George Air Force Base, 2015 - 2017
In January 2015, I began photographing in the abandoned housing area at the decommissioned George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. This was an ongoing project until late April 2017. I was initially given permission to photograph exteriors for one weekend at the beginning of the project and I was also given permission for last couple of months at the end of the project. Otherwise all of my activities were clandestine.
The architect, A. Quincy Jones, was hired to design the approximately 600 housing units in the area that I photographed. These units were constructed between 1965 and 1972. The base was closed in 1992, and due to ground water contamination, the housing units were abandoned and have been subsequently left to deteriorate. (For more info see About George Air Force Base below. )
Over my career, I have produced many similar projects which involved an extended engagement with a site over time. I have always considered photographs to be artifacts of a physical, intellectual, technological, and experiential engagement. I have come to consider groups of my photographs produced in this manner as archives, and to consider the archive itself as the core of these projects. From these archives, any number of manifestations of a project can emerge from exhibitions, to books, to online manifestations.
Some of the photographs in this project are conventionally observational, often atmospheric observation, material observation, or direct documentation. Other images are more self-consciously engaging directly, or tangentially, with the discourse of contemporary art, often with an emphasis on gesture and abstraction. My interest in gesture is not limited to my own marks and activity but also architectural gesture, the gestures of individuals ripping open the walls stealing copper wire, or the gestures of military trainees spraying the walls with paint ball impacts during war game exercises. Or, on the exteriors, the gestures of someone recklessly driving a bulldozer clearing foliage between the buildings.
At George, we have the site of multiple engagements. The engagement of the massive and deadly momentum of the cold war. The engagement of the fictive battlefield for war games after its decommission. And the site of my own engagement of medium, sensibility, and multiple histories. Histories both cultural and personal.
I am presenting on these pages some of the loose groupings of work which I have preliminarily described by format and material (see, Why Analog). I have come to see the results of these engagements as allowing a wide range of approaches from sinister, formal, social, humorous, and personal.
These were some of the first images taken. 8x10 View Camera and Color Negative, Printed 40”x50” pigment prints.
These are images made with B&W film with a 4x5 field view camera. They are often in the mode of observational documentation but often veer of into alternate observations and investigations.
With this set of photographs, I use the 8x10 View Camera with B&W film. I would arrive just before sunrise and perform some manner of intervention in a space. The photographs were exposed at, or shortly after, sunrise. Prints are generally in two forms, 8x10 silver chloride contact prints with a few 40 x 50 pigment prints.
As yet Untitled, Gigapans :
A gigapan is a digital image made with aid of a robotic camera base. This base allows on to sequential photograph a scene over a span of time with multiple overlapping exposures. These digital image files are subsequently tiles in to a single very high resolution image.
About George Air Force Base
George Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base located within the city limits, 8 miles northwest, of central Victorville, California, about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California.George AFB was closed pursuant to a decision by the 1988 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission at the end of the Cold War. It is now the site of the Southern California Logistics Airport.Established by the United States Army Air Corps as an Advanced Flying School in June 1941, it was closed at the end of World War II. It was again activated as a training base by the United States Air Force with the outbreak of the Korean War in November 1950. It remained a training base throughout the Cold War and in the immediate post-Cold War period, primarily for the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and later the Air Combat Command (ACC), training USAF, NATO and other Allied pilots and weapon systems officers in front-line fighter aircraft until being closed in 1993.
George Air Force Base was officially decommissioned in December 1992. In 1993, President Bill Clinton announced a "Five Part Plan" to speed economic recovery in communities where military bases were to be closed. One part of this plan called for improving public participation in the base's environmental cleanup program. George AFB was among a number of installations where environmental cleanup was placed on a "fast track" so base property could be quickly transferred to the community for reuse. Many of the old base housing homes and buildings are currently used by the Army and Marine Corps for urban warfare training.
An analog photograph is, quite literally, a physical manifestation of an engagement, an artifact of history. With language, and digital photography, we are dealing with testimony and testimony appears more suspect, more amenable to interpretation and manipulation. A digital photograph can easily be reassembled in any manner that one desires. While an analog photograph is subject to forgery, forgery is a different matter altogether. I am not making an assertion here concerning objective referential accuracy, although one might be able to support such an argument. My concern lies more with how it feels, the image and its subjective reception. There is something about an analog photograph that feels like an industrial artifact. And as such, seemed appropriate to me for this project.