Monday, August 27, 2018

Local Color: At Home and Abroad

I suppose the images above and below might be considered pictorial examples of synecdoche, in which a part of something is used to represent (or suggest) the whole. A linguistic example would be to compliment someone on their new "wheels," when it's understood that, in fact, it's the entire new car you're praising.

The image at top suggests, at least to me, something about Venice as seen from a more local rather than touristic point of view--specifically, the point of view of my son (and his friends), to whom the boat manufacturer Brube, and its most popular model in Venice, the cofano, occupy a central position in his conception of, and concerns about, the city.

To me, in contrast, the colors takes precedence over all else--and that peculiar and fleeting phenomenon, seen only in certain rii (minor canals) and only at certain hours during certain times of the year, when the sunlight seems to illumine the water from below, like a gallery lamp shining through milky green murano glass.

The image at bottom is from Berlin, where we've been staying for the last week, and was inspired by the nagging sense I got as I passed and re-passed the old rusting scooter that the subtle harmony of colors and tones represented my initial impression of the city as a whole better than any image of a famous landmark or a crowded street would. A sense which I suppose had something to do with how the element of passing time seems to appear in this frozen moment, too: in the sense that the scooter had come into such tonal harmony with its surroundings only gradually, as parts of its body rusted to tints quite in sympathy to its setting.

In any case, the experience of taking each image reminded me that the aim of so much of our travel photography is of course to capture the exemplary (at least when we don't give in to the temptation to shoot everything we happen upon, in the desperate quasi-encyclopedic attempt to bag all those views that threaten to overwhelm us with their beauty or novelty or interest): to capture the view or handful of views that represents the very essence of the place. Often such views will be the same views everyone else can't help but take of a famous place. Amazed to find the famous sight looking just as we've seen it look second-hand, in images taken by others, we take one, too! It's hard to resist.

But sometimes what strikes us as exemplary is more idiosyncratic, and represents something, or means something, only to us. Which I think is quite okay. Maybe it's even a worthwhile goal sometimes. Though of course we run the risk of returning home with--or posting on a blog, as the case may be--images that bore others to no end. 


  1. Excellent thinking, well constructed and expressed. But your images never bore us.

    1. Thanks, Ella, I hope not--or at least not too terribly or any more frequently than might be expected.