The word facade boasts 2 definitions.

  1. The front of a building that looks onto a street or public space.
  2. An outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.

Sad that the second of these should seem a facetious jab at the first.  I guess that’s why I’m drawn to shop fronts that spit in the face of conventional prettiness, where decay or neglect has long since exposed all pretensions.  Or sometimes it’s just a plain old lack of pretension of any sort, the kind of building that says what it is, and little more, except maybe around Christmas.  There’s a grizzled, honest charisma with that unpretentious look.

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Most photographers start collections at some point.  Facades of storefronts are one of mine.  Some subject becomes a theme, a motif that the photographer simply has to document, trusting that from the accumulation of variants on that theme there will emerge a visual meaning of sorts, if not a harmony then at least a harmonious wail.

Along the way, something strange and subtle happens.  The practice of documenting that theme becomes an ongoing lesson.  That motif becomes the teacher, mutely reflecting back the meanings the viewer projects onto it.

Somewhere in there is a creditable reality.  Or just an opportunity to exercise a little faith.


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