Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Overseas Odyssey . . .

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If you've been following these pages recently, you will have gathered that I've just returned home to France after a three week odyssey, travelling in the land of my birth. And quite a long strange trip it was. The camera almost never stopped clicking. Over 4500 photographs came home with me. It is going to take quite some time to sift through them to see if one or two are worth sharing here. When one has been away from a country for going on twenty years, many sights which might have seemed commonplace and not worth a second glance had one never left, now seem fraught with messages and meaning, and worth contemplating.
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I'm not going to comment on the political situation there, other than to say that the little I saw and heard left me feeling bewildered, perplexed, and a little dismayed. Signs of patriotism abound everywhere. Yet what they really signify is less clear. It would seem that some Americans are not as American as others. Some speak of true Americans, leaving one to wonder about what the others are.
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But enough of that. For all its contradictions and extremes, I still found much to appreciate there. The photos that follow are just a tiny taste, hopefully to help whet your appetite for more to come. Enjoy . . .
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This flag flying barn was seen on a back road somewhere in Pennsylvania . . .
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PS Just added this to Tricia's Old Barns theme, as it seemed to be a good fit...
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On a back street in a gritty coal country city in Pennsylvania, another flag painted on a wall . . .
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I was literally overwhelmed by all the dream cars, dream trucks, dream houses I came across. Decay and deterioration seem to be rampant. A feast for a ravenous rust glutton like me. This red Chevrolet left for dead on a side street was a lovely example.
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The reflection in its window is what justifies including this post in James Reflection Weekend series. The houses reflected in the window were abandoned . . .
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Not only houses and trucks, but entire factories had been left to slowly disintegrate. This eleven story high coal breaker was a marvellous site. I spent a couple of hours inside exploring the labyrinth of machinery and passages, remnants of another age, when coal was plentiful here. Before the mines played out. More on this site soon. And I found it thanks to Tom B. who is passionate about such places, as his excellent website attests.
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Dream houses were in abundance. I was like a kid in a candy store . . . Hardly knew where to look.
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This one is ready to move into . . .
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And for one special reader, I had said I hadn't seen any salt or pepper shakers in any of my pictures, until I noticed this pair peeking out between the sugar dispenser and the vase in a small town diner . . .
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The flight back over the ocean was peaceful, just clouds to gaze at as the sun disappeared on the horizon fading away behind us. Wished the flight could have gone on and on.
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While pondering cloudscapes, I returned to one of those eternal questions found painted on a rusting surface at the abandoned coal breaker site . . . food for thought indeed . . .
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63 comments:

Artscapes said...

Your photos are quite powerful displaying a reality that's far from the utopian American dream. It gives me a feeling reminiscent of Ayn Rand's dystopian novel "Atlas Shrugged".

Owen said...

Hi early bird Artscapes... or perhaps it is late where you are. In any case, funny, I was just looking at Ayn Rand's books in a book store the other day, and reminiscing about reading Atlas Shrugged years ago while still in school... a grand and epic tale that. I guess many of the things built in the Atlas Shrugged mindset years ago are rusting away quietly somewhere now. But I still remember the feeling I had reading her books... and it could still well be influencing my work.

English Rider said...

Lovely photos. Glad you're back. Too tired for coherent comment.

S.D.Walker said...

I was going to comment on how your photos pull emotion from me with their simplicity. However the previous comments in regard to Ayn Rand require me to mention that I have recently finished the Fountainhead (my first exposure to the author) and will be digging into Atlas Shrugged (which my book club partner is reading now) very soon.

Martin H. said...

A stunning set of photographs, Owen. The eleven storey coal breaker is magnificent.

Le Journal de Chrys said...

J'aime la photo des ces yeux automobiles et l'usine désaffectée!!!!

Laurie said...

Amazing stuff, Owen. We've all missed you and are looking forward to seeing more from your trip.
Laurie

Lydia said...

Now where is ol' Lee Greenwood just when we need him to chime out a rousing chorus of "And I'm Proud To Be An American"? ......
These are stunning images, Owen. And your few words summed up so much of what it is like here now. I cannot wait for more images of this land as seen through your lens. (Your cloud shots were so beautiful, too.)

pRiyA said...

Most enjoyable. I loved the Red Truck and the abandoned houses. But that's just 11 intriguing pics out of 4500 Owen, am trying to guess what the rest might hold. More houses definitely!

Steve said...

As always, Owen, your photos are a cornucopia of delights and food for thought...

'Tsuki said...

You had such a nice trip... The pictures you brought are really interesting, so are the comments you make about them (especially concerning flags and patriotic signs). I felt in love with the picture you took during your flight : this cloud ocean is so beautiful, with the sunset...

The last one was quite funny to me.

Thanks for sharing those !

The Pliers said...

Welcome back!

