photographs by Joseph Gerhard
Manton Westwood Books, New Haven, CT, 2011. 115 pp., 95 toned black & white plates, 10½x10½".
One camera. One lens. One year. One mile of river. Mill River is an extended meditation on a specific place and time—the product of sustained looking and contemplation.
This section of the river is in part created by the run-off from the Eli Whitney Dam, built in 1860 to provide a reservoir for the city of New Haven and power for Eli Whitney’s factory, then located at the base of the dam. It is an area that would now be completely covered by a mile-long, four-lane off-ramp from the nearby interstate were it not for the efforts of a passionate, grass-roots campaign in the early 1960s that successfully stopped the project. From the photographer: 'Most fascinating to me is that while this section of river appears relatively unplanned and natural, it is very much a manmade artifact in the sense that the entire ecology of the area has been shaped—positively and negatively—by decisions made over the past 150 years.
During the past 15 years I've spent a lot of time walking in this area, observing the river from the paths along its banks—how it always appeared in small fragments, framed by branches, leaves, rocks, and mud. Its movement is usually so slow and still that the current exists almost as a negative presence—visible mostly in the shifting reflections of trees, branches, and sky. I became fascinated by the way the river seemed both integral to the landscape and barely there at the same time.'