Phototheme- Boone Hall Plantation

Phototheme- Boone Hall Plantation.

Photography exhibit by Ara Hagopian.

South Carolina has a deep history in the story of the United States. Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens in Mt. Pleasant preserves much of this history in a beautiful working farm, open to the public.

This Phototheme of fourteen pictures was made during a day’s visit to the property. The camera was the Sony A7R 36 megapixel full-frame with the Zeiss 50mm prime lens.

My exhibits usually involve staying in the area for several days, taking photographs on a carefree wander basis, and presenting a set of pictures that come from a large group of scenes and settings. This exhibit is different. I had three quick hours to explore the property and this included two guided tours, one of which prohibited photography.

My time was limited, but the subjects were not.

The pictures below would not qualify for a tourist’s brochure of the grounds. Publicity marketing is not the intent with the work. Instead, you’re getting this artist’s impression of what was beautiful or interesting one sunny June day in 2019.

What did we discover? Come look with me.

BELOW: Grand entrance. Great trees are a mainstay of the South. You see them in the sweltering heat and then the heat seems to go away, or at least set aside, because something grand and weighty is now before you. The Spanish moss that drapes from the branches has a delicate color, the envy of an exposed army, with soft strands lain by nature yet with seeming care.

This is the famed entrance to the grounds. Brides pay a lot of money for their photographs to be taken here.

BELOW: Draped. Shapes, shades, and colors work in wonderful ways.

BELOW: Sweltering. Ten farmers work the crop system that has carried on for hundreds of years. Strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, kale, peppers, oranges, lemons and limes are just a sample of the produce offered.

BELOW: Fineness. A field view from a bouncing tour wagon. Such a pretty sight to see. If anyone in your world ever tells you to “get lost,” let’s promise to meet here and comply with their wish.

BELOW: Cardinals. With photography, there are types of pictures that are nicely framed, precisely rendered, and beautiful. Sometimes, a moment is captured that couldn’t be duplicated if we waited all day. This is one of those. We have a male cardinal on the tree and his mate flying to meet him. Red and orange, spectacular! Thrilling too is their eye contact; this was my money shot of the day.

This is a crop of a much larger picture. Thanks to the camera and lens, we have clarity in the scene. I’ll post the original photograph, and a closer crop, at the end of this exhibit.

BELOW: Massive. Could man make such an arrangement? Possibly. Could he conceive it? Not even close.

BELOW: Delicate. Is there a more fragile thing than this?

BELOW: Flighty Moth. This moth fluttered around the gardens and I looked like a huffing simpleton chasing it. You can’t chase a moth and expect it to land and pose for you. You can wait for her to settle on her own, and do your sneaking then!

BELOW: Crape Myrtle. This is a Natchez white crape myrtle tree. She produces large white globular booms in the summertime. What impressed me the most was her bareness, in the midst of so much cover around her.

BELOW: Slaves. Slavery made the South, and these surviving structures were homes for African men and women who were bought and kept for free labor. The slaves were worked hard with few guarantees. In fact the laws of the day prohibited slaves to read and write. This law applied to white people: You were forbidden to teach a black person the basic luxury to learn on one’s own. As bad as we can imagine the conditions, you can bet it was worse. At one point South Carolina’s slave population exceeded 57%–they were in the majority, and yet, not free.

BELOW: Powerful words. I took this photograph at an angle because standing here, and feeling so many conflicting feelings, I knew what I wanted to do with the image when I would get to process it back home. Each preserved slave home has modern signs inside, for educational purposes. I stood outside this cabin and angled the camera to cut off the base of the doorway; even with emancipation the former slaves were not free. They didn’t have an easy way out of this room. My crop effects a blocking of the way. I added artificial light on the sign, to make those words absolutely clear.

Understand who came before you.

BELOW: Garden. I was mobile in body and able in means, two privileges I’m thankful for, and which will not last. Standing here at this beautiful scene, which reminded me so much of my childhood Gloucester Massachusetts days, I thought about my good life. I am lucky to be able to have the strength to walk where I choose. I had money to travel, and a dear companion to plan the string of details to make the thousand-mile trip happen.

I have the legal right to pass this way. And a fine camera. And ability. None of this is lost to me, when I’m reminded that not all have these physical and material gifts.

Come and walk this garden with me.

BELOW: Barn cats. There’s a cat family at one of the original structures. They won’t come when called, but they won’t run when talked to.

BELOW: Mom. Mom tolerates a youngster much too old to nurse but insisted anyway.

Thank you for looking at my Phototheme. Please post a comment below. I’d love to know your favorite picture, and why you chose it.

As promised, here is the original Cardinal picture, uncropped and cropped.

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Arcaylis, Element of Land, Sea and Sky

Arcaylis, Element of Land, Sea and Sky (2007). This picture was drawn as a follow-up to 2005’s Enoxx, Season of Four Weathers. I used a wide range of magic markers for Arcaylis, the entire concept and execution coming when I was flat on my back for several days. I was sore for about two weeks, and my wife would make sure my illustration boards and bag of pens were within my reach before she’d leave for work, for the week I was bedridden.

Each section of Earth (the left and right parts of the drawing) as well as the Sky and Sea (top and bottom), were drawn on separate boards, the entire arrangement photographed in pieces and placed together digitally in post production. I didn’t have floor space large enough to lay the pieces as I envisioned them. Also, each piece was shot separately to get the best photo resolution possible.

The idea was to create shapes in absence, what we call negative space, where what’s missing in the drawing is as important as what’s present. Anyone who looks at this picture and sees four egg shapes is viewing negative space.