Glad to see that you are already raring to show your digital gems from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

There is never a shortage of flags and ersatzflags flying over the purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain, much to my husband's 20 year amazement.

It will be fun to see what pops up on the screen in the coming months!

TechnoBabe said...

So glad you enjoyed your return home for a few weeks. Twenty years is a long time.

Cildemer said...

Welcome back Owen!
Tes photos sont magnifiques et j'aime beaucoup celles des petites maisons au milieu de la végétation;o)

À travers ton post je revis ce sentiment bizarre, un mélange de nostalgie, de déception et de regret, de voir que tant de choses ont changé, et pas forcément en bien, hélas, lorsque je retourne dans mon pays natal!

***
Je te souhaite une très belle semaine*******

the fly in the web said...

If this is just a taster, I'm going to sit back in anticipation...that coal breaker spoke to me in particular.

lgsquirrel said...

Your photos are a wonderful record of this moment in history. Their value will grow with time.

Shirley said...

I find a bit of sadness in deserted homes. Each photo records lives once spent there, perhaps people who've moved on to pursue dreams. Photos are a great way to preserve the past. Terrific photos today.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Thank you for the series of photos and reflections.

Welcome back, Owen.

Stickup Artist said...

What a great photographic beginning to your "Overseas Odyssey." I will be so looking forward to more of your impressions after 20 years absence. My goodness that's a long time. That first shot takes my breath away. The American flag: an Art Director's dream come true! And the last shot is very thought provoking and could spark a national debate. (We seem to like those).

jeannette said...

Sounds you were in photo heaven -to make up for your bewilderment about your birth country.
Yes, you got it right -very confusing! As a Dutchman living in Los Angeles, I don't know what to think about it, but it's not anymore the same country of 20+ years I entered!

The pics are amazing!

Bridge in Sacramento,
Jeannette

Sar@h said...

J'imagine le bonheur derrière ces photos … Etrange, non ?

Anne-Ma said...

Je ne lis pas trop bien l'anglais. Mais les photos sont superbes. J'adore celle des nuages.

Amy said...

I'm glad to hear your trip was full of dream houses and adventures. I especially can't wait to hear about the trip to the coal breaker - what an amazing place.

The Sagittarian said...

Great photos, some of them reminded me of that documentary series "Life without People", have you seen it?

ρομπερτ said...

Seeing the exclamation and not a question mark, surely worth to write a book about.

Please have a good Sunday.

daily athens

...louciao... said...

Messages are where we find them and what we make of them. Some need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Karen said...

Welcome back, Owen. I envy you having France to escape back to. I'm trying to get back to blogging and reading all my favorite blogs again. I've been on hiatus and feel like it's time to come out of my cocoon and fly again.
Your photos speak volumes and are stunning. I'll be back.

Mahon said...

toujours ces magnifiques photos et ces textes interessants ! cela est toujours un plaisir de venir vous voir sur votre blog !! A Bientot !

James said...

Wonderful post Owen! I love photography and seeing photos of old buildings and vehicles of all types. These photos really stir my imagination and make want to get out of the house and search for "dream houses" of my own. I hope you post lots more of the 4500!

Susan said...

The third photo down has so many similarities to the two above it. The chevy truck (the way you cropped it) has the colors - red, white, blue, the stripes all over the place, the circular stars. It's like a Picasso fractured rendition of the flag.

Owen said...

Hi ER,
With everything you've got going on, can totally understand being too exhausted to coherently comment... but if these photos were pleasing to a pair of tired eyes, then all is good... take care and good luck with all the moves and changes !

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Hi Stick Dog,
Many thanks for dropping in here, and leaving a word or two... Quite a while back I enjoyed reading Ayn Rand's books, Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, We the Living... would love to go back and re-read them. Maybe one of these days. So much to read ! So little time !

Owen said...

Hi Martin, thanks so much. I will be posting more photos from the coal breaker here soon, apparently a number of people found that intriguing. It is an amazing site. I climbed up the entire length of the coal conveyor which goes from the ground up to the 11th floor, spanning several hundred yards... quite an experience !

Owen said...

Chère Chrys, si tu aimes bien des usines désaffectées, tu aurais adoré certains jours de ce voyage, car j'ai passé des heures à explorer trois sites abandonnés... tous les trois contenant des collections impossibles de matériel en pleine décomposition... rouille en quantité illimitée, une orgie de images à contempler...

Il doit y avoir de sites dans ce genre en France, non ? A coté de Sens j'ai trouvé un site abandonné il y a un petit moment, il doit exister bien d'autres... ?

Sinon, un plaisir de découvrir le blog de Pastelle, y compris la photo de toi au jardin incroyable de coquillages...

Owen said...

