Monthly Archives: October 2009

Great Minds Think Alike

Okay—I’ve been predictably lame about posting to my supposed blog. Anyone surprised by that? Not really. But I’ve started getting back some of the Kodachrome I have to use up, and have a few good shots to scan.

Sometimes—for me, often—you’re just walking along and you see something sort of ordinary, the sort of thing most people would not think of as a photo subject, and you wonder, can I make something of that? Often you can’t, or at least I can’t. Two times out of three I put the camera up, look through it, try to frame a shot, and nothing comes of it. I put the camera down. The one time out of three that I take the photo, two times out of three the resulting photo doesn’t look that great to me when I see it.

Some of the remaining photos I post to the APUG galleries, with varied responses. Some people like them, some say WTF? Well, what can you do?

Sometimes you find that someone else has been looking at things kinda the same way. Here’s one of my new shots:


Then, a few days ago, a web site came to my attention, a web site dedicated to the photography of Vivian Maier. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Vivian Maier, either. Ms. Maier apparently lived in Chicago for many years, wandered the streets with her Rolleiflex, documented what was going on around her, and never showed anyone the photos. The guy with the web site got the negatives out of some boxes in a storage room whose contents were being auctioned off. One of the shots was this:

[Link here–Technical Difficulties!]

So Ms. Maier, some decades ago in Chicago, saw some french fries lying by the curb and had the same thought I had when I saw Fritos on the ground.

I recommend checking out the rest of the site; her street photography is top-notch.

Lawn Idols

I am probably not the most disorganized person on the Earth, but I am probably not that far off. One of things I need to get organized is a batch of photos of an accidental project, the lawn idols of Somerville (and nearby). Somerville is a small and fairly densely built-up city, with much of the housing stock in the form of two- or three-family houses set on fairly small lots. The houses are close together, but most of them are set back a little from the street, so that there is usually a tiny bit of front yard. The interesting thing is that even though the yards are small, hardly enough even to be called a yard, many residents expend a fair bit of effort in landscaping.

One of the more popular types of decoration is lawn statuary. And much of that statuary is religious in nature. The classic Mary-in-a-half-bathtub is probably the most popular, followed by Jesus (with and without ripped-out heart), and various saints (I’m not sure how one is supposed to know which is which). Sometimes Mary has a little flock of worshippers. Interestingly, Jesus usually does not. I presume the little worshipper figures can be purchased on their own, but they usually seem to end up around a Mary. Maybe Mary is feeling a little insecure needs a little more reinforcement? I don’t know.

Because Somerville is a small city, it’s easy to cover on foot. A lot of these decorated yards end up as subjects for photos. Though it’s necessary to keep an eye out for interesting or unusual examples—a lawn that had just a lone Mary would not normally be a very good subject. Some of the better ones involve a multitude of themes—such as Mary and a flock of fairies and bunnies surrounded by random plants:


I’m not sure what the backdrop behind Mary is supposed to be protecting the house from: holy radiation?

Some people apparently feel that just having a Mary or a Jesus is not quite enough protection. So they’d better throw in a saint or two, plus some animals. Having just a Mary or a Jesus, or even both, leaves a little room for doubt. But nothing is getting past this guard unit:


Pity the poor wise men who must wait in the shadows for the holiday, though.

Sometimes good examples can be found in neighboring towns. Somerville hardly has a lock on the statuary market, though few places have quite the same concentration. Even upscale neighborhoods in Cambridge are not immune. But of course, in Cambridge, the idols must be suitably respectable, literate, and informed about current events. Apparently also unable to share their newspapers.


There’s more along these lines, and I’ve got to sort through them, decide which ones I like, and there’s probably a few places I’ll maybe even want to revisit and shoot again. In fact, I know there are.