Photos from my stay with friends at Barnhouse, an artist’s summer colony in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard. Everywhere I turned, there was something interesting to look at, or hear about on this historic site. The property preserves a beautiful tract of land that was farmed from the late 17th century until its purchase and conversion to a communal retreat in the 1920s, and the architectural significance of the original farm house, barn, stone walls and livestock enclosures are part of the reason that it received its historic site designation by the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
But what I loved the most about Barnhouse was the 20th century story, and the fact that the vision of a group of idealistic, liberal socialites – who were perhaps reacting to a period of excess and post-war, political discontent when they formed the colony in the 1920s – continues today: the small cabin accommodations are intentionally rustic, the barn functions as a shared activity and eating space, and everyone participates in daily chores and the running of things when they stay.
The sparsely furnished cabins, outfitted with chamber pots, laundry lines and floral linens, were an endless source of inspiration for me and my little Pentax, as were the seasons of accumulated art, beach stones and salt-sprayed paperbacks left by guests past. Of course, the other amazing thing about Barnhouse was the food, prepared by chef Betsy Carnie and lovingly presented each day with colorful, edible flower petals and other delights from the kitchen garden.
I didn’t really feel like shooting a whole lot of digital on my vacation, so most of this is 35mm. When I’m working on a photography job, I put so much pressure for perfection on myself, which comes out as a near frenetic intensity to ‘get the shot,’ check the image, read the histogram, and reshoot if needed, all in as little time as possible so as not to miss anything (I think that’s the wedding photography training that I just can’t kick). Since that’s not possible with film, I can enjoy the process of the capture a little more. I take one, maybe two shots of what I see, and then let it go. If it turns out, great. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Meanwhile, I’m not buried in the back of my camera with something interesting right in front of me. I take the shot, and then I enjoy it with my own two eyes for a little longer. And besides, with film, I expect a little imperfection in each photo, otherwise, what’s the point?
For more information about Barnhouse, here is an interesting lecture given by Dr. Bruce Clouette on the history and significance of the property.