“I see these photos as a part of the family album that at one point I’d like to put back into the album, so that 100 years from now someone can look at it and say, ‘Jeez, that guy was working through some issues.” This was Richmond-based photographer Paul Thulin’s response when I asked him about the role of his family in the hypnotic series Pine Tree Ballads. I’d have to agree that these mysterious photographs would raise some eyebrows amidst the normal snapshot and portrait fare of an album. They are photographs of a family that reveal nothing about the individuals—many of the images do not include people at all, but rather a foreboding abandoned homestead in the woods. And when people are shown, they haunt the frame, peering out from its edges like feral animals caught in the light.
Pine Tree Ballads is set on the land where Thulin’s family has spent their summers for the past 100 years—a place called Gray’s Point, just off the coast of Maine. This setting seems to be the central character of the work, transformed by Thulin into one of physical and psychological escape and relishing in photography’s ablilty to confuse the real and the imagined. The fantasy of the “get-away”, the escape from our everyday world, invariably contains the entry to another world, where the rules of reality may not apply. Here Thulin has created a fantastical archive that shows at once a family, a place, a myth, a collection of objects, and the musing of a guy just trying to work out some issues.
This post was contributed by photographer Lara Shipley.