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Silo City

Silo City – a portrait of constancy and change

a photography exhibition by Thomas Bittner

What makes a place special? The answer is in a journey in which a place reveals itself in ways that are difficult to put in words. This exhibition documents my journey of exploration of a place called ‘Silo City’, a collection of about ten, mostly disused, silos along a one-mile stretch of the Buffalo River in the southern part of the City of Buffalo. Over a period of one year from 2012 to 2013 I visited this place numerous times, took thousands of images, and begun to feel at home. As I came back again and again, I discovered how things change over the course of days, months, and seasons but nevertheless remain the same. It is this interplay of constancy and change which to me reveals the essence of this place. It is this interplay I aim to capture in the images selected for this exhibition.

Skyline series
The four images of the Skyline series portrait the fast dimensions of the silo structures and, in conjunction, explore the relations between the silos and the Buffalo River.  The silos extend into the river through their reflections. Silos and river belong together, even though these days ships rarely come to dock and empty their loads. During the winter the silo walls seem to protect the sleeping river. They extend their protection to the ducks who make their home on the ice.

Geometry, weather, and clouds – the American Elevator series
The images of the American Elevator series explore the ways in which the dominant and stark character of the geometry of the American elevator amplifies subtle differences that arise due to the weather, changes in the quality of the light, etc. Nine images are mounted in a 3×3 matrix to the main wall of the gallery. Individual images focus on specific situations while the matrix as a whole portraits the interplay of the constancy of the geometry of the silo structure and the ever-presence of changes in its environment. For example: An upcoming weather front reduces contrast between foreground and background and makes the foreground colors appear in muted soft pastel tones (AE4). Snowfall creates a fascinating contrast between the chaotic movement of zillions of tiny particles and the timeless presence of the geometric regularity of the silo. The falling show softens the rigorous geometry and promotes soft pastel color tones (AE1). Particularly impressive is the contrast between the geometric regularity of the silo and the irregular and at times chaotic structure of the clouds.

Reflections of the American Elevator
The silos extend into the river through their reflections. The ever-present changes of those reflections are the subject of the American Elevator Reflections series. The images of this series are mounted in a 3×3 matrix to the back wall of the gallery. Again, individual images display particular situations while the matrix as a whole focusses on the interplay of constancy  and change: Depending on the angle of the sun, the wind which creates waves on the surface of the river, and many other factors, at some times the river almost acts as a mirror (bottom row) while at other times one needs one’s imagination to recognize the reflected silo structure (top row).

Like gigantic relicts from an ancient past
Some of the more isolated silo structures stand out from their surroundings like gigantic relicts from an ancient past. In their relative isolation and in conjunction with their disuse they impose an impression of loneliness and out-of-timeness on the observer. It is this impression that I aim to capture in the  images of the series ‘lonely silo by the lake’.