Carl Weese 092818

Carl Weese, The American Drive-In Theater

September 1st - September 28th, 2018
Artist Talk: Saturday September 8th, 4pm - 5pm (calendar)
Artist Reception: Saturday September 8th, 5pm - 7pm

Camerawork Gallery
301 N. Graham Street, Portland, OR 97227
Located in Lorenzen Conference Center - Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Campus.
9am - 6pm, Monday-Saturday, Sunday, 10am-4pm
Free off street parking available, Stair and elevator access

Connecticut photographer, Carl Weese notes, “My fascination with the American Drive-In Theater began by chance, when I saw something interesting by the side of the road. In 1998 I was working on a series of photographs of parks and forest reserves in northwestern Connecticut when I spotted a partly overgrown screen of a drive-in theater nestled into hills, a couple hundred yards west of the road. The flat field in between was littered with speaker poles lying on the ground. After exploring for a few minutes I decided it would be a good subject, in early morning light. At dawn several days later, making several exposures with my 8x10 inch camera, heavy clouds rolled in, blocking the sunlight turning the whole scene dull, so the moment was over. When I developed the film I liked the negative so much that I printed it in my next darkroom session and immediately added the picture to my “Current Work” portfolio of platinum/palladium prints.

“Over the next couple of years I found that people who looked at the portfolio often had a particularly strong reaction to the theatre picture. Some recognized the subject immediately, but others would give the print a puzzled look for a while until suddenly the screen—or sometimes the fallen speaker poles—would register. More often than not this would lead to stories about past experiences since operating drive-ins had become scarce in the New York metro area.

“In early 2001, working on another photographic project, I encountered a theatre in Ohio, this one closed for the season but still operating, with an impressive fullyenclosed, metal-clad screen tower. In November of that year, working on yet another project, I found The Pike theater in Montgomery, PA. Closed for the season but still operational a few weeks after 9/11/01. While working with 8x10 and 7x17 cameras, something in the back of my mind clicked about, not this theatre, but the idea of drive-in theaters as a subject. I knew that at one time there had been thousands of them.

“Every drive-in theater is unique. Almost all of them have been individual familyowned operations. Often, when I was able to connect with owners or managers, I found myself speaking with someone who’d been with the theater for fifty years, or was the second or third generation of a family to run the operation.

“The concept of an outdoor theater where patrons could watch movies from their cars was created by a single individual, Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. In 1932 Hollingshead was a manager in the family company Whiz Auto Products. He wanted to start a business, and also wanted to patent an invention he could franchise. Once the idea of watching movies on a giant screen from the family car was born, it spread with amazing speed.

“During the boom years big drive-in theaters in or near urban centers could expect large crowds. Sadly, few of these theaters can still be found. While sixty years ago drive-in theaters were everywhere, today few remain in urban settings, while a surprising number of the ones I’ve visited are in spectacular settings that could serve for a wealthy country estate. At the opposite extreme, several theaters I photographed in 2012 were situated directly adjacent to large tank farms.

“The sudden die-off of drive-in theaters that began in the early 1960’s had multiple causes: Television, and later the VCR evolving into the “home theater”. Theater owners wryly joke that the only way to get rich from owning a drive-in theater is to sell it to Walmart. Drive-ins can’t survive where commercial real estate values are high.

“By 2017, I’d made photographs of drive-in theaters in fourty-four states, always looking for theaters that had a special visual resonance with their particular landscape surroundings.”


From 1972 until the late 2000s I worked as a freelance assignment photographer for commercial and editorial clients, while spending as much time as I could on selfassigned fine art projects. Corporate clients included IBM, Litton, Associated Spring, The Torrington Company, General Electric, and others. Magazine clients included Business Week, House Beautiful, Practical Homeowner, Family Handyman, and others.

For several years in the 80s I wrote a column for ProPhoto magazine. In the 90s I wrote extensively for PhotoTechniques Magazine and held the title Contributing Editor. In 1998 I was co-author and designer/illustrator for the book The New Platinum print—an instruction manual in contemporary approaches to the classic platinum/palladium photographic print. I continue to write technical articles for the web site The Online Photographer.

My personal projects began with a text/pictures study of religious ritual, completed on a college scholarship trip with the International Honors Program, traveling around the world during the 1969-70 academic year.

While completing professional assignments to pay the bills and support personal work, I did projects looking at life in a small rural Pennsylvania town, multiple series of pictures of the characteristic landscape of the U.S. East Coast, two different series following a traveling carnival through New England, and more landscape work ranging from New England down the coast to Alabama and Florida, along with several series looking at vernacular architecture including rural church buildings. The largest project is a study of Drive-in Movie theaters in all of the various regional American landscape settings, a project that now includes more than 200 theaters. Some of the Drive-in work has been featured in a one-person show at the Washington (CT) Art Association and will be in a one-person show this September at Camerawork Gallery in Portland, OR. Several magazine articles have featured the work, along with multiple online venues, including the New York Times “Lens” blog


“The Great American Drive-in Theater Road Trip”, Photo Techniques Magazine, Sept/Oct 2013. Eight page article with six reproductions of photographs.

Artist in Residence, October 14-21, 2012, The Firehouse Cultural Center, Ruskin, Florida.

“From the Road: Off-Topic pictures from the Great Drive-in Theater Road Trip”. Solo exhibit at The Firehouse.

“Working Pictures: The Pennsylvania Series,” at The Camerawork Gallery, Scranton, PA, 2010.

"Coal Country,” The Camerawork Gallery, Scranton, PA, September 2007. “The American Drive-in Movie Theater,” Washington Art Association, Washington, Connecticut, February, 2007.

The Connecticut Vision, 2006, Juried show, The Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, CT. In Living Color, The Gunn Memorial Library’s Stairwell Gallery.

The Enigmatic Landscape, Curated by Carl Weese, Photographs by: Jens Knigge (Germany), Harald Leban (Austria), Tony McLean (England), Carl Weese (United States), Witho Worms (Netherlands), 2005, Corporate and Museum Frame, Richmond, VA.

Two Views, Photographs of the American Scene by David Peter Arnold and Carl Weese, Minor Memorial Library, Roxbury, CT

The Connecticut Vision 2004, Juried Exhibition, Mattatuck Museum.

Group Show, West Wind Studio, Washington, Connecticut.

Steep Rock and the Shepaug, West Wind Gallery, Washington, Connecticut, Contact prints in platinum/palladium, photographs made at Steep Rock Reservation between 1997 and 2002.

The Fixed & The Fluid, Group Show of Gallery Artists, Alper's Fine Arts, Gleason Public Library, Carlisle, MA.

November 2002, The Connecticut Vision 2002, Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut, Juried Show.

October 14-November 11, 2001, ”Spectra 2001", National Photography Biennial, Silvermine Art Guild.

June 22 to July 22, 2001, ”Illuminations", Alpers Fine Art, Andover, Massachusetts.

"Two Rivers: Photographs from the Shepaug and Farmington Rivers”, April, 2001, Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, Connecticut, Two-Person Show with Andrew Buck.

Three-Person Show, Large Format Platinum/Palladium Prints, April, 2001, Richmond, Virginia, Corporate & Museum Frame.

Annual Juried Photography Exhibition 2000, December 1, 2000 to January 31, 2001 Corporate & Museum Frame, Richmond, Virginia, Ashley Kistler, Juror.

November, 2000 Solo Exhibition, American Landscapes, Atelier pH7, Brussels, Belgium, Roger. Kockaerts, Curator.

The Connecticut Vision 2000, Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut.

The Focused Eye, 2000, Group Exhibit, New Arts Gallery, Bantam, Connecticut.)