I am a spur-of-the-moment photographer. I tend to take ‘em as I see ‘em. That’s not to say I don’t work with different angles and compositions, and I certainly spend enough time adjusting colour, crop, contrast etc on the computer. But I have to admit that I seldom plan ahead.
Last night was an exception. I had two reasons to take photos. The first was because it was Thursday, and Utata (the Flickr photo group I participate in) always has a weekly project called Thursday walks. The second is the photo conference happening this weekend in Moncton, called Foto Expo, which is also running a contest with the theme “downtown architecture”. I didn’t get out during the daytime because I was making apple chutney, and it took longer than I expected (doesn’t it always). So that’s why I was uptown with a camera and tripod at 8 p.m. last night.
I had been wanting to take a photo of this building for a while, so last night was the perfect opportunity. Finding the puddle was a bonus. I’m really glad I planned ahead and brought the equipment I needed for this photo shoot. I spent about 40 minutes in this parking lot (my car is the 2nd from the right) and took photos of this Old Post Office building from several angles. In fact, it was so much fun, I might do it again (plan ahead, that is)!
Photo taken on October 28, 2010
If you went back in time, before the graffiti and peeling paint, what would you see? I try to picture what the heyday would have looked like for this small corner shop in the South End, a few blocks from the harbour. Maybe it was a butcher shop, a barbershop or a green grocer. Maybe you could buy ice cream sodas here in the summer. I imagine this little corner bustling with activity, tradesmen making deliveries or stopping to talk, leaning against the post while they smoke a cigarette. They move out of the way politely for a young woman with a baby on one hip and a bag of groceries on the other. They pass around a grubby newspaper, scanning the headlines for news of the war, or the stock market, or the horse races…
Imagining the past is not just an exercise in nostalgia. It can help us to see past the grime of neglect in order to recognize potential. It can encourage us to breathe new life into old places as we imagine the future. And I believe that if we can imagine something, we can do it.
Taken on June 12, 2009
The uptown core of Saint John is fairly low key. Aside from a small cluster of tall buildings at the foot of King Street, the majority of the central city — much of which is 19th century streetscape — is no higher than four or five storeys. And since the city core is built on a hill that climbs up from the harbour, that means there are some interesting views if you know where to look. From the deck of this apartment in the South End where we lived last year, just a stone’s throw from the uptown area, we could see fireworks and the upper decks of cruise ships at high tide. We could see sunsets and steeples. And on a clear night we could see stars. In fact, you can see stars from almost everywhere in the city. All you have to do is look up.
Taken on May 2, 2009
Walls are seldom glamourous, architecturally speaking. It’s usually the windows or doors that get all the attention, enhancing their good looks with curtains or fancy plasterwork. Not walls; you don’t look at them, you look for a way around them. But walls have stories, too. You can tell how a building has evolved by noticing different brickwork where a window has been blocked off, or a different style of decoration where a new storey has been added. The quality of stone or masonry or brick says something about the skills, material or money available at the time. I don’t know a lot about these historical details, but I can tell that this wall has been here for a long time, and that these stones would have an interesting story to tell, if only walls could talk.
Taken on May 24, 2009
Consider the front door to your house or apartment building. Consider how your door presents itself to strangers, how it is decorative or plain, with windows or without. Consider how inviting it is to guests and discouraging to burglars.
Consider this door, double-wide and tall, made even more impressive by decorative brickwork, raised up a few steps from the street. Consider what it would be like to walk through this door, the weight of the wood as it swings open. Consider how much work it would have been to scrape away the layers of paint that once coated this door, to reveal its marvelous woodwork. Consider what it would be like to leave through this door, pick up the newspaper, and walk to work along the shady street.
Taken on November 16, 2006
There are faces in strange places when you wander the steep streets uptown. This cat-bat-creature is only one of a whole host of grinning and gruesome faces carved into the stonework. They are so easy to miss — passersby have so much on their mind — but when you spot them, they make you smile. And they make me wonder: who were these careful carvers, and what library of art did these faces spring from? Were they caricatures of people they knew, or common symbols from gargoyle history that would be understood by the common people? Did they have a meaning to convey, or were they just entertainment? I don’t know the answers, and I suppose I love the mystery of them, the history they hint at with their weathered eyes.
Taken on June 26, 2009
These cedar shakes are the cat’s meow when it comes to siding. Cedar has a natural preservative and lasts a long time. It is local and plentiful, and environmentally friendly. But like any other type of wood siding, it requires upkeep. Many of the older frame houses have held on to their vintage wood, although vinyl is gradually covering the city. Vinyl siding is lovely to look at, at least for the first 20 years, but what happens after that? Houses aren’t being built to last 100 years any more, either — I’d be surprised if the new ones last longer than 50. They don’t build houses like they used to.
Taken on May 6, 2010
In the city’s core, many houses have no room for gardens. They line the streets, sturdy brick buildings standing shoulder to shoulder, a few steps leading up to a front door. They may have started out as single family dwellings, with kitchens in the basement and servants in the attic, but now most have been divided into apartments. The main floor is often more luxurious, featuring larger windows and decorative plasterwork. I wonder what it would have been like to live here 100 years ago when the houses were new and so much of the city was still a dream to be discovered.
Taken on June 27, 2009
Imagine a city without trees, where concrete and tar turn apartment blocks into ovens. Imagine a city without sky, where you can’t tell the weather without watching TV. Imagine a city where parking lots are the only parks, where pigeons are the only birds, where everyone spends their whole lives indoors. Now stop. Look out your closest window: do you see a tree? Do you see sky or something green and alive? Good. Now turn off your computer, go outside and play.
Taken on June 21, 2009
I remember it was raining. I was walking with my camera, with the lens cap off and my finger on the shutter release, taking random photos along the street. Then I stopped and looked up. I had been wanting to capture an image of this building, but I was puzzled how to show its size. Then I realized that it doesn’t matter, that the building has a petite charm all its own, a perfectly balanced sense of itself. So in the end, I didn’t have to do anything except take the photo, and smile at my yellow rain jacket dimly reflected in the window.
Taken on May 7, 2009
At noon, with the sun high overhead, everything looks flat because the shadows don’t stretch out to either side. Unless, that is, there is room for the shadows to stretch down. And here in the city, in the canyons between buildings, the unexpected shadows reveal an Escher-like world when the sun is high overhead.
Taken on May 21, 2010
There is a ruggedness about parts of the city that appeals to my Maritime heart. There’s something about the way the old houses cling to outcrops of bare rock that expresses the stubborn tenacity that is part of life here. There’s sadness here, but also strength, and the two qualities spring from the same source, the same history, the same foundation.
Taken on May 22, 2010
It was noon, and the bright sun was lighting up the buildings on the other side of the alley. I turned to the shadow side, and found this symmetrical wall with its understated 19th century architectural elegance.
Taken on May 21, 2010