Charleston Walking

CHARLESTON WALKING is an 18-piece exhibit of photography from Charleston, South Carolina. The pictures were taken June 30th through July 2nd, 2021 using the Sony A7R full-frame camera with the Carl Zeiss 55 mm f/1.8 lens.

It took me exactly one year to sort and chose the shots for this exhibit. The selection process wasn’t easy. I threw away half of my choices in the 24 hours prior to posting this show. Why is that?

Certainly, my perspective has changed in a year. However, the honest perspective of this show was preserved in each shot as it was taken. Adding to the built-in authenticity, I have left the pictures in the order in which they were taken. In a way, we are walking the city together.

The answer as to why I threw away so many “final” shots can be found in artistic judgement. I want to show the best of the material at hand. Over time, mediocre shots sink and better ones rise. Last-minute additions include 1811 House and July 4th Colors. Can you imagine this exhibit without those?

I also completely reworked Pride in Nation, The Secret of Secret’s View, and Hey Miss Lady. This meant scrapping the work I had done to those pictures and going back to the original jpegs and starting from scratch– quite a lengthy process.

One last thing you should know before we begin. What you see here are the first pictures I took upon suffering permanent hearing loss in my right ear. The pictures and my written notes reflect what I was going through, seven days after normal hearing shut down, and the distorted electric noises took over. I walked the streets with my camera in hand, happy to be out and free, and thankful for the ability to give you another sequence of an artist’s take on his surroundings.

Click on each photo to enlarge. Use your back button to return to the show.

ABOVE: JULY 4TH COLORS. Photograph 4903. This picture sat in the unused bin for a year; it wasn’t going to be in this show. When I was reviewing the final selections, I went back to the library of shots to see what I might have missed. The red, white and blue is pleasing, adding to the strong architecture and floral elements. The wrapped flag provides a needed separation on the eve of my country’s Independence Day.

ABOVE: THE WINDS OF NATURE. Photograph 4940. It’s pronounced “wind”, like The Long and Winding Road. The trunk’s musculature gives it strength and grooves, for shadows to lounge. The buildings are a reminder of who claims to lay claim to the land.

ABOVE: ONE’S ALIVE. Photograph 4944. Is there anything more fragile than this growth? Yes, you are more fragile.

A simple acknowledgment that with a pair, for example a pair of ears, one can die, or essentially cease to function. And so, how should we respond? The terrified face on the tree trunk’s left side adds an ugly outgrowth to the situation– you might not even notice the silent scream that’s taking place within this precious system. We can focus on the branch that has ceased, or we can give our attention and full appreciation to the living bit. While there’s still time.

ABOVE: GO ON FOREVER. Photograph 4960. Life can’t be stopped, over and over again. When my hearing failed, I sought to see life anywhere nature led me. I wrote these words in my notebook: “When I hear normally in my left and muffled in my right, I’m hearing two worlds. This is new.”

On 7/2/2021 I channeled the intruding plant pictured above and wrote in its voice: “We keep trying. We are not going to really crush this fence, like we’ve seen others do. We are going to whither and burn here, unnoticed. What’s worse than being forgotten? Being dismissed. What can amplify us?”

My response was this: “What makes you think you’ll be amplified, or discussed, or sketched? Why should you have an expectation?”

Because I am life! I am here. I take my energy from the sun and I grow.”

ABOVE: TO YOU SHALL COME A PARTNER. Photograph 4974. Your special friend will be complimentary, and will be of a different brand and color than you; he won’t be part of your original plan but certainly of the grand design; he will need to be guided and shaped, much like you’ll need your particular kind of upkeep; and neither of you alone would be better off apart. Trust your pairing. To you shall come a partner.

ABOVE: 1811 HOUSE, #303. Photograph 4989. This picture took a lot of work to make real– try shooting a white building in the Southern sun and you’ll see what I mean. Details tend to wash out and if you get finnicky with your camera’s settings you’ll certainly melt into the pavement. We are in luck: The special lens and camera were aided by powerful high-definition Photoshop tools, providing the ability to preserve and showcase detail to its fullest benefit. The 35MP image at 7173 x 4905 pixels shows every fleck of peeling paint. This building has history and character, the condition of the railings tells us something of its aged state. The roof looks new, and she is standing proud, there and here.

ABOVE: DO NOT PACK. Photograph 5000. I saw this Post-It Note in a supermarket parking lot. You are witness to an instruction that either failed or succeeded in its purpose and was subsequently ripped off its travel item in a moment of haste. The item was not subject to be packed. It was subject to be labeled– perhaps a food or drink item left on the back seat of a car for quick access. It was labeled DO NOT PACK because apparently it could be confused with that which should be packed. What was the item, who were the travelers, and would they in a million years think they made the subject of a photography exhibit?

