Monday, February 25, 2013

The Accidental Advocate

 Cavalier Impression 1, 2013
(Click on images to see larger)

For much of my life I stayed on the sidelines. My professional work requires that I be seen as a safe, neutral voice, a facilitator of conversations where participants can speak frankly because they know different points of view will be respected.

This doesn’t mean I’m without opinion, of course. The professional mentors in my life have all been highly opinionated people. But like them, I haven’t been very public about my opinions.

About ten years ago some kind of local issue came up that got me all riled up; no doubt some kind of human or economic injustice. I could not simply sit quietly and let it happen. I wrote a letters. I made calls. I don’t remember who or where now, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I went public with an opinion.

A friend who has long been involved in civic life in another state ribbed me. “So you’ve finally gotten so worked up about something that you had to get involved.”

He was right. I’d finally reached the point of intersection between something that couldn’t be ignored and what I thought were sufficient talents and experience on my part to make a difference.

Since that time, I’ve continued to need to observe basic objectivity and intellectual honesty in my professional work. But I’ve been sticking my neck out a lot more. It’s not like I don’t have enough things to do with my time. But…well, it’s like that old line from Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

A few weeks ago a friend asked how one would go about creating a grassroots movement to support the protection of the architectural and historic integrity of an old hotel here in Virginia Beach. The hotel in question is a local landmark, the kind of place that frequently gets described as a “grand dame.”

I’ll spare you the details and merely say that in short order a mixture of Facebook and word-of-mouth created a community of nearly 3,000 people interested in protecting the old hotel. Members of the group have written letters, shared pictures and memories and otherwise advocated for the protection of this historic landmark. There’s been media attention, even a television interview. If properly channeled, you could even say we’ve become a force.

Because the old hotel is such a fixture locally, I’ve photographed it on several occasions and written about here at WhatI Saw. Most of my photographs, though, are predictable. I was interested in documenting some of the interior and exterior spaces and not too interested in alternative interpretations.


Cavalier Impression 2, 2013

This past weekend, though, I challenged myself to do something different.  The weather was blustery and cold day, with intermittent winds. The rain gave me puddles. The clouds gave me even light. And it turns out if you turn the image upside down the stones in the asphalt driveway look like stars.


Cavalier Impression 3, 2013


  1. Wow--wonderful photos! Good for you.

  2. Masterful. Thank you Chris, for your interest, leadership, and caring. Keep up your excellent work.

  3. How did I miss this last month? Ditto on the thanks, and love impression 3.