Originally, I had this post all queued up to write about the history of the Langdon-Pratt Mansion, home to Community Arts of Elmira, Inc. I love re-purposed, sometimes historic buildings and the many stories that they hold. To be honest, when I started digging into the history on this place..I found myself dazed and confused. With that said, I decided to talk about my experience with CAE and include the significance of the building within. To me, this better represents what is inspiring me to write an article about this wonderful old building in the first place. Maybe you can find some connection, or inspiration to boost your creative soul out of it. If not, well, just enjoy the tale and the photos. 🙂
I owe this entire experience to Mr. David Higgins. See his work here: David Higgins Art David is an amazing artist and professor at a local community college and has been a fan and supporter of my work for some time, thank you David! He has a real affliction for the stuff we leave behind, same as I. He is also a Curator at Community Arts of Elmira. David took the initiative to write to me through this site in the summer of 2014 to let me know about our towns Sesquicentennial (150 year) celebration. It was to be a group show at the Community Arts of Elmira and works needed to be connected to the town in some manner. Unfortunately, at the time, most of what I had been shooting was from everywhere but my own town. I had spent the past 5 years moving away from trespassing and taking photos “where I shouldn’t” to a more active historical photography stance. One that was legal and would not affect my life, lifestyle, etc. With that maturity, I found much resistance locally for shooting these types of locations. This left a bitter taste in my mouth. But, such is life and clicking the shutter I must do, so on I went. Thank goodness David was persistent! New Years Eve (Dave, take a day off) he wrote me an email expressing that CAE was very interested in my work and suggested a solo show for 2015. He also connected me with the then President, Board of Directors, Lynne Rusinko. Schedules and conflicts being what they are, we booked a date for June. Even though I had done other installations, art festivals, etc, this would be my first local solo show! Here is a short video of the set-up and installation.
While there setting up, Lynne could see in my work and in my face that I was definitely attracted to the building itself, and all of it’s charm. She was kind enough to offer me a tour, knowing that there was still much work to be done and that I would love the “unfinished” parts, and that, I did! After the tour, I tried not to make it too obvious, but I just HAD to ask to come back with my camera! Turns out I would do it twice! Once with fellow photographer/artist Debb Vandelinder, and once with fellow photographer/artist Louis Quattrini. Truth be told, I could go back a dozen more times!
The restoration is mostly done on the first two floors only, including this meeting area:
Obviously the gallery itself has been restored and preserved. The second floor has a few rooms that artists are using as studios but in the back are still some areas that are being worked on, such as this old public bathroom.
This all was just a taste of the real treat which was in the attic, and of course my favorite part of the shoot! The attic of course was full of wonderful treats like this old steamer trunk! (I wonder what’s inside?)
Although it was super cool, shooting here was an extreme test of my and my cameras abilities. Because of the huge range of light in this next shot, which was my favorite and most difficult of the bunch. I had to shoot several different exposures in order to capture it all. My Sony a7rII is capable of nearly 14 stops of light and it wasn’t enough for this scene. I wanted to capture the detail of the cobwebs in the window, the trees outside, and the dust in the shadows, all at the same time! For this image I created a 32bit HDR file with Photomatix 32bit plugin for Lightroom. Then blended a middle exposure with the 32bit file in Photoshop to get my final results.
The final image was graded and then split-toned to produce the above photo. Several shots from the attic were very challenging, but the above put up the best fight. Here are some of the other scenes I captured from this very unique place.
All-in-all it is a very fascinating place and I would like to thank Lynne for allowing me to photograph it. They have a wonderful scenario playing out at the Langdon-Pratt Mansion. Supporting the community arts, a gallery, restoration and preservation of an outstanding structure, all of it is A-1 on my list for sure! The CAE is completely volunteer driven and needs your support as there is still much to be completed! If you would like to get involved, first and foremost, visit the gallery! Take it in for yourself, then contact Lynne (she is there most days) and offer to lend a hand or a donation! Keep up the great work guys, I cannot wait to stop by again!
See all my shots from this location @ My Portfolio
Community Arts of Elmira, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization offering educational classes, workshops, seminars, events and programs that encourage creativity in all people.
Community Arts provides a venue for individuals who would not otherwise have an opportunity to teach, display, perform, study and develop their talent.