Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Hey! ... SteveR! ... Up Against The Wall!
Last Saturday, our daughter was in town for a wedding in Collge Park and asked me to drive her there. No problem - it was a beautiful day, I had my camera, and I knew just what to do after dropping her off - photograph some walls. Well, two walls in particular.
First stop: Seven Seas Restaurant, a deservedly popular Chinese restaurant (just a few blocks North on Route 1 from the University of Maryland campus) and one of the few in the world without "Golden" or "Dragon" in its name. I had photographed part of its wall in October while waiting for the automobile club to resuce my son Ben's broken-down car. This was with my 2MP Canon A40, and since I got the Digital Rebel, I've wanted to go back and shoot some more.
One side of Seven Seas is completely given over to a mural. There are several sections, each with its own theme.
The panel I photographed last year has a huge hand holding chopsticks holding sushi (yes, South Seas also has great sushi.) It's not a bad image, but I think it needs a person or two, perferably Asian, to finish it off. I took some more photos of this panel Saturday, but didn't have the chutzpa to ask someone to get in the shot.
I did get some nice images of some of the other sections, though. One of them has a large Maryland flag painted diagonally across it. Our flag is a nice graphic design in itself, based on the crests of the Calvert and Crossland families from Maryland's early history. Isolating details of this section yields some interesting abstracts.
Another photo that I like shows parts of the three adjacent sections, with some of the Maryland flag design reflected in a car window.
Now for the second wall at Proteus Bicycles, a well-stocked, well-equipped and friendly bike shop a few more blocks North of Seven Seas. This is a very old building by College Park standards, built in the 1930's as a car repair garage. The stucco exterior now sports a flourescent lime paint job that screams to be photographed. I had passed the shop on other sunny days camera-less too many times to let it happen again.
Casing the joint, I did find several good images. My favorite one is this one, the most simple imaginable - just a little pipe vent, it's shadow, and that maginificent lime stucco.
So Is It Art?
Well, who knows? You could ask that question about any "found" photo. I guess the whole thing hinges around how you record it, how you frame and isolate the part you find interesting. If it makes something in you resonate, then it's art. But for sure, these kind of photos aren't for everyone. Just ask my friend Paul F.
Another question, especially in situations like the mural at Seven Seas, is "if it is art, is it my art or the orignal artist's?" That's a little more difficult to respond to, but I give the same answer. Your milage may vary.
If you want to give "wall art" a try, my advice is to be on the lookout for walls with interesting color, pattern, or texture. Light directionality and intensity is especially important for texture, so early morning and late afternoon/early evening may be the best times. But you can also get good shadows at midday, like the vent pipe on the lime wall.
Find a likely image, and really work it over, shooting from different points of view, tilting the camera, and so forth. Here's where a digital camera may have an advantage - you don't have to worry much about taking 50 shots of a subject.
Here's another thing to watch out for - you may make people nervous. The shop owner may think you're a building inspector or even a competititor. Again, digicam may be advantageous - you can show her the exposures you just made, and even offer to erase them if they seem very disturbed (the offer alone may be enough to settle things down.)
But nervous proprietors aside, if you haven't yet done wall art, give it a try. Keep a lookout for likely prospects over the next week or so as you commute, go shopping, etc.
Now go shoot some walls.