October 2021

View from Hopkins Green

© Matthew Word Bain

street scene from the shade in the park
on a hot day in August, waiting for a friend
confining myself to the perimeter of this small park
on the corner of a block in the heart of downtown
I find the perspective of the observer enhanced
peering out from the shade of large trees
at a downtown landscape in the heat of summer
with a longer view on a wall that would offer less interest
from the distance available on the sidewalk adjacent
and the perspective on a building in shade
from a location also well shaded
with a hot strip of pavement
on the street in between


© Matthew Word Bain

image within image
reflection above
print below
in this image
no longer

a strange semblance
of scenery in strange light
as the gathering dark rushes in
to fill the vacuum of the fading light

Learning to Remember

© Matthew Word Bain

Looking north-northeast at the level crossing on the road to the confluence where the Norfolk Southern line heads south-southwest to the freight exchange yard between Glasgow and the James River. The line of mountains to the right have drawn my eye from Buena Vista, where this line runs to join up with the Norfolk Southern through line in this area.

I have a memory of watching a train travel these tracks, the black engines emblazoned with the white stallion, moving slowly as I turned toward town from the highway, the road I was on intersecting with the path of the train just where the tracks disappear on the horizon in this image. The image in my mind is blurry like this one, faded, and warm with the heat of the summer day that bore it and associations with floating down the river with friends as I was on my way to do at the time.

Memories are precious to me, as I seem to have access to so few of them. Photographs not only record a moment in time; for me they also serve as a touchstone for memory itself. Learning to play with preserving examples of the way time and place intersect is also an exploration of my own relationship with memory itself. I’m only just now beginning to realize this, I think – if I have known it before, I have forgotten.


© Matthew Word Bain

like holding an exposed film reel to the light
I gaze through these frames at the sky
hoping to catch a cloud or a bird
suspended within these lines
and a moment of time

Guns and Ammo

© Matthew Word Bain

well sited on the edge of town
with ample parking and
clean sight lines
but no longer
open for business
let alone well trimmed
as the ivy crown suggests
a fading snapshot of days gone
not altogether distant looking back
and waiting for a time perhaps
not altogether distant
looking forward
when forces converge
to make a profitable venture
here on the edge of town
beside the train tracks
in view of the mountains
and just out of earshot
of the nearby rivers
whose presence
may indeed suggest
a more peaceful business
serving the crowd that comes
to spend their leisure on the water


© Matthew Word Bain

seed heads I recognize
whose name I don’t recall
spikes like a punk rock hairdo
less prickly to the touch
than would seem by sight

not a thistle, I don’t think
but reminiscent of one
leaves much softer
and with blooms
more white than pink

The History of Stream Meanders

© Matthew Word Bain

This is the pass that leads to the confluence of the Maury and James Rivers. The road ends at the confluence, just before the railroad bridge. The bridge that appears in previous images is on what is now the CSX line, previously the Richmond & Alleghany, and before that the James River and Kanawha Canal line, originally the James River Company, formed in 1785 with encouragement from George Washington. The emergence of rail travel overwhelmed the slow to develop canal project, and rail traffic along the sinuous curves of the James has been a constant ever since.

The tracks in the foreground are the Norfolk Southern line, originally the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, en route to Glasgow where Norfolk Southern and CSX switch freight between their lines. In the mid-nineteenth century, when canal traffic was at its height and the railroad was on its way, Glasgow appeared to be a perfect location for business success and growth. The iron boom of the late nineteenth century amplified all of these things considerably.

And yet, today the town of Glasgow is geographically isolated from commerce. After the iron boom went bust, and now with commercial traffic largely rerouted from rail to interstate, and the interstate half an hour away through neighboring Buena Vista and much rural land, there’s not much going on in this town. The brick plant has been closed for decades, and the cement plant closed long before that. Investments have been made in establishing a walking trail from the town out to the canoe launch at the confluence, and safety upgrades have been put in place there as well, catering to the steady stream of kayakers, canoeists, and tubers who come in warm weather.

Just as the course of a waterway shifts over time, so does the flow of human commerce. This town that benefitted for so long from the local rivers and has come to be so isolated from the flow of modern commerce now finds itself returning attention to the rivers as a new type of commerce emerges along them.

Abstract Representation

© Matthew Word Bain

I am seeking an aesthetic
by means of resonance
between subject and object
something blurry, in this case
as I meander through time
with a vintage digital camera
and a “lens” made without glass
finding a perspective as the subject
in tune with the presence of the object

how does the object want to be seen?
how can I see it most accurately?

something funny happens
in the relationship between
abstract and representational
when an increase in abstraction
yields more accurate representation

how does this building feel?
can I come to feel that myself?
and then can I convey that feeling
more completely with a crisp image, or
with one that communicates something else –
something important – by its very aesthetic?