Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Three Studies on a Lamppost

Providence 21, 2010

This is our friend Christine’s favorite lamppost. It stands in front of an old armory at the corner of Benefit and Meeting streets on Providence’s College Hill. With the cement-clad armory as a neutral background, the lamppost has a classic look that could as easily place it in foggy London or Paris or Prague. A child might look at it and imagine Mary Poppins and her umbrella swooping up into the air from the draft blowing up Meeting Street. I imagined Sinatra leaning against it on a limbo set, crooning about a lost love.

Photography instructors will tell you it’s good to give yourself a challenge. While Christine was shooting other things nearby, I decided to see how many different shots I could make of this lamppost.

The expected thing is to take a picture of the lamppost. Like this:

Providence 18, 2010

Not much, eh? It needs something. So I stepped back to get a different vantage point, which on College Hill means that you either step up or down a hill. I chose to step up the hill slightly and caught the lamppost, part of the profile of the armory and, to the left, part of what I believe is the steeple of the nearby First Baptist Church. That’s the photo at the top of this post. I like it better than the first one. But it still lacks a story.

I walked around some more and took other pictures of the lamppost. I threw most of those pictures away because they just didn’t do anything for me.

Then, just as I thought I might have exhausted this little exercise, I heard someone coming down the sidewalk. From time to time clusters of students walked down this street, the sound of their voices muffled by the fog, and barely paying attention to the two photographers. But this was just one person. I moved back closer to the armory just in time to photograph the young man as he walked by the lamppost.

I ended up liking this picture the most because there’s at least the hint of a story in it. Where is the young man going? Or is he going away from something? Why is he alone?

Providence 27, 2010

And just to show that focusing on one thing, like a lamppost, can take your attention away from what might just be a better photo, here’s one I took when I decided to leave the lamppost out altogether.

Benefit Street Amory, 2010


  1. Oh, great photos! Those are all wonderful. While I was in Hartford, CT, I saw some interesting really old buildings juxtaposed against very modern buildings and a vibrant blue sky one day, and I thought, "where's C Bonney when you need him?"

  2. I wondered what you were doing, so intense and focused for so long. I love the one with the walker.

  3. I like the one with the walker, as well.

  4. Interesting research!
    I love the same shot for the same reasons and for the shadow on the wall.
    These situations fascinate me a lot!