Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reasons To Look

Broke one of my own rules this morning, taking the picture above. To stay within the range of my own competence there are many categories of possible subjects that I avoid. For example, I try not to photograph animals or meals on plates or motor vehicles. But rules are made to be broken and nobody believes that more than an American homosexual born in the middle of the 20th century. Consequently, the picture you see. It struck me that this camper standing in the street looked exactly like a ready-made page torn out of an art-photo-book by somebody canonical like William Eggleston or Lee Friedlander, and I could not resist trying to find out if I was right – which I was.

Actually, the Mission seemed to be full of similarly derivative images on this cold foggy Sunday morning. The sign above would undoubtedly have appealed to Brassaï (if it had been written in French). Just as Atget would have happily turned the window below into timeless and velvety black and white.

Oddball numerals and derelict lettering are, of course, at the very center of my personal comfort zone.

And I love the way the capital of this Corinthian pilaster just shoves the moulding out of its way, and how the grime of decades emphasizes all the delicacy of the detailing. [June 2012: I am at present going through these back-files checking for dead links and adjusting the display of texts and graphics after a so-called "update" from Google screwed them up, but the photo above is the first one I have noted so far of a building that no longer exists – it was demolished a few months after I took this picture to make way for another of the new yuppie condo-complexes that continue incrementally to erase all that is (or was) most characteristic of the Mission.]

When I took the final photo there was a man waiting for a bus and observing me. It never occurred to him that I was taking a picture of the numbers (magnificently arranged as they are). No, he assumed I was curious about the little pipe and the round vent underneath it. He began speculating about how the pipe-and-vent functioned for the greater good of the building. I listened and did not disagree.