Chris Coffey Photographs


a project and a lesson in seeing.....

My favorite time of the year to hike in the Cuyahoga Valley is winter. The other three seasons each have their charms but if it is snowing I usually forego whatever was on my schedule and head for the Valley. Even though it is only a 20 minute drive away, the subtle change in proximity to Lake Erie from my house to the Valley can mean very different weather conditions.

The first image in this group came about, in part, because of that climate difference. The snow was sticking to the trees near my home when I left and once I got to the Valley the temperature was cooler making the snow a powder that stuck to nothing. While I was disappointed by this I thought to myself ?just start walking and learn something? ? a mantra I live by. Leaving familiar trails (both literally and figuratively speaking) I hiked along the fence line that borders the road and as I did so, I began to notice breaks in the normal uniformity of the fence that appealed to me. I?d walked this way before in the other seasons but the fence was all but invisible to me with nature?s chaos behind it. I made a couple of negatives that day with one keeper and pitched the rest. I never forgot about that image and would look at it from time to time but never printed it as I could not verbalize what had stopped me that day. Five years later, prompted by that negative, I would return and make a series of them over the winter.

David Vestal once said, "Look at, not for" - one of the most profound photographic ideas I had ever read. This body of work is a vivid illustration of that truth for me. It was what I learned to see that day, not what I was looking for, a subject I had walked by before and many times in many other locations, exposed and printed in a palette as unfamiliar for me as the subject and when I printed the negatives I found my list of favorite things had increased by one.

Spring 2019