Two Weeks in Renkum!

Today marks the end of the second week that Lorie and I have been here in Renkum, and it’s also, coincidentally, our three-month anniversary. I made a horrendously unglamorous bachelor-fare dinner of pizza, with a side of chips and salsa. It’s really not a very appropriate meal for a special occasion, unless one hasn’t had them in a while, but that was kind of the case for me. I don’t know if Lorie was having any cravings, but for my part, I’ve been thinking a pizza sounds pretty good, and have been keeping an eye out for tortilla chips and salsa. It’s not that they don’t have either of them in the Netherlands– but the ecology of the grocery stores here is different, which is something I can probably write about just by itself. Chips & salsa seems to be almost unknown here– I found a smallish (or what is probably a calorically sensible size, actually) bag of plain corn tortilla chips, and a small jar of store-brand salsa, which is great, but they were essentially the only option. Of course, I’m sure it’s similar for folks from the Netherlands who find themselves in the United States– most US grocers probably have very little to offer in the realm of toast sprinkles, and they would perhaps be aghast at our meager sausage selections.

So, we’ve been here for two weeks now– aside from prowling the grocery store and riding a bike around, what have I been doing? As I mentioned last week, I’ve got a project brewing, and I think I’ve been working on it enough that I can divulge the gist of it: I’ve been making a photographic exploration of bricks.

Bricks are everywhere here. I mean, everywhere. Back in Montana at least, we really only have bricks in the downtowns of towns & cities old enough to have proper downtowns, and in big “institution” buildings, like schools, city halls, and some hospitals. For the most part, it seems like if something is made out of classical bricks, it was probably built before the 1950s or 60s. If you think of an “old” school gymnasium, for example, it is probably a red brick structure. If you think of a “new” one, it’s probably made of cinderblocks. Here, though, everything is made of brick, or some variety of brick. It really seems way more widespread. Nearly every house and building I go past is made of brick. Monuments are brick, churches are brick. Most driveways seem to be made out of brick, and rather than chain link fences, brick walls seem to form many property boundaries. Even the sidewalks here are made of brick, rather than slabs of concrete. It sounds homogenous, but it actually leads to quite a bit of variety. There are a few different kinds of brick that tend to get used, and a several kinds of patterns they form when they’re placed. Sometimes there are color differences (though mostly red and brown), but what I really like are the alterations that nature makes to them over time. New brick has a very clean, geometric look, whether its placed on the ground or part of a building, but as it ages, the uniformity starts to drift. Moss grows in the spaces between, hard edges soften, and in the oldest brick, chunks go missing, and cracks form and expand. Graffiti sometimes adds a splash of color, and in the untended areas, ivy and other plants wrap the brick so extensively that it can be almost entirely hidden. Basically, it’s something that has caught my interest, so it’s been something I’ve been exploring the past few weeks.

I’m also working on prior work too– I haven’t forgotten the Papo’s Shop project from last month, and am editing the images down to a short list. Right now the roster is sitting at about 30 images, and now that I think about it, I could probably safely pick out 10 or 15 favorites to show you. I’ve been working with this silly notion that I have to “finish” it before I can show the work, but the reality is that there is nothing wrong with starting with images that I know are my favorite, and adding more later to “complete” the work. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have something of a perfectionist streak that keeps me from moving forward, and I think this is one of those cases where it’s been at the wheel without me really being aware of it. So, I should have a new gallery for you soon, and, of course, bricks to follow.

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