Each June I visited New York City, to buy the best quality markers I could afford. I bought in person because I wanted to hold the pens in my hand and see how the colors talked to each other. I would seek the warm shades that could reach across to cooler versions of like colors. One sense of judgement would say, no, these colors wouldn’t work together, while the actual physical presence of each was the determining factor as to whether the hues would work or not, when applied side-by-side on paper.

The center of Arcaylis is pure Enoxx, right down to the silver paint pen separating the colors and defining their shapes.

I’ve told you about the technical details, now let’s get to what counts: What is this drawing about? My inspiration for the Arcaylis concept was the basic joy of a child playing at the beach—and his secret universal link. When I was eight years old I knelt in the shallow ocean, scooping sand and heaving it skyward. I didn’t know it then, but with my feet and legs firmly dug into the sea floor and my arms moving the water upward, I was engaging three quantities: The water, the earth and the sky. At the center was my body, the facilitator in this chain. Arcaylis is a connection of the natural elements.


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The Sharp Blade

 This picture was composed with one goal, to show the maximum impact of spring in Burlington MA. In past exhibits I’ve told you that everything shrinks in a photograph, when compared to the live view. In this instance, the opposite is true. The picture couldn’t be bigger. The actual moment was less than this.

Do you like what you see? Second question: Do you want to know the story behind this picture?

If you know my mode of storytelling, it might be analogous to this: A dull blade slips and cuts, but when a sharp edge slips, she cuts deeper. Get ready for it.

Everything you see in this 2011 photograph was gone in 2012. The flowers, the bush, and the trees were destroyed in a landscape renovation.

When I brought my camera on a walk near Network Drive, I was on the lookout for pretty spring subjects. There was an old road that was used for business, and one particular business, which was long abandoned, had the pretty scene you see here. Because the shop were closed I was able to walk on the property and get this shot.

This picture is everything that I wanted from that walk. The colors matched the life that was all around me. There was peace in the abandonment, because all that was missing was the activities of people. Nature filled the void with birdsong and audible wind.

I was in it, and I will never be far from it. That was the impact on this witness.

Later, when I saw the building torn down, I was shocked to see the trees had to go as well. Which made the photo bittersweet. I thought I had captured what life was, and I didn’t know how the wave would complete its arc.

There are trite, overused phrases such as “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” When we see spring color in front of us, we understand those buds will fall within days or weeks. We’re not really prepared for the news that the sources are gone.

Perhaps you’ll understand when I say that the same applies to every photograph you’ll happen across. One day, everything you see on a given picture will be gone, the animals, furniture, the rugs and rooms. If you’re not prepared for it, the sharpest knife does slip. Enjoy what you have, for each have you’ve got.


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New Pictures 2019, part 3

Below are four new pictures I made in April 2019. I used two sets, and models that I finished last year and the year before.

BELOW: A Soviet ISU-152 drives through the ruins of Berlin, Spring 1945.


BELOW:  A different tank destroyer stops at a street barricade.


BELOW:  A Sherman tank and soldiers proceed cautiously.


BELOW: A Tiger tank moves to a rear area for repainting.


Thanks for looking!


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New Pictures 2019, Part 2

I’ve made a few new model pictures since February 26th. I had a lot of fun setting the scenes, and completing the illusion.

These are my 1/72 scale models, figures and sets. No model is repeated, although the first two photographs are different angles of the same scene. I wanted to show the depth of the dugout.

Jagdpanzer IV in sunlight

I like the shadowplay with this picture. The iphone camera caused a shadow to the left and I kept it in there. It reminded me of a building’s cast, if not 100% true to full form. The picture is simple and was “a quick one” as we say in the trade. Probably will be forgotten soon as more are churned out, but this was the first use of this particular street set and the plain colors are nice too. There’s a cold cast that somehow works. The watercolor effect is welcoming, gentle, and the palette is so effortless that I think if I ever printed my diorama shots on 5×7 cardstock, this one would render nicely. The shadow’s the star.

The next three photographs are redresses of the same building set. Different tanks, with considerable digital terraforming.

Thank you for looking!


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Savor Us

Savor the many different ways to say goodbye. Everyone we know has a different expression for us, and we for them. Friendships are like personal facets on a precious stone. You and I have an angle that’s ours only. The sliver that we share is forever. Don’t think of it as being tiny, think of it as being part of something really big.

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Hear Now

I’ve come to visit you, but maybe you don’t know it.

I’ve come to your front door, I call out and wait.

I’m waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of you. No sign of your knowing I’m here. I sit, and stare at your door.

We once had a connection, although it was hardly anything grand. But I always thought, we could build on what was small, and work it from there.

There’s smoke coming from your chimney but I’m not seeing any lights. Not hearing any sounds. Yet, somehow I know you’re here.

People walk by, and drive by, and they look at me. Maybe they think I’m a fool to do this. Maybe they think I’m stupid to sit unattended in the cold.

When there are so many other places to be.

Let me start with this. Being warm, and without, is overrated.

Whether or not they accept what I’m doing, I don’t care. This is me, waiting to spend time with you, and for all I know, they too are on a mission, to be with someone all their own.

Or maybe they’re doing really nothing important at all, just driving around and throwing glances at others.

No one cares about unfinished business until matters rise. That’s my issue. I’m managing by being here with you, and speaking to you, from the outside in.

You and I have unfinished business. Silent, darkened rooms don’t change that a bit.

You’re not chasing me away, or telling me to go. You’re not telling me to not bother. And even if you did, I would bother, and I wouldn’t go, because you and I have more to do. And right now!

It’s snowy and the wind hits hard. It’s starting to sink in, maybe we’re not going to meet up here. Maybe we’re not going to walk together, from this house.

Maybe our meeting is going to have to be at a different house. And at a later time.

Until it occurs to me otherwise, I’m here now. Speaking to you, calling through the closed door.

I wait.

Saying what you need to hear, now.


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