Thursday, June 24, 2010

running out of thyme

Oh hey, remember me? I seem to have neglected to mention here that I've been to Sweden and back and I am knee deep in multiple-book-makings and preppings. The nose has also been kept firmly on the grindstone in order to fulfill back print orders smoothly as well as design and edit a portfolio book for Blurb's Photography Book Now contest. The juror selection is outstanding, so just to have a chance to get my best work in front of those eyes is pretty wonderful in and of itself. But shit man, a $25,000 grand prize... that is more than I made last year. Ha! No, really. I'd put that to good use.

P  O  R  T  F  O  L  I  O
P O R T F O L I O © Laura Kicey

So this isn't a call to action, because thankfully no popular vote is required to win anything. I do however invite you to check out the full preview (it goes full screen if you want to get a good look!) of the entire book. Blurb's price for a 12"x12" 90+ pages long is so not cheap. I put off ordering one of my own for quite some time just because I was paralyzed with fear, even after multiple proofreadings and photo color tweakings that something would be wrong and I would be forced to have another made. At nearly $100 a pop, this is not for the faint of heart or the mildly uncertain. I don't get a cut of that price, FYI. Anyway, behold!

Meanwhile when I am not writing, I've been exploring a new and spectacular hiding place with Goldberg. It is the most exquisite mansion, which we shall refer to as Thyme House*, built in the mid 1800s and from what I've read it has been abandoned probably since the early 70s. I have only found a scant few photographs of the interior online, and I find this shocking considering the scale and historical significance of the building - as it was owned by a member of a powerful area family. I caught wind of its existence quite by accident and expected to find something locked up tight or otherwise too out in the open to be accessible. In fact when we set out that first time to check it out, I didn't bring a tripod along at all, and though I brought my exploring boots, I was so convinced even upon arriving that we wouldn't be able to get in, I stayed in my flip-flops! We parked right in the courtyard and boldly went up to examine the greenhouse structure over the old stone garages. It was quite impossible to see anything but the tip of the roof from our vantage point as the entire grounds were quite overgrown.

reframed © Laura Kicey

inside out
inside out © Laura Kicey

Once we had made it to the greenhouse, we were quite invisible and Goldberg went into one of the adjacent storage rooms and came back out running towards me in the far doorway looking terrified. Inside he had seen a raccoon and once he was able to tell me, we both skeedaddled up the hill towards the front door of the main building, through shoulder high weeds. Only the small front porch was visible for the weeds and ivy, I examined the shuttered front door only to find it padlocked beyond.

divide © Laura Kicey

surroundings © Laura Kicey

We wandered around the side and came across a worn path to a two story high sunroom, and there we came upon that most magic un-boarded portal that let us right in at the base of some stunning floor to ceiling windows. Pausing only long enough to snap a couple shots for fear of being seen by a caretaker, we shuffled on through up the stairs and through a pair of grand French doors into a massive empty room, walls lined with empty bookshelves, a grand fireplace and quite a lot of darkness as the large windows and other French doors were well overgrown with ivy.

the lightest
the lightest © Laura Kicey

It was right about there when I started to kick myself for not bringing a tripod. The layout of the house was perplexing, small staircases leading half flights down and back up again, the narrow main entry hall made less grand by a narrow staircase that prevented light from reaching the far end. There were a three large main rooms of the ground floor and the other passages leading off we both decided were a bit too dark to manage without flashlights and pointless to attempt photographs in handheld anyway.

tendergrowth © Laura Kicey

eyes upon us.
eyes upon us © Laura Kicey

the great barrier
the great barrier © Laura Kicey

arms open
arms open © Laura Kicey

So we made our way up to the second floor and were met with a labyrinthine progression of countless smaller rooms connected, instead of by a main hallway, in strange haphazard ways. While I could still hear Goldberg, I could no longer tell which direction the sounds were coming from or how to get any closer. Every bathroom had a bidet, one had petal pink paneling and a bathtub built into the wall surrounded by unusual copper-tinted mirrors on all sides.

commode © Laura Kicey

Simultaneously we both entered what appeared to be the master bedroom from opposite ends - each of its goldenrod walls was decked with painted mirrors with sconces.

the gilt mirror
gilt mirror © Laura Kicey

Towards the opposite end of the second floor, I walked into a bathroom, which led to a room of tiered closets, which opened into another room in shades of green of similarly tiered storage. It was peculiar how you felt like you were moving deeper into the core of the house. Doors and stairs were in unexpected places. Through another grand mirrored bedroom we came upon another sunroom with a complex elevator/large dumbwaiter device.

unfettered © Laura Kicey

the sun's room
the sun's room © Laura Kicey

Fleetingly we considered going to the third floor but the stairs looked a bit flimsier, considering the number of flights we had already been up, it was now quite a long way down if they gave out. The afternoon heat was starting to get to us, as was the barking of a too-near dog. We decided to cut our losses and perhaps return the following weekend.

