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Friday Gallery: The City Beautiful

Years ago, I had a regular Sunday Slideshow feature on this blog. As I gradually drifted away from photography, and then from maintaining the blog, I updated it inconsistently and finally let it die altogether.

Now, in a new city, doing a lot of walking – I walk about five miles a day – I am doing photography again, and I want to start back up posting a weekly photo roundup, but Friday works better for my schedule now. (In between, if you’re not following my Instagram feed, I’m posting just about every day there.)

Today, walking Zelda through City Park, I was reminded of the City Beautiful Movement, of which Robert Speer (mayor 1904-1912, 1916-1918) was a great advocate, and which resonates with me tremendously. I’ve been thinking about design a lot, about ugliness as psychological stress and the relationship between ugliness and poverty, and about quality of life at the small scale.

I described my apartment, before I moved in, as a “small grim white box,” and I’ve been hustling as hard as I can to make it anything but, because I absolutely believe my mental wellbeing depends upon it. And I’m considering that the many, many beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to which I, as a citizen of this city, have free and open access to, are as much a part of what is making it possible for me to function here as access to public transportation and fresh food. I cannot imagine how much more difficult this would all be in an ugly, cramped, difficult-to-navigate city.

In mid-April, the city is full of flowers, but also still prepared for late snows. There’s a lot of maintenance going on, both public and private, prepping of garden beds and cleaning of fountains in preparation for the final and true arrival of spring. Everything is covered with a dusting of plum tree petals. Toodling around in the Denver Art Museum between lunch and work yesterday (I work 4-8pm on Thursdays) I realized – right now, I have time. To slow down, to pay attention, to explore. I always feel under such tremendous pressure to use my time well, and right now, this is using my time well – getting to know my new city, getting rested, spending my time on the bus and train getting caught up on all the reading I haven’t done in the last few years. Thinking and processing. Refilling the well. This is important. I’ll cycle back around to the part of my life where I don’t have time, where I’m working sixteen-hour days or traveling or writing like mad or full up on commitments and projects, and I want to have not wasted these days, I want to have this time to look back on and draw from.

“But before all else a work of art is the creation of love. Love for the subject first and for the medium second. Love is the fundamental necessity underlying the need to create, underlying the emotion that gives it form, and from which grows the unfinished product that is presented to the world. Love is the general criterion by which the rare photograph is judged. It must contain it to be not less than the best of which the photographer is capable.” – Eliot Porter

Published in intersections sense of place visual art

One Comment

  1. I’m so glad you’re taking the time and space to fill the well. It makes me happy that you love your new beautiful city.

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