The Muse: Kevin Pletcher’s Photography for Subliminal Listening

Wallpaper B: Subliminal Listening by Bob Ohrum

Photographer Kevin Pletcher provided the photos for Bob Ohrum’s album Subliminal Listening. This is Kevin’s story of how it came about:

At the time the pictures were taken for the cover of Subliminal Listening, I was just discovering the ease of digital photography: the ability to see the picture immediately after taking it and, in most cases, being able to re-shoot the subject to capture that “perfect shot”. This, for me, was the birth of my photo creativity. I was taking pictures whenever I could find the time, wherever I could find subject matter.

One day, at lunchtime, having photographed nearly everything within sight of my car, I began to think of places and things to plan to capture photographically. I had been passing an abandoned office building every day on my morning commute. It dawned on me that that abandoned building might be a great place to go for a lunch time “Photo Safari”.

The very next morning, my thoughts were consumed with the prospect of exploring the abandoned Hooker Chemicals Corporation office building. At lunchtime I began the journey of a lifetime. As I approached the thruway exit I had no way of knowing just how powerful an experience I was about to have.

As I left the highway, the exit made a disorienting 180-degree turn. As it straightened out, all around me were fields of tall grass and wildflowers, sunburnt and golden from long summer days. Then, suddenly, on the horizon, a speck of green glowing in the midday sun. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I needed to get closer to that beautiful green object that that was beginning to fill my view.

As I got closer to the object, I was taken by the size and beauty of its patina. I was lost in the wonder of the history of this wonderful object. The unnamed sculpture bore witness to the importance and wealth that once were.

I spent all of my lunch hour that day and many days after that taking pictures of the sculpture and dreaming the stories of its past.

I only took a few shots of the building itself; the beauty lies solely in its sculpture.

One day, just a few months later, while visiting the sculpture that had become my muse, I was appalled to discover that there were pieces missing from the back section. Someone with much less reverence for the sculpture than I had decided that they were entitled to destroy the monument and, presumably, sell it off for scrap. Thankfully the front section remains. I believe that the front section of the sculpture served as cover for the scum-sucking thieves.

Kevin’s photo album of the Hooker Sculpture.
Grand Island E-News reference to the sculpture. It’s near the bottom of a very long page. Search for “Nathan Cook Photo”.
Smithsonian Institute reference. The Smithsonian had no record of this piece until Kevin contacted them.

Find more photos like this on Relaxed Machinery

“the machines are relaxing”

The factory building stood in stark silhouette against the slowly darkening sky.  Oddly the building seems serene.  There’s no trepidation in your footsteps as you approach the entrance and go in.   You flip the large electric throw switch and hear generators in the distance whir and hum to life.  The lights slowly bring the hallways out of darkness… a pale yellow, faintly flickering light.  

The factory floor is filled with machines of every sort.   What kind of factory was this?   Humming, buzzing, clicking, water dripping, lights slowly blinking from various areas of the factory.   The machines aren’t fully on, but they’re not shut down totally.   It’s as if they’re resting, waiting for when they are needed again.

In one area giant metal tubs are stacked, each labeled with a faded gear wheel.  Forklifts clearly moved these from place to place, holding whatever products were built here.   You continue your journey through the old factory.  But is it old?  It seems in oddly good condition.  A doorway leads to a stairway and several flights down. 

Lots of rooms down here.  Offices, desks, lamps, charts, diagrams – all neat and orderly.  A door at the end of the hall seems the most interesting… a sign above it reads:  .: file archives 

Inside is row after row of file cabinets.  Picking one at random you pull out a file – once again seeing the large gear wheel printed on the file folder that you saw in the factory on the tubs.   Opening the folder you find neatly typed – File # rM_00001 .: Steve Brand .: Circular Scriptures … a computer screen at the far end of the room catches your eye… on it is a list of file #’s…   rM_00001, rM_00002, rM_00003.    You select the file for Steve Brand and music begins to play…