Why are we so conflicted about nature? On the one hand, we profess to love beautiful spaces yet we often neglect those very areas.
This series—shot in an office park with of eight large commercial buildings set back from a tall grass and tree-filled area about fifty yards from a commuter rail– is a good example of this contradiction. In late summer, I noticed only the manicured bushes and geometric angles of the buildings. But with the fall rain and vanishing leaves, behind the neat frontage of brick structures and bushes, I saw a pool-filled wetland sandwiched between carelessly abutting parking lots, an access road, and the railroad. This space, casualties of the development, contained generators, oversized trash containers with strewn trash, and severed trees and foliage.
When I began this project, I shot in rich color, which seemed to romanticize the buildings and space. Black and white neutralized the setting and I felt that the square format focused the viewer. Early morning and late afternoon light highlighted the blight. Fog or cloudiness seemed to flatten the landscape, making it feel more personal and allowing the viewer to enter into the story. The photographs contain open spaces with some dramatic details in a rich tonal range partially obscuring the buildings in a distance. Some include elements in the foreground—a road, telephone pole, broken trees, dumpsters, dirty snow pushed into the wetland pools–that echo the cold, human-made structures in the background. In others there is an interplay of tone and shape or visual compressing–the mass of the buildings, the oversized generators only partially hidden by trimmed bushes , or a corner of a large building extending way beyond the frame.
Alongside her family life and her career in education, Jeanne Widmer studied painting, wrote a weekly award-winning column, photographed for a community newspaper, and oversaw photographic brochures and other communications for over a dozen local political candidates. In all of these she looked to capture the unusual angle, intrinsic message, or underlying mood.
In 2014 Widmer began studying photography more intensely at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA), the Griffin Museum of Photography and the New England School of Photography. Besides many ACA group exhibits, she has had two solo exhibits, one at the Belmont Media Center which captured the vibrancy, color and dark expectancy of a nearly century old single screen movie theater and another at Belmont’s Beech Street Center which highlighted the subtle drama and dignity of a town’s historic, working class group of businesses in a moody low light. She has exhibited at the Belmont Gallery of Art and three times with the Atelier at the Griffin Museum of Photography, one focusing on unscripted family portraits, another capturing a large development overwhelming a plain but intimate town village, and a third rendering abstract images of nature’s voice in the first spring of the coronavirus.
Contact Jeanne Widmer