A couple of years ago, I was flipping through a magazine that used its last page as a photography showcase. I forget the name of the magazine, but I remember the photo; it showed a door in a wall in St. Augustine, about which the photographer wrote that he came across the door by accident and felt that it spoke to him artistically. The photo was superbly composed and tonally resonant and it was obviously taken by a very talented practitioner.
I came across a similar door–or perhaps it was the door–while walking around St. Augustine on the Fourth of July. The photo in the magazine reappeared in my imagination; I recall being struck by the photograph and by the walled garden to which it led. I took a series of my own photographs, none of which achieved the desired effect. My door looks plain and the one in the magazine looked inviting and mysterious, as if contained within it was a secret or a romantic caprice hidden to those who ambled unknowingly by.
The door in the photograph was closed and the door I found was open, which led to the first of the amateur’s mistakes. I have the door less of a focus than what lay within the garden, and most of my photos were at a tilt. This problem of plane is a consistent one with me. If you saw my rejects, you would be convinced that one of my legs is much shorter than the other; either that or I see the world at a slant. This is probably the most likely explanation, since I square off when taking pictures as if I am shooting a .44. Shooting pictures is much the same as shooting guns.
In order to render my photograph remotely purposeful, I resorted to modern technology: I Photoshopped it. I am, as usual, trying to learn a software without reading any instructions about it. This is the same way I assemble particle-board shelving and improvements are made in fits and starts. I went on to Photoshop each photograph in this post, with mixed results. My biggest issue is that I am not patient and that there is no quality control or sense of caution. I also color outside the lines. This tendency is leftover from childhood and I don’t suppose I will ever truly be rid of it, even as I have apparently outgrown a desire to color all faces purple.
Today’s post is a tentative beginning for my new series, “Other People’s Pictures.” Every now and again, I will post pictures that other people have posed. I take these sneakily and without any sense of composition. This is because I don’t want to be too obvious about it. The world is that weird now that people taking pictures of other people’s pictures might be cause for alarm. The results will be nothing short of spectacularly banal.
I have to say that I come from easily frustrated stock and because of this I feel that I have grown by great leaps and bounds. I seem to have inherited a total lack of interest in things mechanical and a low tolerance for anything mathematical. I also cannot draw despite the fact that my head is full of politically exciting and subversive cartoons. I used to restrict myself only to writing; the photography is both departure and distraction from the business of pitching articles that will never get published.
The following photos are a slumgullion of the St. Augustine experience, and I can’t claim to have seen it all. I have also inherited a tendency to rush in as if storming a fort and then leaving as if someone is firing back.
I’m not so sure this is the door I saw in the magazine. I seem to recall that the door in the magazine was arched. In any event, this door led to a courtyard whose steps led up to a small boutique. Don’t ask me what Photoshop tricks I employed to bring out the details. It was the product of pure experimentation, not academic knowledge.
I found this tabby wall somewhat away from the main tourist section. A tabby wall is constructed of oyster shells. A marker reads:
“The wall left of this plaque extending 15′ west is the only known example of a colonial tabby wall in St. Augustine. It has been covered to preserve and protect it. The end of the wall was left exposed to show its construction.”
Tabby houses comprised 39% of the structures in the city in 1763 at the end of the first Spanish period. By 1788 only 5% remained.
Tabby, made of whole oyster shells, is the equivalent of modern poured concrete.”
Note the Moorish aesthetic of the Wachovia building, built in 1927-28.
Here comes the tourist trolley! Please shoot me if I ever board one.
I have no idea why I took this picture. There must have been some reason, but whatever it was is not evident here.
I love photographing the Stars and Stripes, especially with a bit of wind for movement.
If you’re going to busk, better have a good place to drop a buck. A tambourine will no longer cut it. Only in Florida. (Aside: The most memorable busking moment was at Chiswick Park Tube station in London. The station was built in the early thirties. I’d gotten off the train to go to a supermarket and when I returned I jumped the turnstile; the station was unattended. I walked up to the platform and sat on one of the wooden slat benches and nodded off, my bag of Ribena and alco-pops and roast-chicken crisps at my feet. Some time later, the train arrived and I boarded, to be greeted by a grubby young musician playing “Norwegian Wood” on an acoustic guitar. This made me want to move to England immediately. I still do, but I figure I have a lot of Crackerdom still to crack.)
Inside the walled garden. Perfection. Things like this also make me want to move to Savannah.
I firmly believe that environment inspires or inhibits creativity.
The best thing about this garden was that it wasn’t neat. I also firmly believe in a bit of sloppiness.
I have no luck growing things. Not even ferns. I adore gardenias, especially Southern gardenias with their rotted, indolic, and mushroomy smell, but they are as bitchy about the rain as I am about the sun.
I’ve decided to hold off on my newest feature until I gather some more photographs. Therefore, there will be a delay in posting “Other People’s Pictures.”