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The Story Behind the Name: The Hidden World of the Nearby

DREAMED BROOK  came about while on an assignment for New England Monthly Magazine. I was to photograph the area around Beaver Brook in Littleton, Massachusetts (the brook in Dreamed Brook) to accompany an essay by John Hanson Mitchell. John had written a now legendary book called Ceremonial Time about the area where he lived that included Beaver Brook. John gave me a copy and not too many pages in I came upon this passage:

“Wilderness and wildlife, history, life itself, for that matter, is something that takes place somewhere else, it seems. You must travel to witness it, you must get in your car in summer and go off to look at things which some “expert”…tells you is important or beautiful, or historic. In spite of their admitted grandeur, I find such well-documented places somewhat boring. What I prefer..is that undiscovered country of the nearby, the secret world that lurks beyond the night windows and at the fringes of cultivated backyards.”

—John Hanson Mitchell, Ceremonial Time

This view of Beaver Brook was only visible directly from the breakdown lane of I-495, the outer "ring road" around Boston. It was, in fact, not spotted by me but by my photographic assistant, helper and friend Michael Conrad. As we left to go home Michael said "did you see that?" I had been tired from shooting and was ignoring the roadside but took a quick look and asked Michael to take the next exit and circle around. 

Photographing from the breakdown lane a few feet from high speed traffic is a dicey business. You cannot watch the traffic since your head is under a dark cloth composing and focusing. And although I preferred safer places I continued to shoot from the breakdown lanes of highways when there was no other way to get the shot. The second photograph of Beaver Brook (below) I digitized more recently and carefully removed the power lines with Photoshop that had been hidden by the fog in pre-Photoshop days, making use of the other images impossible.

However, this and many other experiences of finding images in nearby but unexpected places, along with visiting John Mitchell and reading his words: "that undiscovered country of the nearby" is what inspired the name for my photographic collection.

Dreamed Brook

Dreamed Brook

Inteerstate 495, Littleton, Massachusetts, July 1987, cat. JW 0181

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