October 13, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

                                                                    HAWTHORNE BRIDGE - ONE YEAR YOUNGER THAN MY BUNGALOW

This week I took another stab at just going out for a walk and taking some pictures. I've avoided this lately because it's been much too hot, but football weather is finally here, and my weather app promised a nice late afternoon. The real reason I have avoided photo walks is that my chief bailiwick has always been the urban landscape, and let's face it, Portland has not been looking its best lately. While it is not the urban Hellscape featured on Fox News, even I have trouble making graffiti-covered plywood look good in an urban landscape. Thus I have been exploring my archives for images instead of venturing out to try to find some new urban images. Since it is October, and sunny days will soon be just a distant memory, I decided to walk across the Hawthorne Bridge to get some exercise and maybe some images.

                THREE BRIDGES

It has been a weird summer in Portland. The tourists are back, which is surprising to everyone here since our reputation has suffered so much in the press. In the past two weeks I sold art to people going back to Dubai and Reykavik, which expanded the countries that now contain my art to 62 around the world, which is very gratifying and just amazing, considering that my sales record on the web is worse than dismal. All of these sales occur in my little booth under the Burnside Bridge. What has been very disappointing is that the locals refuse to come Downtown, and sales at the Market have been down across the board. My incomplete records suggest that in twelve years my art has gotten into around 4000 homes in Portland; this year my sales to locals amount to a grand total of 33 people. Clearly the local news has driven people into their homes. And while this New York boy has maybe naively felt that it was not my fate to be mugged in Portland, Oregon, even I have to admit that there are some blocks downtown that I would rather not visit even before dark. This statement is so new and depressing that I have only recently admitted that while Downtown is certainly not scary, it is certainly unpleasant. I has taken our civic leadership, such as it is, over three years to acknowledge that something is wrong; now we await a pathetic Portland Process to figure out what to about it.

                                       PEOPLE PAY GOOD MONEY TO WATCH THE FED EX TRUCKS GO BY

My solution to this urban depression is to concentrate my walks on the multitude of bridges that cross the Willamette. I can get in a good 2-3 mile walk and just touch down in Downtown before turning around. These seven images were all captured on this walk, and with a little post-processing can illustrate one late afternoon in Portland. While there are probably no award winners here, it does illustrate what is available on a random walk in the city.

                                                                  BIG PINK HOT SPOT

This image is an example of an urban micro-climate, in which a large building like Big Pink can actually change the lighting by reflecting the sun into the city. This kind of serendipity can enliven an ordinary walk; it is then my job to protect the exposure of various parts of the image to both emphasize these conditions and not to allow them to overwhelm the limits of the overall image.

                DOUBLE VISION

Sometimes I notice things and then wonder what it all means. This natural double exposure reflects the strong sun falling on a raised nameplate that almost no one ever sees unless they are walking across the bridge under the right conditions. While it intrigues me, I wonder whether it might interest anyone else.


Here I am engaged in actually trying to create as mute an image as I can possibly capture on the Hawthorne Bridge. Sun and shadow, gray planes, a few sticks and some wires. Not one sign of human habitation. I'm only as cynical as I can manage knowing that there is a market for this kind of image, especially if it is taken with film. Not for me, but someone might like this exercise in urban ennui.

                                      MY COLLECTION OF PYLONS IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS

Then again, I always say that you are halfway there if you can keep it simple. This is just part of the floating dock at the East end of the Hawthorne. There are probably another dozen or so pylons, and a boat shed. I tried to isolate one line of pylons against the river while leaving out the shed, the bridges, and the river bank. While this kind of simplicity appeals to me, your mileage might vary. I often believe that isolating specific elements will concentrate the viewer's attention at the cost of a certain amount of context. In this case you either appreciate my collection of visual elements or wonder why I cared at all. Unless you frequent the Hawthorne Bridge, you would be hard-pressed to locate this image in Portland at all.

Go take a walk. You might be intrigued at what you will find. It doesn't really matter whether anyone else "gets It".