This past weekend I went up to a huge air show in Rhode Island (more on that in an upcoming posting) and had a great time. On the way home we decided to take a wander along the coast of Narragansett Bay and revisit some old haunts. One of those old haunts was the tiny and beautiful little town of Wickford, Rhode Island, a town I love but haven't visited in a few years. There is something about the little harbor there that just attracts me and the town is full of amazingly beautiful old New England homes (it appears one whole street is being renovated with historical accuracy and it's just gorgeous).
Anyway, we wandered up and down several streets looking for the main commercial wharf (I completely forgot which street is was on), but eventually found it and it was just as pretty as I remembered. Beautiful as the harbor is, the thing that caught my eye (actually it caught my girlfriend's eye and she pointed it out to me) on the commercial wharf was this character (a halloween mask--I think it's Nixon--and fowl-weather gear over wood frame) hawking fresh lobsters. I love this kind of whimsical folk art and I'd photograph it everyday if I could find it. Left to their own devices people are incredibly imaginative and the person that created this "Lobsterman" obviously has a terrific sense of humor (and probably sells a lot of lobsters because of it).
Finding weird little vignettes like this is mostly just a matter of slowing down and paying attention to where you are. I was in such a hurry to see the view of the harbor from the end of the wharf that I drove right past this guy at first. Once I realized how cool he was with the late afternoon sun on his face and wearing his very hip shades (not to mention his blue hand), I spent about twenty minutes shooting him from every angle.
If you're traveling this summer, whether you're in a small town or a big city, you'll probably see stuff just like this. One summer while driving through Maine we stopped at an antiques/junk store and there was a great life-sized plastic cigar-store Indian on the front porch and I took several shots of it and they ended up being a spread in my book The Joy of Digital Photography. Tourist towns seem to foster this kind of visual insanity, maybe it's the locals' way for dealing with the crush of summer tourists. When you do find something fun to photograph, don't be shy about shooting it. The folks artists who create this stuff are generally not shy and they love the recognition.
If you're looking for something fun and different to shoot this summer, give yourself an assignment to find some inspired insanity--you'll have a great time looking for it and you'll probably come home with some completely original pictures.
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