Photographing Downtown

Two weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t gone out to shoot impromptu pictures in quite a while.  Sure, I had taken a few photos here and there, but all of them fell either into the planned photo session or a photo session of an otherwise planned activity realms.  What I hadn’t done in a while was more along the lines of setting out to a place with no agenda, no preconceived photos in my head, and little time constraints to worry about.  In those moments, the photography becomes more relaxed and stripped down–there’s no longer pressure to create a picture that exactly mirrors what’s in your head, or to capture a specific moment for posterity or profession sake.  Instead, there’s freedom to explore and allow your eyes to wander and land on details.  It is then that textures and shapes and shadows that would have otherwise gone unnoticed jump out.

One such place that I have wanted to roam around unplanned to shoot some shots was in the downtown area from Pike Place Market south through Pioneer Square, from the water to roughly 4th Ave.  For those who aren’t familiar with Seattle, this area contains the old part of downtown, where brick buildings still dominate in an otherwise steel and glass city built to withstand earthquakes.  This area is one of only a couple that would qualify as semi-dingy in a city known for its cleanliness:  an area that represents more of its lumberjack, gold miner, and sailor past (read:  rough and rowdy) than its software and aerospace present (read:  not as rough and rowdy).  But in a downtown that can sometimes feel too clean to be the epicenter of a driving cultural force, this area stands out for the years of character and history etched into its walls and alley ways.  And so I drove downtown early one morning this weekend in order to roam around and search out this character.

What I found as I began walking was a city still waking up.  A few of the booths in Pikes Place Market were up and running, but most tables were still entirely empty, and not a single street musician had begun collecting quarters.  As I made my way east towards 4th Ave., it seemed that buses and sanitation crews were the only vehicles traveling the streets, and only the older crowd of vacationers had made their way out of their downtown hotels.

In some ways it was an eerie feeling.  Making my way into Pioneer Square, it almost felt like I could feel and hear the echo of music from the clubs the night before, and the smell of alcohol and food from the bars still hung in the air.  But there were very few people there, and all of the clubs, restaurants, and shops were completely closed and empty.

I’m not sure how far I walked exactly, but it had to be several miles.  Along the way I had a conversation with a homeless man who told me about the city’s budget for artwork and how he used to camp behind the library where he served as a self-proclaimed security guard, I pointed a couple of groups of tourists in the right direction for some of Seattle’s major landmarks, I snapped several dozen photographs, and I walked down streets and alleys that I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked down before.  After a couple of hours it began to rain in typical Seattle fashion–just enough to be a nuisance.  So I headed back towards Pike Place to buy my wife some flowers and a chocolate croissant, and walked to my car where the evidence of Seattle’s coming to life was seen in the line of cars waiting for a parking space in what had been a completely empty line of spaces just a few hours before.

Here are a few of the images:

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3 responses to “Photographing Downtown”

  1. Richard says :

    Nice work! You better buy the lady of the house some of those nice Pike Place flowers!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A Return to Downtown, Part 1 | Three Weight - February 10, 2014
  2. A Return to Downtown, Part 2 | Three Weight - February 15, 2014

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