Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Day In The Life

You never know where a day may lead... sometimes what starts out as another mundane day turns out to be full of surprises. There is a little known Australian movie named "Breaker Morant" about the Boer War (based a on book titled : Scapegoats of the Empire") in which Harry Morant says : "You should live each day as though it were your last, because one day, you are bound to be right."
I always liked that quote, and in some measure try to keep it in mind. What I love about photography is that it forces one to live in the very immediate present, and forces one to really look hard with a critical eye at one's surroundings. And it is amazing what starts to come out of the woodwork when you really start looking carefully at the world around you... Today, for example, I was sent to run a quick errand at the hardware store to track down some paint brushes, a new shower curtain rod, and some lightbulbs (the better to see with), but before I made it to the store, I got into all kinds of mischief... and while I'm thinking about it, the quote that goes with the title here :
"I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad,
Well, I just had to laugh—I saw the photograph . . ."
I have to admit, I did sort of set out with a mission... for weeks now I've been meaning to photograph a derelict old house that I drive by on my way to work, you could even call it a house of ill-repute... but I assure you my intentions were the innocent pursuit of photographic pleasures... which hopefully the following images will attest and confirm, in case you had the least doubt...
I started to think something unusual was in the air when I spotted this '64 Buick parked by the side of the road in La Chapelle en Serval on the way to the House of the Rising Sun... odd seeing french plates on a huge American car like this, which was looking good under the looming gray sky... a dinosaur (!) from another age when gas cost 25 cents a gallon and poets were On The Road...

Shortly after encountering that dreamboat of an automobile, one that has escaped the junkyard so far, I stopped at my favorite poster place, where week after week the posters change as cultural events come and go. I've been shooting a series of photos here over the past few months as the scene evolves. Will have to remember to post some of the others. At the top edge and upper right corner the first poster I photographed here many moons ago is still showing, but you will see how it quickly aged before being submerged by an onslaught of others in the succeeding weeks...

Going up the road from the poster site toward the aforementioned house, I had to stop on the side of the road and get a shot of the intense lightshow that was going on in the sky above the local Leclerc supermarket sign... this photo doesn't do it justice at all, either, the human eye in real time remains the most incredible image sensing and capturing device ever devised... how lucky we are to have those amazing pieces of technology equipped with iris, cornea, lens, focusing muscles, and optic nerve built right into the front of our faces ! How do you explain that???

Well, here it is, this is the house I set out to photograph on my way to the store... isn't she a beauty?? I love texture like this. Nothing like age and weather to bring out the best in an ancient house. Faded paint showing bare wood below ! Crumbling masonry ! Missing or crooked shutters ! Gaping windows ! A definite add to my galery of dream houses...

Now I don't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities, but in fact this dilapidated demeure really is a house of questionable reputation. Often there are young women in provocative dress stationed outside one end, and cars stop apparently quite often... I can't help noticing as I go by on my way to work. But today there was no one there, so I took a quick look inside... and I guess it is no surprise there was a sorry looking broken down couch tucked in there for god only knows what purposes...

And on the wall by the couch there was an assortment of dubious looking graffiti. The graffiti I've been reading about from World War One is far more interesting... the music of course which goes with this is a dubious piece from none other than the Rolling Stones...

However, despite the sordid setting, this shutter on the back of said house was a most beautiful shade of faded blue... if I have any sense I'll go back and remove it one night, before it disappears when this place gets bulldozed, as it inevitably will... this kind of effect cannot be created in a studio... only rain beating down and freezing sleet can do this to paint...

After leaving that sad shack of a house (quickly, as one doesn't want to linger in such places) I headed up the road, and at the next stop I stumbled on a plant at the edge of the woods of the likes I'd never seen before. I admit my ignorance, I don't know the common or the latin name for this beauty, it had red-orange berries below pink petals; if someone can enlighten me as to what it is, I'd be most grateful. As with the photo in a recent post below, this is another homage to Eliot Porter... I could have spent the rest of the afternoon just gazing at these vibrant colors there by the woods. But I had to get to the store, remember ?

Just up the road from where these pink berries were, is a military cemetery for Dutch dead from World War Two. How they chose this spot for their final resting place escapes me, if I understand correctly they brought many of them from far away to bury here. Some were victims of a boat sunk by the Germans off the coast near Dunkerque. This sculpture, which I had never been aware of before today, commemorates the fallen with a falling man, reminiscent of Robert Capa's famous photo from the Spanish Civil War which purportedly caught a man falling backwards just after being shot.

And in the next village another monument caught my eye which I'd never noticed before, though having driven by the spot many times... driving a car is a good way to miss seeing the world... The plaque on this commemorates the 1944 bombing of the round table which thankfully spared the village of Pontarmé. In the woods in this region there are a series of round stone tables that date back quite a ways marking crossroads... I guess one got bombed for whatever reason. The things we do to each other...

The last stop before I really did go to the hardware store was at the Chateau de Pontarmé, a small but lovely centuries-old home surrounded by a moat with still reflecting water... not bad for a single afternoon, what? Much food for thought there... which I suppose, after all, is the purpose of all this.

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