ABOVE: I SEE YOU. Photograph 5016. As she was lost, I found her. Stepped over by others, ignored, not acknowledged, and assigned no value. Dropped leaf, bitten off by the breeze, spit out by the wind, I’ve got you.

ABOVE: WINDOW DISPLAY COMPETITION. Photograph 5025. A friendly competition exists among the building owners, as to who can create the prettiest window floral arrangements. My vote goes to the business with the best burger.

ABOVE: SHADOW GRIFTS. Photograph 5048. A Painted Lady’s crazy sunglasses.

ABOVE: PRIDE IN NATION. Photograph 5058. I love to see the national flag and take opportunities to film her in all the beautiful ways.

ABOVE: THE SECRET OF SECRET’S VIEW. Photograph 5096. I saw this house while on a paid walking tour of the city. The path our guide took us was somewhat of a hidden way, not obvious to the public and well worth the rare sights.

ABOVE: THE GLORY OF HISTORY AT PLAY. Photograph 5114. I study this picture and can only imagine the hours of games that took place here. Not just games either; perhaps this was the place for lunch, as two men would watch the world go by. There’s room for a cold drink or two, even with a full checker game going. Pull up a seat and turn back the clock. This table goes back decades– we can only imagine the people and their conversations. We can imagine it because we’ve had our respective tables with gentlemen and lady friends, and we remember them with love.

The men who sit here are old. Each has failings that neither talk about. Both hurt, are worn out, and the most important thing is who’s got the next move. And that they’ve got each other.

ABOVE: HEY MISS LADY, WOULD YA STAND WITH ME? Photograph 5127. I worked on several takes of this picture, going this and that way, finally deciding on something rich, detailed, and exciting. This tree is tall– I’ve cropped out the street and the SUV parked at the tree’s trunk. Somehow, her elegance is only enhanced by the editing. Instinctively it seems, her top backs a bit away from the building, as if to give herself headroom so as not to be so crowded. The flag’s flapping in the wind, which is a reminder to us that tropical storms hit this area on a regular basis. She can handle them, thank you very much.

ABOVE: WHAT’S NOT MEANT TO BE SEEN? Photograph 5142. Buildings are made of brick, and then covered with cement so that they can be easily repaired after earthquakes and other means of damage. Sometimes, the upkeep doesn’t quite keep up. Here we can see a service entrance has been filled in with bricks, forming a pattern all their own. A version of this picture was used for the title graphic to this exhibition.

Wasn’t it nice to be new? Isn’t it great to be older? How fortunate to have such a history to look back on!

ABOVE: BEWARE, GUARD DOG ON DUTY. Photograph 5147. We were told this fellow’s name but we didn’t write it down. He’s in charge of guarding the place. Nothing gets by him, he’s got eyes on it all. We told him about a few shady tourists we saw out back; he’ll get right on it.

ABOVE: THE OLD DAYS. Photograph 5153. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, dating back to the mid-1700’s. The bells were cast in London.

The Charleston streets are in their everyday routine. My exploration is unlike this. That’s how someone goes to the bother to make images. My perception is fresh and deliberate, and I’m free to turn or linger.

ABOVE: PRESERVE US. Photograph 5157. As old as ancient wood is man’s attachment to natural things. This is how we associate with the greatness we can see, feel and hear. May it always be that way.

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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4 Responses to Charleston Walking

  1. Felicia says:

    Hi Ara,
    As usual you have captured the essence if this historic area. Beautiful shots with my favorites being your cover photo, July 4th for obvious reasons and They Will Come, Shadows, Hey Lady, Pride and Old Days.
    Great composition and use of light and shadows perfectly paired with good story telling. I look forward to your virtual exhibits and writings and this one did not disappoint. Happy July 4th. Long may she wave!
    Your friend

  2. Clive Donald Watts. says:

    Very lovely photograghs Ara. I love what you have done with the colours. My favourite is # 4960, maybe the simplest but yet so powerful…it demands to be seen and demands to live !

    • Hi Clive, well that photo you mention was a late inclusion, I wasn’t sure if it should be in this show. Then I looked in my notebook and saw I’d written so much about it, I had to keep it in. The notes are a bit of an artifact as well as the picture, right down to the underlined words. I titled this section “un-noticed tiny life”. It’s always of interest to make the connection and association to people, and what we’re going through.

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