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Matinee: 'Sanderson to Brackettville' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

14 April 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 145th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Sanderson to Brackettville.

This eight-minute documentary follows photographer Jason Lee as he drives across Texas with his Graflex Speed Graphic and 4x5 Kodak color film. He covered about 5,000 miles and exposed close to 300 sheets of film, 111 of which he used in A Plain View, his book on the project.

He revealed the inspiration behind the project in his journal:

I'd seen the early color photographs of Joel Sternfeld and was inspired especially by those of William Christenberry before I started making my own American photographs, first in 2006 from the highways and backroads of California with black-and-white and color 8x10 Polaroid films, but if there's anything I owe credit to visually for this particular series, it's color cinematography and from the likes of Robby Müller with Paris, Texas, Vilmos Zsigmond with The Deer Hunter and Néstor Almendros with Days of Heaven, to name a few. The photography for Terrence Malick's Badlands has equally been a big draw for me.

We were reminded of Ed Ruscha, actually. Must have been those old gas stations.

The icing on the cake, though, was his 1941 uncoated Kodak Ektar 127mm lens gathering light on his expired films.

With color photographs in general, I'm not interested in vibrant colors and sharp contrast, but rather in a more temperate palette. And the combination of the expired films and the old lens allowed for that and for something more unique to anything I've ever made in color.

It's fun to tag along, especially considering the quick escape you can make from the Texas landscape, which (without the magic of video) would be otherwise excruciating. Lee finds it romantic, though.

"Time does not pass in a lot of these places," he says. He likes that.

Like his expired Kodak film, his subjects are orphaned, abandoned, left behind. Although standing in the Texas sun, they insist they're still here.

And he still finds value in their once-upon-a-time aesthetic. "When we see something older, it resonates with us for a reason."

Which may also explain why he drives around in a big old 1992 Lincoln Town Car Executive sedan.

"I imagine that why this old abandoned stuff is still standing is because nobody's placed a value on it." It's like the TV set his father told him about once that was left on the sidewalk with a sign that said "Free." No one took it. So they turned the sign over and wrote, "Television $50." And in a few minutes the TV was stolen.

He documented this stuff "because it's out there," like the TV, in plain view. And, he adds, making photographs of these things "gives them some value."

Which, after all, is how you play the game.

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