Hello Laurie,
I missed everyone while out rambling around, but was having a grand time nevertheless... will slowly be getting back up to speed blogging again, as the dust of the voyage settles... Hope all is well where you are... best wishes !

Owen said...

Hi Lydia,
I admit I'd somehow missed out on Lee Greenwood over the years... but have just rectified that on YouTube. Am looking forward to sorting out and posting more photos from this trip; enough there to keep me going for quite a while. Especially with kind readers like you out there who keep coming back...

Owen said...

Dear Priya... and indeed you may wonder what else in in the other 4500 photos, I'm wondering myself... have not yet been able to go back through them all slowly, but the little bit I've looked at a second time, since taking them, has my fingers itching to get them edited for the blog... so much in my past life has led up to the present desire to go out and photograph scenes from the world we live in, almost everywhere I go, there are things that fascinate me... so, indeed, there will be more to come...

Owen said...

Cheers Steve, I like that image of a cornucopia, just instead of fruits and candy and stuff pouring out, it's abandoned cars, factories, roadkill, and other oddities of roadside attractions... oh, and of course, A few Alice Roberts there for good measure... I've been forgetting to mention Alice Roberts in my posts... that will never do, eh ?
:-)

Owen said...

Hi 'Tsuki ! You are very very welcome, and if you fell a little in love while floating in the clouds, I can't hope for much more than that ! Thanks !

Owen said...

Dearest Pliers...
Indeed there are alot of flags, ersatz and otherwise flying these days, but you know that better than I, having lived these last strange years in the purple mountained home of the brave, but dropping in out of the blue like me, once in a blue moon, it really strikes me, visually, as I don't remember that at all from years ago. Long ago it was only on the fourth of July that one saw so many flags flying... let alone painted on barns or walls... there is clearly a need to identify. Very best to you and Mr Baling Wire, I hope all is well in the White city...

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB., well, it's not quite twenty years yet, but not far from it... but yes, a very long time indeed, and things change, or maybe it's really me that's changed more than anything else...

Owen said...

Cildemer, merci beaucoup... mais dis, quand tu parles de ton pays natal, tu veux dire les USA ??? Je pensais que tu étais française... ou est-ce que tu parles d'un autre pays natal ? En tout cas, je suis bien content si tu as aimé ces petites maisons délabrées au milieu de toute cette végétation en pleine révolte... bientôt elles vont disparaître sous un jungle impénetrable, croulant sous le poids des lierres qui les tireront vers le sol...

Owen said...

Hi Fly,
The coal place was quite an experience, am looking forward to sharing more of that soon... happy travelling...

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Dear LGS,
I'd be hard pressed to say what value this work may have at present or in the future, but all I can say is that I sure love getting out in the wide world and looking at what is out there... am rarely disappointed when out rambling around at all the myriad ways the human race has found to leave fascinating traces. It just concerns me that we are leaving so many traces everywhere that other species, like squirrels, may run out of room soon, which would be a damn shame. But we humans collectively don't seem too concerned about that, and continue to consume wastefully at a horrendous rate. That may be part of the underlying meaning in my photos... we build, we build, we build to feed our progress, but then we abandon with careless abandon... and then people like me come along and document the abandon left behind by a civilization.

Owen said...

Hi Shirley, thanks so much for dropping in here... and you comment is very close to what I'm thinking when photographing such places. I love trying to imagine who might have once lived in such places, what became of them, are they in a nearby graveyard, or did they move on to greener pastures somewhere over a rainbow...

Owen said...

Hi Genie, you are very welcome indeed...

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Hey Stickup !
Could be a very interesting national debate... maybe even an international debate...

Why did we come here ??? Hopefully not to trash this lovely planet and the people who lived in harmony with the earth... oh, or has alot of that already happened ? I don't know anymore, I keep wanting to hope it is not too late, but often have the feeling that this train we are riding is out of control, heading at high speed toward a canyon where the bridge is out... Which reminds me, while you are living in Pennsylvania did you ever here of a place called the Kinzua Bridge ? Apparently quite an amazing railroad bridge, until a tornado took it down a few years ago...

Absolutely love your B&W misty ocean photos...

Owen said...

Hi Jeannette, thanks so much for dropping into this obscure little corner of the blogosphere... You are right, there is alot to be bewildered about, and alot that has changed over the past twenty years. Will be curious to see where things are heading over the next several years. For a second there I was confused, as you had said a "Dutchman" living in Los Angeles, but I'm thinking you meant a Dutch woman... Glad you enjoyed in any case...
:-)

Owen said...

Sar@h, tu as tout as fait raison... plein de bonheur ! C'était avec bcp de joie que je sillonais ces petites routes de ce pays, un pays encore plein de bonnes surprises...

Owen said...

