I made just two visits to the Greystone Inn before it changed forever. One as a newlywed son-in-law in August 2008. The second in August 2014 to introduce our 5 year old son to his grand parents. It seemed to me even then, to be a place whose time was passing.
The Greystone is located in Mayfield NY. The building is roughly 150 years old and started out as a rest stop for passing stage coaches. That part of New York state lays within the Adirondack National Park – 6 million acres of mostly wilderness. Approximately 50 per cent of the park is privately owned. 20 acres of dense pine forest including The Greystone Inn, are owned by my wife’s parents, Gene and June Wood who moved up there in the late 1980’s after their children left home.
The national park attracts a particular type of person to live in it. There is still a feeling of the American frontier and this is reflected in the attitudes of it’s inhabitants. Gun culture is ubiquitous and normalised in a way that is alien to my own experience. It is also exotic and interesting to me having been brought up in the west of Ireland playing cowboys and Indians and watching Western movies and American TV shows. While firearms are commonplace, ammunition costs money. Brass casings are collected and refilled and so shooting is less of an everyday pastime than one might expect. In my case it was something they did to entertain the visitor and this is why the only photograph of someone holding a gun is a self portrait, having what was laughingly called my ‘red-neck moment’.
By the time of our last visit in August 2014, the business of running the Greystone Inn was becoming too much for Gene and June.They were both in their mid 70’s and there was talk of selling up and retiring. The photographs you see here are a conscious attempt by me to document the people and the place for my son before it disappeared into posterity.
This photo essay was culled from a larger body of work in order to convey a particular narrative and to work within the constraints of this publication. What it represents is a personal impression not necessarily true to the lived experience of my wife’s family. While none of the situations in the photographs were contrived, it should not necessarily be considered strictly documentary. The effect is not meant to be factual, but true to how the place seemed to me at the time.
Photographs are by their nature elegiac – that is to say, they exist in the past. The instant the shutter clicks the moment is gone only the image remains. Not long after we returned home my wife’s parents retired and leased their business. The interior was remodeled and The Greystone that had captured my imagination was consigned to the past.
Then in December 2015 Gene Wood, my wife’s father, died after a long illness.
These photos of The Greystone, alongside many more, can be found in the new, spring issue of The Lonely Crowd, which may be purchased here.
Photographer Seamus Sullivan is a graduate of Dublin Institute of Technology’s photography degree program. He lives with his family in County Galway.
Copyright © Seamus Sullivan, 2016.