For the first part of a Film/Photo project that revolves around Terrence Malick, I journeyed to downtown Plattsburgh, New York. Having lived here for over three years now I was honestly a bit apprehensive of how interesting accessible locales would be but I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
The project involves developing themes and characters for a potential film in Malick’s style, one that may or may not be more concrete later depending on my confidence with a camera.
A (very) recent admirer of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, I was occupied with thoughts of broken homes and escaping to real sanctuaries of our own making, and so the locations I picked usually adhered to one side of that idea (i.e. a false home vs. a shabby but real one). Though the project is about Malick and his statements on home, Anderson’s style has an undeniable charm that I found myself channeling when deciding which locations to photograph.
This home struck me first as I walked, featuring a thin black ladder right out the front. Though it’s obviously a fire escape, my mind immediately saw a Suzy-type character using it to escape with luggage. The vibrant neighbors and the tall, front facing features of the building only enhanced the Anderson vibes, so this was a clear choice.
This small garage was less of an obvious one, but the presence of a two small windows and seemingly no attached home stood out. Perhaps a meeting place for home-escapees? Or a home so small even its front door is hidden? Bright red brick (here marred by cloudy skies) secured this one as a location as well.
Colorful, stocky, and bizarrely symmetrical, this apartment block looks like it was designed by Anderson himself. If there were ever an artificial home for kids to escape from, this is it.
Directly across the street was this large yard to a Victorian-style mansion. While the mansion was interesting in its own right (I took lots of pictures), something that stuck out to me the most was an abandoned, colorful playhouse right next door. Anyone who’s seen Badlands knows that Malick loves his dollhouses, and what better way to juxtapose false and real homes?
While I’m sure this laundromat is actually lovely, the painted-on windows were simply too good to pass up. Putting up a pretty facade to hide a lack of soul or depth is very much relevant to the theme(s).
Speaking of heavy-handed imagery, here’s a building with a literal fake doorway. This bright red building downtown has no perceptible entrance, only the appearance of one and a number. The door beside it leads to the same building technically, but the shingles and segmented door-frames make the the structure look like two buildings. On the other side, a clashing bright green building is topped with an old-timey, clock-like thermometer.
Here though, on this broken down and abandoned building, I found some pleasant signs. In the dust caking the windows flanking the ramshackle doorway are people’s writing. Most has been wiped away but many are names, many of those couples. What I make out to be “Lexi + Rayne” is written in an upper right corner. I like to think these people have found a home in each other, even if on a dusty, broken-down window.
Directly nextdoor I found this glass door. Cracked and abandoned like the adjacent building, it seems someone put a little happiness in the mess with a smiley sticker. Maybe it’s their idea of a joke, but it made me consider the little things we take solace in.
At the end of my trip (as far as walking can reasonably get me) I found this side entrance to what I assume is some kind of store. Unlike the buildings encountered before, this one is screaming to be entered. It’s hidden and small but welcoming, perhaps a goal for our escapees to reach. I’ll be thinking further on the specifics of this story, but I’m delighted that the area nearby has so many unique features to use.