Bienvenue Anne Ma... ou devrais-je dire Ane Marie ? Viens de jeter un coup d'oeil sur ta page... si je comprends bien tu possedes une belle photo de Sar@h encadrer de manière à laisser filer quelques reflets... la chance...

Merci bcp pour ce petit mot sympa... ce n'est pas grave pour l'anglais, ce sont les photos qui compte le plus. Je devrais écrire à la fois en anglais et français... mais j'ai rarement le temps pour le faire... sigh...

Owen said...

Hey Amy !
Indeed it was full of dream houses and cars and trucks and factories and signs... roadside attractions all over the place. I hope to have time in the coming weeks, months, years, to share some of the photos here, as time permits...

Loved your trip to Catalina ! Really fabulous presentation you did with that...

Owen said...

Dear Sister Saj,
No, haven't come across "Life Without People" yet; will have to keep an eye out for it. It's true that there aren't many people in the photos I put on the blog, but it's not that I never shoot images of people... just don't tend to put those up in public as much...

And speaking of people, I'm certainly glad there were none of them in the bathroom when the ceiling came crashing down ! What alot of excitement you've had of late... Had no idea the aftershocks were continuing still. Maybe time to set up a yurt for the next few months... less worries than having a house over one's head perhaps...

Bon courage in any case !

Owen said...

Hi Robert,
I was wondering if anyone would notice the exclamation point versus a question mark... I too was wondering about that. You are right, there are a wealth of questions to ask about that one little detail. But that is the pleasure of observing this world, any tiny detail can lead to an infinity of connections and reflections... all for the curious of mind to explore... or not... one can become consumed with seeking to answers to the infinity of questions that can be raised...
:-)
And a fine week to you too...

Owen said...

Dearest Lynne,
I've always been partial to a grain of salt with my messages, and meals too... But there is no shortages of messages to be found along the way, some best salted away for getting out later in the heart of winter when snows have blocked the cabin door and nights are long...

Owen said...

Hi Susan, I like that "Picasso fractured rendition of the flag"... it always fascinates me where parallels can be drawn between images, and associations. The Picasso Museum in Paris is one of my favorite places... what a mind he had !

Owen said...

Hi Karen, it's been a while! Welcome back, and do stop by whenever you can, always a pleasure to have people drop in from various corners of the globe... And for sure, I'm very lucky indeed to be able to come back here to France to settle in for the winter...

Owen said...

Mahon,
Un très grand merci... si ces photos te plait, cela me fait plaisir, et si elles te plait toujours, cela me fait encore plus plaisir... merci bcp...

Owen said...

Hi James,
I had totally forgotten just how rich Pennsylvania was in dream houses, dream cars, even dream factories. But out on the backroads of central PA, I hardly knew where to look there were so many lovely scenes presenting themselves in quick succession. Would highly recommend if you have time to take a peek up around Wellsboro, and then head west across that far northern stretch of the state. Lovely land and towns up that way... Happy hunting...

Fotobloggen 2010 said...

my thoughts go to the wonderful clouds and I remember being younger wondering if it would hold for a walk ;-)

christina,. Sweden

Roxana said...

haha, the clouds, how marvelous, i was sure you would not let me down :-)

lovely lovely... i especially liked the second dream house. and i know, if one thinks about the social context, the financial crisis and everything, the only appropriate answer would be sadness and worry, yet i delight in the marvelous colours of your pictures - this is art's magic, indeed...

Tricia said...

Intriguing and fascinating!
The 'flag flying barn' is quite patriotic & eye catching, indeed!

Beautiful views from the plane!

Thanks so much for participating in my 'Old Barns' meme - great to have you aboard!

Owen said...

Hi Christina, thanks so much for stopping here to tarry a moment. Of course you can step out and walk across the cloudscape... who told you otherwise ???

Owen said...

Ah Roxana... of course the clouds are for you, if I could have I'd have scattered some rose petals up there...

Although there is alot of hardship in the USA these days for alot of people, I don't sense defeatism, but rather a sort of positivism that surprised me, even in some forlorn places I stopped to look around in. Met some very upbeat people, and sense a mood of people wanting to enjoy life no matter what. Now if they could just trade in some of their pickup trucks for cars that use less gas, I might feel more comfortable there. Big waste and big excess are still commonplace also. From up above the clouds it looks small way down there... one must keep things in perspective if one is to survive...

Peace to you Roxana, I hope all is well in your new home...

Nathalie said...

Last comment (but not least I hope) - or perhaps not last but just belated : what an amazing story your selection of images tell. You definitely have us traveling with you. I love your two cute little dream houses. Can I have the last one please? Such a perfect doll house!

Nathalie said...

Oh and that huge flag painted on the side of the barn... your comment about some Americans being less American than others is scary.

EG Wow said...

Wonderful shots! I'm glad your camera never stopped clicking as that means we will get to see tons more. :)