Week 49 – Glimpses

It struck me this week that many of the photos that I like have the feel of glimpses. You see one thing through another, such as a window or a door. You catch sight of something in a reflection. Or, you see two things together in a way that you wouldn’t if you looked carefully.

I’m not sure what that’s about. The scholar in me likes to think that there’s some sort of deep philosophical insight behind this tendency. That is, maybe we catch glimpses of realities and patterns that normalcy and common sense and the powers that be try to hide. Perhaps so. Or, equally likely, I just like the random visual juxtapositions that glimpses catch and that our rationally sight deconstructs, contextualizes, and identifies away.

Here’s one, glimpsed walking down the Michigan Street SE hill towards the Grand River. It’s a corner of the hulking Van Andel Institute. Through the gap you spy bits of the Immanuel Lutheran Church and buildings in downtown GR. In this case, I took the picture because I liked the spiraling lines in the architecture of the gap as well as the glimpse of buildings beyond it.

Here’s a series of images taken from various floors of a parking structure at Lyon and Winchester. The parking garage is part of Grand Rapids Community College. It’s 6 or 7 stories high, and I was curious about what the views would look like from the open parking lot at the top.

On the way up, I took the cover shot of this blog post, catching a glimpse through the open “windows” of the fourth (?) floor. Here it is again. You can click on it and see a larger version. I took the picture because I liked how the opening framed the details of the building. I used a telephoto lens to give a compressed look to the buildings in the distance. Actually, I did that with most of this week’s images. A compressed look.

You can see the larger context for this view in a few of the shots of the same section of the downtown area that I took from the rooftop parking area. The first one is all context, showing a mix of older and newer architecture. The second I liked because of the compressed, jumbled look of the buildings. With the third it’s the dappled light on the north face of the building.

Finally, two images that hark back to the past couple of weeks (see below). One is of the steeples of the Lutheran Church, glimpsed behind the huge Van Andel Institute building.

This weekend I finally figured out why I’m describing the government buildings and medical facilities constructed since World War II as “hulking,” “menacing,” “domineering,” etc. It’s not that I’m opposed to having torn down many of the old buildings of pre-war Grand Rapids. Probably many were in rough shape and others would have been more expensive to renovate and modernize that demolish and build new. That’s pragmatics. I’m OK with that. It’s that I’m sad and angry that that they did not echo the older architectural styles that gave the city it’s historic character and play with them, giving the city contemporary takes on the older architecture. Instead we got modern hulks that could be plopped down anywhere.

In any case, here’s two of the hulks (Secchia Center and Van Andel Institute) with some of the interesting old architecture (Lutheran church) peeking out in between them. And, public art (“the Calder”) glimpsed among some bland monstrosities. (He said unfairly perhaps and with a willingness to be schooled by a historian of art and architecture. And, FWIW, the Secchia Center and Van Andel Institute do and promote important work.)

This coming week I may go for a change of pace. I’m not burned out on cityscapes and local architecture. There’s lots more to see and do locally. But if the weather is nice, at some point this week, I might feel inspired to go for a walk in the woods.

Stay warm and stay safe out there.

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