Here’s a series of my photo elective shots I took while wandering the “wilds” of Westville, New Jersey trying to find a subject or composition that would please my photography teacher and get me a passing grade. It seems that I favored industrial detritus, abandoned buildings, auto graveyards and human graveyards. I guess I was a gloomy Gus, but I was also going with the things in and around my hometown that would lend itself to artsy-fartsy, contrasty, black and white photography.
Above is a series of shots of an unattended, possibly abandoned boxcar up on what I believe is the edge of town some time in the Fall of 1982. If I’m wrong about the location, feel free to comment below!
I thought it was odd to be open as it were. Boxcars have an irresistible attraction to bored kids so it was begging for mischief, and I kept expecting to be chased off or at least challenged by a watchman or cop as I approached it. The area was deserted, and I snapped off these shots unmolested.
The tracks were still in use at the time, and I assume they still are so I don’t know why this looks as if nobody cared with all of the cable spools and forklift palettes so sloppily scattered.
The haphazard pile of cable spools really surprises me. A few years before this photo was taken, it was very fashionable to appropriate one of those spools and use it as a piece of hippie furniture. They were highly sought after as makeshift coffee or cocktail tables in swinging apartments or covered with shag carpeting and placed in a customized van to give a mobile crash pad all of the comforts of home. I guess the trend had dried up by the time I was making these exposures.
I wish I had taken more shots to establish the area, but it was a different time and an expensive media. Nowadays I’ll shoot digital photos without thinking. Back then, every frame of a 36-exposure roll of Pan-X seemed precious particularly on an art student’s meager budget, and I would always ask myself whether a shot was worth it.
The Photo Elective
Back in the 1980s, I went to art school, and I along with all of the other illustration majors were required to take a minor course in photography. We had to shoot the photos as well as process the negatives and make prints. I don’t recall what the particulars of the class assignments were although I can tell from looking at the negatives which were the assignments and which ones were shot just to finish off a roll. The shots to finish a roll are a lot more interesting. While my fellow students mostly resided and shot their photographs in the vibrant metropolis of Philadelphia, I lived and did most of my shooting in and around the staid and solid small town of Westville, New Jersey.