Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We Keep Coming Back

Morse Street Car Park, 2010

Two different themes cross tracks here today. The first is a continuation of yesterday’s theme of house pictures that don’t have houses in them. The second theme is about the importance of never letting yourself think you’ve taken all the pictures there are to be taken of a place.

One of the most transformative experience I ever had was a day spent with Dr. Edward de Bono, who is perhaps best known for his championing of the concept of “lateral thinking.” I won’t bore you with all the details. You can reduce much of it to just one idea that can serve you in most any aspect of life: namely, that there are always alternatives.

It is this simple idea that keeps me going back to places I’ve photographed before, so many times in some cases that it would seem I’d taken all the pictures there were to be taken.

But of course I haven’t. Just as there are always alternatives, there are always fresh pictures to be taken of familiar places.

Morse Street is one of a number of picturesque village streets in Edgartown, Massachusetts. At the corner of Morse and North Water Street is a house that used to be one of our favorites. You can see it here.

Even if you haven’t been to Edgartown you might recognize this house if you’re of a certain age because it was used as the location for an Old Spice television commercial that ran in the late 1970s. The spot was pretty hokey. But you have to admit the house has a classic New England look that doesn’t require that you stretch your imagination to believe that a rugged Old Spice man and his lady might have lived there.

When people take pictures of houses on Morse Street, this is the house they usually photograph. It’s that classic. But on last week’s trip when, as you’ll recall from yesterday’s post, I decided I was going to look for different ways to tell the story of the opulence of some of these summer residences, my eye was instead drawn to a driveway across the street.

It’s not the fanciest driveway you’ve ever seen. The grandees of New England want their wealth to be recognizable, but not ostentatious. I think of it as conspicuous thrift, if there can be such a thing. The hedges are practical, but precisely maintained. Sturdy rectangular granite stones are a durable long-term investment. But they’re not native to the island of Martha’s Vineyard. So you also know that every one of these stones had to make a lengthy trip down from a mainland quarry and across Vineyard Sound by ferry or barge. That doesn’t come cheap.

The old Ford Galaxie—a ’63, I believe—pretty much tops off this picture and gave it a slightly Californian feel to me. I’m told this house belongs to people from New York or Connecticut. So I don’t guess I’d find any movie stars lurking behind the hedges. But if I hadn’t taken my eyes off the housed that is the easy photographic subject on this street, I’d have not noticed the little gem of landscaping.

This is why we keep going back, to notice the things we haven’t noticed before.


  1. "conspicuous thrift:" Just brilliant.

  2. There are places I keep going back to, especially if they have old buildings or old cars. I thought that Ford in the photo looked familiar. My first car was a '64 Galaxy and I managed to drive it to death running from Chic's Beach to Knott's Island 3 or 4 times a week to see the girl I was dating.

  3. I could go for that kind of conspicious thrift. Love that: I'd want to park my car and sit there all day!