I live on a meadow and appreciate the subtle changes that occur outside the windows through the year. I take plenty of photographs of the meadow, but none have taken my breath away like the mysterious photographs of my friend Vaune Trachtman.
Vaune’s photographs were recently on display at the Spheris Gallery in Hanover, New Hampshire. In early December we stepped before her collection called Out of Range. Serene, atmospheric and diffused with enlargement, Vaune’s photographs of meadows near her home in southern Vermont vibrated with stippled subtley, harkening some previous century. The photographs invited an atavistic memory of the view out of the window when the ancestors had their portrait taken. You could imagine how they held their heads against metal poles—so as not to move—while the photographer disappeared beneath the black cloth behind the bellows camera, removed the cover from the metal daguerreotype, and took the long exposure that would hang framed in a darkened hallway.
Her image of a gnarled apple tree made me think of lines from a favorite Robert Frost poem. Do you know the one I mean? I also imagined that a doe had just been there looking for fallen apples under the snow and had just left the frame. What else might linger beyond the frame? A tinker and his horse drawn wagon, a puff of trailing smoke from a cobblestone chimney, a trapper on snowshoes, maybe an owl upon a branch. The snow fields that were present in each of the pieces were both negative and positive spaces and brought the world of Snowflake Bentley to mind.
You wouldn’t bat an eyelid if all of these photographs were produced using a camera found in an attic. But Vaune took all of these photographs with a cellphone camera. And not a new-fangled iPhone, either. Just a run of the mill five or six year old Samsung model (if memory serves me). She did the minimum of digital manipulation to the images, which is also surprising. The large giclée prints on milky watercolor paper have the grainy, murky qualities of push-processed film. From humble tools comes very moving art, indeed.