On June 28, 2010, The Great Picture was rolled out for maintenance. A hypo test revealed chemicals still on the surface of the muslin that need to be washed away. This is not an easy task on a picture that is 3 stories high by 11 stories long.
The Great Picture is part of the Legacy Project, documenting the closing of El Toro Marine base and it’s transformation into the Great Park in Orange County, Ca. The core group of photographers who started the legacy project are Jerry Burchfield, Mark Chamberlain, Jacques Garnier, Rob Johnson, Doug McCulloh, and Clayton Spada.
To wash the picture, you need a building long and high enough to hang it. Then you need two forklifts, a boom lift, 700 feet of hose, hundreds, if not thousands of gallons of clean water, a hand made trough, dozens of sandbags, and enough man power to get the task done. Next is the necessary flexibility to always have a Plan B when things don’t go the way you think they will. When you are working with a photograph this large, snags are inevitable, patience is a must, and creative thinking is critical.
For the first three days, I help Mark Chamberlain get the picture ready. The majority of the time, it was just the two of us, and Mark’s constant companion, Po the dog. The picture had already been unrolled and hoisted to the ceiling of the massive abandon building at the former El Toro Marine Base in Southern California. We adjusted, tugged, pulled, and cussed, testing everything along the way. Once Mark was satisfied with the placement of the picture, we tied the bottom edge up off the floor to prevent it from getting dirty and to try to keep the nasty critters that love abandon buildings off it.
On the second day, we arrived to find someone had broken into the building overnight. I was holding my breath until a full inspection of the picture was made. My fear was that the intruder would think of it as the ultimate canvas, just waiting for graffiti. Fortunately, it was unharmed. We turned our attention to setting up the hoses. The building no longer has electricity or water, so we needed over 700 feet to reach from the closest water source to the building.
The third day was the was dedicated to building the trough. We used massive amounts of heavy duty plastic, sandbags, and swimming pool lane lines. We patched holes and straightened the plastic, then ran a water test. It seemed to work.
Finally, the day arrived to get the washing done. I had a previously planned photo safari to Northern California, so I was not present. It’s probably a good thing, because I wouldn’t have been able to resist starting a water fight with the hoses.
Here are the facts as relayed to me by Jacques Garnier. Man power included Mark Chamberlain, Clayton Spada, Rob Johnson, Joe Photo, Pat Sparkhul, Jacques Garnier, and Po the dog. It took five hours to completely wash the picture, and 48 hours to dry. Once another hypo test was done, and deemed free of chemicals, the picture was ready to roll up for storage. Making sure the muslin was wrinkle free took an hour and a half. The Great Picture is now safely stored in an air conditioned and insulated cargo container.