Negative Space 57, 2008
I’d been intending to photograph this house for years. Decades, actually.
I first saw it the in the mid-1970s. It sits atop a hill overlooking the Nashaquitsa and Menemsha ponds at the rural eastern end of the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
It’s a view Edward Hopper would have loved. A simple old two-story house, no adornment other than its softly weathered yellow paint, sitting so high and alone on the knobby hill that when seen from the road it appeared to be floating in the sky. (Think Christina’s World as interpreted by Magritte.)
A lot of famous creative people live or vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Artists. Musicians. Performers. Writers. Playwrights. Actors. They come seeking rest, recreation, natural beauty, the company of friends and family, and the privacy that a heavily wooded island seven miles offshore can provide.
It’s understood at the Vineyard that you give people their space. This is why I wouldn’t just pull in and park in the driveway of the house on the hill. I wasn’t above “stealing” a shot of their view. But I wasn’t about to infringe on their ease of access.
So over the years I’d continued to intend to photograph this scene. Every year or so I would drive past it and remind myself that I really needed to get to it. But the road is narrow and twisty. It’s hard to find a place to leave the car. Over almost thirty years I came up with a million excuses.
I finally got to it in the fall of 2008. It was a beautifully clear day. I’d found a wide place in the road where I could leave the car without impeding traffic while I hiked the rest of the way to the top of the hill. I had my camera ready to go and a few stray accessories in my backpack.
When I reached the top of the hill, I could have cried. Since I’d last visited, the owners of the house had: put on a bright new roof; given the place a bright new paint job; planted shrubs in front of the house; dumped a few loads of gravel in the muddy lane; and added two new outbuildings, neither of was objectionable by itself, but both of which were like giant scars on my view. And as if that weren’t enough, three minivans were parked right across the front of the house.
For nearly three decades I’d had this vision in my mind of how this view would eventually look in my photograph. I could see it framed in a gallery or on my office wall. I envisioned how other people would react to the simplicity of the scene and the washed colors.
But what I ended up with was Negative Space #57, which I like, but might as well have been taken in my own neighborhood.