"Home is this little house in which I live, and much beyond it." — Robert Francis, 1986
Fort Juniper is the name of a small one-person house in the woods of Amherst, Massachusetts. It was built by the poet Robert Francis (1901-87) in 1940 and served as his home until his death. Presently, it is used to host poets-in-residence through the Robert Francis Trust.
While wandering in the woods as a teenager, I often encountered an older man in a cap, someone I assumed to be a poet but never spoke to; many years later, I learned that the man who tipped his hat to me was Francis. It was in this area of Amherst where I first forged my sense of intimacy with the land and it was these same environs that Francis would walk for inspiration. Via Francis’ poems and prose, I am seeing my former hometown with new eyes and capturing the intersection of his understanding of this place with my own experience.
Many people know of the other two great poets from Amherst, Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, and an additional aim of this project is to bring more attention to Francis and his work. For Francis, Fort Juniper was more than just an abode in which to reside, it was a fort to shelter him, a lens through which he viewed the world, and a mirror with which to observe his inner states. In researching Francis, I have read his autobiography, poems, and many of his newspaper columns. Tales of walks and neighbors, trees and chickens, these are the observations made with the eyes of a poet. It is from Francis’ reflections and poetry that I occasionally cull titles and inspiration for my images.
The area being photographed is growing naturally to include parts of the river that flow away from Fort Juniper towards my childhood home and other locations related to Francis. In essence, this project allows me entrance into a world I had left many years ago and the opportunity to explore how and where our lives interweave through time.