Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells

Welcome to Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells, a photography & writing exhibit from the famous “Long Island” beach of South Carolina.

This exhibit features six photographs captured with the Sony A7R full-frame camera and 55 mm Carl Zeiss lens. With commentary written in a notebook while walking the shoreline, June 21st through June 24th 2022. This is my fourth Isle of Palms photography and writing exhibit.

The writing precedes the photographs.

Tuesday June 21st, 2022:

No one wants to see what others have picked over. A person wants to make his own discoveries, therefore it’s not just about what’s new to him. People want to find what no one else has yet seen.

*

You must write down your thoughts as they come, despite the difficulties in doing so. It’s not so much that you’ll forget your ideas, because you will forget. What’s lost is that you’ll change between now and then, between the idea coming to you, and when you find the time, if ever, to write it down. Write it now, expand upon it soon.

*

Pieces of you will come off as you forget experiences and impressions. That which is you will be built over, obscured by new growth you have carefully chosen to ignore.

*

A child will forget most things. A parent will forget most things. My dad carrying me at the beach is the most important thing I’ve forgotten.

*

You are walking over buried treasure. You can be forgiven for not seeing it. No forgiveness, for not stopping to look.

Wednesday June 22nd, 2022:

Shells I threw back yesterday appear on the beach today. This is the thrill a child believes. This is the truth no jaded adult can disprove.

*

Everyone here has their own situation. Top level: “We are enjoying the beach”. What’s at level 5? Level 15? Level 50? Utter despair, seeking relief. Utter peace, seeking continuation.

*

Walk along the water’s edge, to find what the tide is freshly depositing; turn and walk back the same path, find something you hadn’t seen.

*

Seagulls floating inches from my head. “Why can’t you do this when I have my camera?” I ask. “Why can’t you capture us this moment?” they reply. To myself: Why must you always find an excuse for not being ready, no matter what instrument is at hand.

*

Don’t let the magnificent jet fly-by distract you from the insignificance at your feet.

*

It only works if you let it.

*

(Just now) I shared something with someone, and I could tell from her reaction she saw no value in it. I walked away, then thought, perhaps she saw a value in a stranger coming up and sharing.

*

Father with months-old daughter, carefully placing her feet for the first time into the sea. And I saw this!

*

I know what it is, and I will tell you. Better you find out for yourself, and tell me what you’ve discovered.

*

What is missing here in the infinity before me, is the actual infinity of each creature’s story. And that’s just speaking of the bits I can see, and in the moment of today.

*

The biggest castle you’ll build will be killed by the tides, if it even lasts to survive the boys.

*

Complete wonderful noise in my head, zeroes out the noise I’d accumulated there. Wind, laughter, gulls, sea crashing KILLS operator’s manuals, labels, translations, and engineering change orders.

*

I’m searching for the perfect thing, but it’s just for my whim of now. Watch how fast I’ll drop it, when it’s at hand.

*

People just marching, not looking down. I’m standing still, not looking up. Our contemplation of the other will come, not at the same time but in our good time. And I bet, we’ll switch sides.

*

Mother, you gave me a book that I scoffed at, then reluctantly read and enjoyed. I couldn’t admit to you anything remotely positive about the book, and I know I let you down. I missed an opportunity to discuss Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beautiful ideas. Mom, I want the book, and you, back.

*

What you’ve lost, first had to be found by you.

*

I saw someone walk towards me, why couldn’t it have been you, old friend? I saw someone walk away from me, so crushed it was you.

*

The ideas written or the images recorded? You must chose one.

*

I can steal something but I can’t ever give it back. I will still have been a thief.

*

“Don’t crane your neck to search for that thing,” said someone who doesn’t own my head.

*

You’re almost there, with such a far way to go.

*

The cold tide touches my feet, telling me I must be moved.

*

The last time I was here, this was not my home. Now that it is, I am still but a visitor.

*

No matter how many times I look, it’s not going to be you. I continue to look.

*

Walking faster, to get to someplace less pleasant.

*

You stop for such a great discovery, yet you brazenly walk past dozens greater.

*

Stopping diligently to record the Now, while what I’m writing will always be the Then.

Friday June 24th, 2022:

Act friendly, get caught and lose your life. Act friendly, get saved and gain reprieve.

*

Destroying habitat; should I make the young boy aware that he’s trampling on sand exactly where land crabs live? Or upon hearing my words, would he stomp and trample even more? And search for them. Maybe enlist friends too. Worse yet, would I risk the anger of his dad?

How do land crabs survive the public on the beach? If the creatures are wiped out here, what could bring them back? It seems, not the sea.

*

Memories of the sea, and the beach, and my friend. I hope you think of me Eric. I hope you cherish how we passed the time. I’ll see you again.

*

“Seek, find, possess.” Are these three actions deadly? Are they up to no good together? If yes, then why is this sequence the motive of every boy and many men?

What is the factor that I’m missing? Is this part of a larger puzzle or condition that I’m too close to comprehend? There must be a rightful purpose to S/F/P.

*

Don’t feed the sea gulls, they will get used to your provision. Feed them, and you’ll encourage more birds. Feed them, and when you go away, they will suffer.

Don’t teach the birds to self-sustain. Don’t create special accommodations to make their lives easier.

Do the hardest thing a man can do– leave them be. Leave them be!

Do the world the biggest favor and look after yourself. In the short term, you will not be satisfied, at all.

*

The beach wind’s crushing your umbrella. You’ve got the wrong one, and why didn’t you know?

Now, what else in your life is “the wind”, what else is poorly suiting you, and how long will you allow yourself to struggle with it?

“I need a better umbrella,” you say. Well, was it a cost issue? A lack of planning? Or a failure to understand the wind’s ferocity? Each of these could have been solved– before you brought your family to the beach.

*

From this island, the Seewee Indians greeted the first English settlers. The Indians were so impressed with the visitors, they outfitted at least one canoe with supplies and set off for England. These men were never seen nor heard from again. This impresses me on many levels.

1. The Seewee’s daring and ambition, to try the unknown.

2. Their being impressed by the White Man.

3. The Seewee’s willingness to leave their loved ones.

4. The fact that their story was recorded– we have just a hint of fact, and enough to make me yearn to know these brave Native men.

*

Oh, what I have seen on the surface! Oh, what I can’t see underneath!

Photography section to Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells.

These shells were chosen for their respective voices, during my long beach walks. If you were to travel to Isle of Palms, you would certainly find prettier shells and more impressive examples. This chorus is what sang to me sweetest.

“HIDDEN”. Click to enlarge.
“MASK”. Click to enlarge.
“ENORMOUS” Click to enlarge.
“STORIED”. Click to enlarge.
“FAMILIAR” Click to enlarge.
“SECRETS”. Click to enlarge.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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2 Responses to Isle of Palms: Secrets of the Shells

  1. Clive Donald Watts. says:

    So many thoughts. It sounds like the perfect tranquil place to “release” all these thoughts and make so many new and old discoveries.

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