Carol A. Hand
Day ten, the final day of the WordPress photography course I’ve been taking.
Architecture — Go Monochrome
There are a lot of interesting historic buildings and upscale homes in my city, even in my neighborhood. I have often wished that I had time and a camera with me to take photos. This assignment was my chance!
But I’ve learned how much lighting matters from this course. By the time I travel, even in my neighborhood, the light will not be ideal. In fact, it will be glaring on this intensely sunny day when an “excessive heat warning” has been issued. (That means it will be a humid 90-plus F, or 32 C. Not hot compared to most places, but in this northern clime it raises concerns.)
Anticipating less than ideal conditions, I took some shots of my house and neighborhood yesterday evening. “How boring,” I thought, “but at least I know a little about the history of these buildings.” This morning, I realized how much history matters when I consider architecture.
Mansions built by railroad, shipping, banker, and timber barons. Churches built with gold and silver at the expense of millions murdered and enslaved. Yes, the buildings may be physically beautiful. But I see them as monuments of hubris built in the context of oppression, poverty and starvation of many. With no negative judgment of the artists who envisioned majesty and beauty and craftspeople who gave their visions life, I can’t ignore the stench and stain of the exploitive and brutal histories of many architectural wonders.
So today, my lens is focused on what is close and ordinary, the house where I live now and the building across the street. I only know pieces of their histories, but it’s enough to know that they aren’t monuments to exploitation and hubris.
I bought my home in October 2011 from Ingrid, a widow who was then 91. She lived here most of her life. The home was built by her father, a Swedish American. It’s where she and her husband raised their two daughters. Her father used materials he could afford, but his creation has so far stood the tests of time and weather.
I think the little shed in the front yard was built later by Ingrid’s husband. Their shared Swedish ancestry remained important to them. Ingrid told me that what I refer to as a “garden shed” replicates a building they saw on a trip to Sweden. To Ingrid, it was a workshop for one of her daughters who was a stained-glass artist. It carries the poignant memories of a beloved daughter who died young.
This is the front of the house when I bought it.
This is what it looks like now. I do like the way “grayscale” hides some of the work that still needs to be done.
Just across the street, there’s a different architectural view, an apartment building that opened in 1972 to provide affordable housing for elders 62 and older. It was built in an era when there was some government funding to construct housing for people with lower incomes. Clearly, utilitarian functionality and accessibility underscore its design. It’s not a testament to wealth amassed at the expense of taxpayers. But it does provide safe and affordable housing for some of my dear friends.
I’m sad to end this photography course. It’s given me an enjoyable opportunity to learn something new and experiment with perspective, a welcome respite from editing a book manuscript. But I’ve just gotten feedback from one of my reviewers. It’s worth continuing. So if my WP visits are sporadic again, that’s why. I only have 300 more pages of editing to go!
I want to thank all of you for following me on this journey. I appreciate your feedback, encouragement and support.
I want to extend a special thank you to Bob at Palliser Pass for his thoughtful comments on an earlier post.
“Hi Carol, loved the poem and photos. He sure looks like a good dog and why shouldn’t he demand respect. Been enjoying your photos. If you don’t mind I will share my observation. You are a documentary photographer, you want to share and tell a story with the photograph. I consider myself the same kind of photographer. The story or showing is more important than anything else. Keep up the good work. Bob”
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Bob. You helped me realize I do use photographs to tell a story. Your words inspired me to tell this one. 🙂
I encourage you all to visit Bob’s site. He’s a gifted photographer and storyteller.
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