Inspiration in the Alley

Behind the shining facade luring you in

there is always a back door,

sometimes hidden away in a quiet alley.

These unglamorous places near the heart of town

can offer surprises and food for the imagination,

often telling a different story about where you are.

Blob Dylan
Two Ways In
Concrete Moth
Glass Door with a Message
Step Into the Light
Reflections from a Cadillac

Artfully Urban

The urban environment can be noisy, dirty, artless and unfriendly. But these images from Seattle suggest that there can also be whimsy and artfulness if you look for it.

Sometimes these qualities happen by accident and are fully in the eye of the beholder, as with the “Building Blocks” and “Waterfront Whimsy” below. In other cases creative people add whimsy on purpose, such as with the “Artful Fence” which stands in for chain link and barbed wire to make perimeter defense something more fanciful. And the installation of hanging laundry adds lightness to what might otherwise be a dull and confining alley.

Building Blocks of Downtown Seattle

Building Blocks

Waterfront Whimsy

Waterfront Whimsy

Artful Fence

Artful Fence

Art Installation in Seattle

Art Not Laundry

A Modern Fireplug in the Weeds

Modern Fireplug in the Weeds

A Modern Fireplug - 2012

Next to a modern glass office building on a busy street was a small patch of weeds about the size of an executive’s desk. In the center stood a shiny brass fire hydrant. It looked almost like it had been put there on display, as though this were some sort of zoo.

Urban details like this often provide visual clutter rather than interest. But this fireplug in the weeds became the inspiration for two very different reflections on an urban landscape.

Fireplug in the weeds

In the Weeds - 2012

The Dark and Light of it

Cotton plantation greathouse ruins

Greathouse Ruins -2010

The strong shadows from the morning sunlight highlighted the geometry of this cotton plantation greathouse that lay in ruins — windows missing, iron bars staining the walls with rust, and the roof open to the brilliant blue morning sky. These old stone relics are gradually disappearing as they crumble or are converted into modern greathouses for today’s wealthy.

On the “lighter” side is this second floor doorway in a historic Christiansted building, apparently still occupied. The stairway, green doors flung open, and delicate curves of the railing invites one in.

Doorway in historic Christiansted building

Doorway with feelers - 2010

Different lives

Christmas boat parade

Before the boat parade -- 2010

Different people, different lives. The image above was captured at dusk in a waterfront cafe, waiting for the Christmas boat parade to begin. A smiling older woman strolls through the crowds selling trinkets and candy from a bin in a baby stroller. Always ready with a smile, she is a fixture at the town’s events.

And below is a tall man, cigar and beer in one hand, cell phone in the other, apparently oblivious to the woman with her small basket of goods to sell, as the night’s energy swirls around them.

Cigar, beer and a cell phone

Cigar, beer and a cell phone -- 2009

Faded places

reflections on an abandoned building

Reflections - 2010

Every community has its empty places, faded and overgrown. Some of these, when there had been no design or charm to begin with, become a blight on the landscape. But others have personality and become a part of the character of a place, in their decline adding a patina of charm and history.

How do the well-intentioned and civic-minded learn to tell the difference, so they can carve away the decay and blight while leaving the history and charm in place?

red gate to overgrown courtyard

Red gate - 2010

Buy me Love!

Buy me Love in Orlando

Buy me love mainland style!

This store display screams “Love! Buy me love!” and to avoid confusion the t-shirts on the mannequins say “my boyfriend” and “my girlfriend” with a big red heart. So come on, just buy me some clothes, buy me love!

Now here in the Caribbean — once you get away from the big stores — the style is a little different. On the gallery (porch for most of you) of a little house that serves as a store on a back street of Frederiksted hang some new lingerie swaying in the breeze, just whispering…

Caribbean lingerie shop

Buy me love (Caribbean stlye)

A suburban maze

Corridor's end -- 2009

What is at this glass corridor’s end? Is it the door to the vault where the secrets are kept? Or is it a way out, and with the right spin of the red dial the door will swing open? Or, is it the secret red button that when pushed will launch next wave to resolve the crisis? Whatever it is, I am not sure this is a place meant for people.

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