Culture Magazine

Further Thoughts About Cleopatra’s Pumps: A Walk on the Beach (how Romantic)

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
Last time out – Some thoughts about Cleopatra’s Pumps – I observed that, while I’m primarily a street photographer, many of my shots of the green F me pump are in the realm of studio photography, even if I don’t have a studio. I then showed, and commented on, a bunch of shots I took in my apartment and apartment building. Now we’re going to the street. Well, not the street, the beach (in Jersey City, NJ, no less). Now the point of street photography is that you take the world as it presents itself to you. You can choose where to point your camera and how to frame the shot, but the objects you see, and, above all, the light in the scene, those you have to take as given. In contrast, in studio photography you get to control everything (more or less – but we aren’t omnipotent). I took these shots outdoors and had to deal with the existing light. In that sense they are street photographs. But I intervened in the scene by placing that bright green platform pump in it and making it the focus of my shot. I am thus interested in the interaction between the shoe and the scene. I took all of these photographs at the southern end of Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Here I’ve placed the shoe on the remnants of a pier: 20171202-_IGP1370 I’m interested in the contrast between the material in and shape of the shoe and the gritty work-world remnants of the pier, the rotting wood and the large rusty iron spikes. I suppose one could read that juxtaposition as the Male pier vs. the Female shoe, but that is not at all necessary. Really, the materials and forms are interesting and compelling in and of themselves, otherwise there’s really no point to the photograph. Same pier, different position and orientation: 20171202-_IGP1365 That’s another pier in the background. The trees are obvious, the people standing around, not so obvious. Nor is it obvious that we can see the Statue of Liberty through the trees just above the top of the shoe. I didn’t notice it until just now. Was I (subliminally) aware of it when I framed the shot? I don’t know. But I’ve been shooting at the site for several years now, and I am very much aware of that statue. Now I’m walking to the beach through a passageway at the edge of Liberty National Golf Club. That’s its grass on the right; the shoe is posed on a low retaining wall and you can see the passageway to the left: 20171202-_IGP1396 Now we’re on the beach: 20171202-_IGP1418 I’ve placed a shell – and oyster shell? – in the shoe and posed in at the end of a piece of brick. How long did it take for that brick to get that rounded by the sand and water? Notice the pebbles, stones, and shell fragments, the coarseness of the sand. I believe that bit of shadow at the lower left is me. I’d tried to position myself so that my shadow wouldn’t have intruded into the shot, but... I could have cropped it out, but then I’d have lost too much of the beach. And I could have painted it out in one way or another, but it would have been tricky and I don’t quite have that kind of skill. So I leave it in. Who cares? What have we here? 20171202-_IGP1400 A piece of driftwood with barnacles. What are barnacles? They’re little creatures. Darwin, I believe, was interested in them. Sailors are very interested in them. When they grow on the hull of a boat their shells increase drag on the hull and slow it down. Cleo’s pump is indifferent. Here we’ve got weeks, a bit of burnt driftwood, and that shell nestled in Cleo’shoe: 20171202-_IGP1449 Notice that one dried weed that’s crossing over in front of the shoe. I wanted that there. Here I’m playing on a trope, woman on a pedestal. We’ve got shoe with shell on the post of a railing: 20171202-P1140424 This area of the park is a bird sanctuary and is off limits to humans during the spring, summer, and fall. There’s a wooden walkway extending through it, mostly I suppose, because walking on sand is tiresome and inconvenient, but also to confined where the humans go. The walkway has railings. Here you can see that others have been at work in the park: 20171202-_IGP1463 Finally, one of my favorite things, shooting into the sun: 20171202-_IGP1390 More later.

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