And so. Less than one week later, Saturday 4:00am, I found myself awake and getting ready to head to Goldberg's and then to the house. We arrived not long after sunrise, not a soul around. Boldly marching right up to the sun room and re-entered. The early morning light was lending even less light than the afternoon sun the week prior. But this time I came equipped.

the sitting room
the sitting room © Laura Kicey

hearth © Laura Kicey

Moving about the first floor with purpose, creating a mental map of the rooms, I reshot some shaky frames and right by yet another sunroom, I discovered the kitchen.

sunken © Laura Kicey

It was a very dark room and the door leading to it was tucked in the far corner of a room I hadn't gone far into. Most of the appliances were gone, and considering the size of the rest of the house I found it rather small. That is, until I wandered down the hall beyond the kitchen and discovered the second kitchen and what appeared to be workrooms for staff.

hooded © Laura Kicey

I had wandered two rooms away from Goldberg, while he remained in the initial kitchen. I had wandered down to the last room on the left side of the service hallway and was admiring the pale green light filtering through the ivy onto the checkered tile floor...when through the hall door something caught my eye in the opposite room.

checkmate © Laura Kicey

hung © Laura Kicey

evergreen © Laura Kicey

I had my flashlight on but pointed at the floor and the room opposite was quite dark, but not so dark that I couldn't make out a very human shape laying on the floor. I froze in complete terror and strained my eyes to determine if there was movement. Seeing none, in one swift movement I withdrew with my camera, tripod and person from view of the room and scurried back toward the kitchen. My heart was racing, trying to process the implications of having come upon either a dead body, or a sleeping squatter, neither of which were great options I was prepared to confront. I whimpered to Goldberg, who initially shushed me so that he could finish taking his shot.
Then I said "I'm not sure what I've just seen in the other room!"

"What does that mean??"

"I think I saw a form on the floor. Like, human form!"

"If its a dead body I don't want to see it!"

"But it was dark, just come over with me to look with the flashlight!"

He gave in and we crept down the hall and stood by me while I shined the flashlight towards the figure and stepped a bit closer. I could get a better sense of scale and realized much to my relief that it was a bronze garden sculpture of a faun character. He was about 4 feet tall and missing his feet. On a shelf behind him, there was a small marble putti. Despite the relief of it being neither dead nor alive, my heart continued to pound and my hands kept right on shaking for the next 10 minutes.

lay me down
lay me down © Laura Kicey

silverwear © Laura Kicey

the path of the righteous man
the path of the righteous man © Laura Kicey

the long and short
the long and short © Laura Kicey

Doubling back to the main entry hall I noticed there was a rectangular area of wall by the front door that was outlined with a decorative silver leaf pattern. While the rest of the house was completely free of vandalism, inside this area, there were probably a hundred names signed in pen, pencil and marker inside this frame. It was perhaps the most respectful and restrained reminder that we were not the only visitors to this amazing place.

stair upon stair
stair upon stair © Laura Kicey

As we approached the stairs to go upstairs, we both distinctly heard a thud and once again we froze in place waiting for the other "shoe" to drop. Trying to determine where it came from, we saw nothing out the windows and heard nothing more, so proceeded to the second floor. We had just stepped into the bizarre golden master bedroom with crazy mirrors when Goldberg seized me and I heard the scuffle overhead. Definitely an animal, bigger than a squirrel, moving pretty fast. Considering we had already seen a raccoon on the property the week before, we decided quickly it was best to make a swift exit.

undercover © Laura Kicey

It was probably nearing 7:30am and the heat of the day was reaching towards its peak. We walk through the gardens and around back of the house, but we were both feeling very jumpy - I even thought I saw another raccoon-sized animal in the yard.

inversions © Laura Kicey

morning dew
morning dew © Laura Kicey

Seeing as I had a shoot at Terrain later that afternoon and could barely think straight after 4 hours of sleep, I was anxious to get some breakfast and get cleaned up in time to get a nap before work.

While the visits don't feel like failures per se, I still don't feel like I got to the core of the house yet and I am slightly discouraged from returning again. While running into other (living) human beings in an abandoned structure (at least in the areas I frequent) generally results in a verbal exchange that doesn't escalate, rather than turning into a physical confrontation with imminent bodily harm, there aren't really any ways I can think of to avoid things going wrong when wild animals are involved. Having only the week before discovered a bat in my apartment, racing my cat to the vet terrified she might have been bitten, I am VERY unwilling to take chances. The mental images planted a couple years ago upon hearing a most disturbing firsthand accounts of an attack by a rabid raccoon on This American Life will not be purged from my mind. If anyone has any suggestions on wild animal deterrents, I am all ears. Until then, I visited a few other interesting sites which I will reveal in my next entry. Stay tuned!

*note - as a means of discouraging vandalism of this pristine site, or risk others drawing attention to the entry point and jeopardize having it be sealed off again, I choose to not disclose any identifying information about the house or its location. I will refer to it only as Thyme House which is a name we came up with for it.

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Anonymous Sabra said...

Maybe that was just another photographer on the floor PRETENDING to be a faun....

7:59 PM, July 01, 2010  
Blogger helveticaneue said...

a very "rusty" photographer! you did see this right? I often wish I had a "pocket" in my leg for holding spare lenses, but my feet I couldn't do without! hahaha

8:04 PM, July 01, 2010  
Blogger Marlo said...

so beautiful!!!

1:29 PM, July 16, 2010  

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