Editor’s Miscellany: Other Kinds of Love

By Kyle Hoepner

What better way to observe Valentine’s Day than by celebrating a love shared with others? In this case I’m referring to a love of the aesthetics of human constructions, and the co-enamoree is photographer Brian Vanden Brink.

One aspect of Vanden Brink’s work will be very familiar to readers of New England Home–he has photographed many features that have appeared in the magazine over the years, with a particular focus on Maine and the Cape and islands. But his most recent book, Iconic: Perspectives on the Man-Made World, reveals a much more omnivorous delight in how humans interact with the landscape via constructed form.

Iconic: Perspectives on the Man-Made World, by Brian Vanden Brink

As you might expect from an artist based in Camden, Maine, New England places loom large in the collection. But Vanden Brink’s eye ranges far beyond just our six states and far beyond the luxurious architecture typically depicted in his commercial work. The elegant and the disregarded get equal attention, frequently presented in a frontal, deceptively deadpan style. There’s no disguising the intensity of Vanden Brink’s affection for his subjects, however, and it shines through in the succulent colors and polish of these ostensibly unassuming images.

Abandoned Gas Station and Cafe, Route 66, Essex, California (2009). All photos by Brian Vanden Brink, courtesy of Down East Books.

Aroostook County, Maine (1987)

Union Station, Omaha, Nebraska (1989)

Cairo, Illinois (2009)

Gas Station/Truck Stop, Willington, Connecticut (2011)

In a few cases, such as the courtyard of Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute, people are integral to the experience of the place. But much more often Vanden Brink’s photos evince a silent monumentality where humanity is represented solely by its creations in counterpoise with nature. The scale of what’s contemplated varies greatly, from a single barbed-wire fence to a bare corner of an eighteenth-century room to an electrical control panel to the complete city sprawl of Las Vegas.

Kathleen at the Salk Institute Courtyard, La Jolla, California (2007)

Barbed Wire, Sandhills of Western Nebraska (1993)

Olson House, ca. late 1700s, Cushing, Maine (1995)

Cell Block Control Panel, Former Maine State Prison, Thomaston, Maine (1999)

Chairs in The Temple, Old Orchard Beach, Maine (2011)

Urban Sprawl, Las Vegas at Night (2011)

Even when tackling subjects–Manhattan, say, or a bustling fairground–that imply crowds and activity, Vanden Brink’s approach creates instead a quiet celebration of things, environment, light.

View of New York City from a Train Passing Through Queens (2011)

Union Fair, Union, Maine (1998)

Midtown Manhattan After Snowstorm (2011)

If you find yourself hungering, this Valentine’s Day, for something more lasting than just candy hearts and roses, I recommend you check out this collection of portraits from a decades-long love affair.

Iconic: Perspectives on the Man-Made World
By Brian Vanden Brink
Foreword by Edgar Allen Beem
Down East Books, 2012
Click here to order, or call (800) 685-7962.

Beach Cottages, Provincetown, Massachusetts (2011)

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