fair to someone who wanted to experience film photography.  Some cameras are now in the possession of the Troy Photo Center for their little photo museum.  Others are resting comfortably on my display shelf.  And then there are the remainders – the Nikon D700, my Nikon F100, my Rolleiflex Automat, my Kowa Super 66, my Agfa Clipper Special f/6.3, for example – that are still being used and are still producing great images.

Wow, I remember taking that picture of the Railsplitter nearly three years ago.  In Voorheesville, as part of my year-long excursion into Kodachrome film.  It’s one of two Kodachrome shots in the show; Barn versus Weeds is the other.  I remember blogging about both of those pictures, and how The Railsplitter was one of three artworks that helped me break through and win ribbons and money at the Altamont Fair two years ago.  I remember giving The Railsplitter as a wedding gift for my friends George and Loretta Hackney.  Wow.  They’ve been married for two years.  And I also remember when fellow TU blogger David Kaczynski’s New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty organization asked – and I gladly gave permission – for them to use The Railsplitter as a cover photo in their quarterly magazine.

‘Scuse me if I’m feeling a tad wistful.  I’m allowed to.  It’s my art show.

Each one of these pictures has such a special meaning to me.  Not just taking the picture; but coming up with the concept for every artwork.  I might have had an idea of how something was going to turn out – cramming two films into one camera and getting The Agfa Bridge Over Ansco Lake; cramming three films into one camera and getting The Lenten Meal – but even as I’m taking these pictures, I’m not sure if the final result will equal my thoughs.  I hope that it does.  Maybe it will.  If it doesn’t, I try again.

"I'm a ghost of my former self."
“i’m a ghost of my former self.” Kowa Super 66 camera, Efke 25 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Some of the photos chronicle dark moments in my life.  That includes pictures like the one at right, “i’m a ghost of my former self.”  I took this picture last July, and things in my life were going downhill.  One of my good friends had moved away, a mentor associated with my school passed away, my personal joy had evolved into pain.  When I saw this building in Menands, I had to get the picture.  I didn’t care what camera I had in the car at the time, I didn’t care what film was in the camera.  If I didn’t get this shot… the wrecking ball might come through and destroy the building, robbing me of the opportunity to capture this image ever again.

Today, things are better for me.  Much better.  It’s almost as if I finally realized that the light at the end of the tunnel was NOT an oncoming train.  And the building itself?  It was rehabbed into a small used car lot.  I got the picture before the message disappeared.  Swank.

Yesterday was Hanging Day.

Next Friday is the debut.

There’s still so much anticipation in me right now.  But before yesterday, all this was just a concept, a dream, a fantasy.  Maybe it was number 63 on the life list.

And when the final piece – Low Tide at Sunrise – was secured on the final hook…

My heart crossed number 63 off the life list.  It’s all over now, save some final leveling and adjusting and fingerprint-removing Windex.  This is good.  This is fantastic.

Did I leave anything out?  I probably did.  I can’t overload the art room with every picture I’ve ever taken.  Maybe I’ll add one more picture.  Maybe two.  Or maybe I’ll just let things stand on their merits.

But for now… this feels really good.  Better than I ever imagined it would.

And I hope you can join me next Friday for the opening.