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Dreamland

The advent of digital cameras has made a huge impact on the art of photography.  Everyday, uncountable numbers of images are snapped and then loaded onto the internet for the world to see.  The technology allows for very high quality photos, even from those people without a formal education in the art. Recently, I’ve been stumbling on photos with a dreamy emotional punch. These modern-day pictures remind me of a book titled Dreamland: America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century, assembled from pictures taken by the Detroit Publishing Company at the turn of the 20th century, by photo historian Michael Lesy, author of the eerily compelling photo book Wisconsin Death Trip. Like the Death Trip book, Dreamland is a haunting soulful look into our progress as a nation at a time when technology was giving us a new power over the planet.

The name of the book, Dreamland, comes from the dreamy optimism expressed by the images of a young nation in a simpler, but quickly growing complex time. The book cover shows the magnificent Cliff House, which once stood on the Pacific shore in the San Francisco area.  The image shows the incredible Victorian pile of a building siting on a craggy cliff with a giant wave crashing into the rocks below.  In the foreground is a beach with a group of fancifully dressed women and children playing in the waves and sand.  The image says everything about the our country at this time.  Nature has been conquered  and the emerging America can do and achieve anything. This wild beautiful place is no longer threatening, it is a playground.

One of the most compelling images in the Book was taken in Buffalo, shortly after the McKinley  monument was erected.  The photo looks north straight up Niagara Street. Like an apparition in the distance,  the gleaming white monument is bathed in heavenly light standing out against the craggy dark buildings of the busy city. I have more to say about this image in a future story. But for now, I’ve assembled the following gallery showing just a few of the dreamy images of modern-day Buffalo and its surrounds. The extraordinary Buffalo area places shown in these pictures are often taken for granted. Buffalo sits at the center of an incredibly diverse and beautiful landscape and many photographers are taking note.


 


Photo: Matt Green

Photo:Christine Clark-Hess you can find more of her work herehttp://www.christinehess.com

The Niagara Falls is hard to take for granted when you are there in person but, there are hundreds of pictures available at your fingertips documenting their beauty that can make them seem ho-hum.  These two give you the sense of drama, romance, and wonder that compel a longer look and probably engender a desire to take some time and visit in person.


 


Photo: Chuck Banas

Photo Nate Newman

With two of the Great Lakes and the Niagara River on Buffalo’s doorstep, Western New Yorker’s have easy access to one of the planet’s most amazing natural features.  Getting out on the water is a special privilege which gives a new perspective on our place in the universe.  The waterways of the Buffalo area are very diverse. These two images give a sense of that diversity. Below, a dreamy hidden cove on an uninhabited Niagara River Island; Above, the city is a distant mirage fading into the hazy pastel sky.


 


Joe George--chef, interfaith minister, writer, and photographer--lives in Allentown with his teenage son and two pugs. He blogs at www.urbansimplicity.com

Photo: Christopher Byrd

The power of architecture to turn inanimate stones and glass into expressions of our being is expressed well in these examples.  The emotional contrast is stark between these two. The top with its whimsical color and delight is comforting.  The windows are open to a beautiful summer day.  What happy event is going on here?  The bottom image gives us the contrasting sense of foreboding.  The birds circle above the gorgeous hulk of a church warn us away. It is interesting to think that a wedding or baptism may have been going on at the time of this picture.


 
Photo Robert Szymanski

The last image (for now) needs no words.  It is pure pixel poetry. This lonely outer harbor grain elevator, jutting out into the lake, is a popular subject of photographers.  I could make a story based just on photos have come across of this amazing place.


 

The richness of the Buffalo area landscape is a fascinating and not always fully appreciated asset. I have so many more images in the queue that I will have to put together another gallery like this in the near future.  In the mean time go out and enjoy these places in person.  You won’t need a camera lens to experience a dreamland.

 

The opening image shows Forest Lawn Cemetery in winter.  Forest lawn is gorgeous in every season, but it is sublime in winter.

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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