Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Streetcar Vignettes

Streetcar Vignettes

New Orleans has streetcars: not trolleys, not cable cars, but streetcars. They're all still super old school, and you still get a mix of locals and tourists taking them to school, for the view along St. Charles, or (of course) the French Quarter. If you sit and watch them as they go by, they're nicely partitioned, and have one window per seat, which (I think) makes them like a little stage, where every person sitting is an actor in them.

Probably the most famous photo from Robert Frank's The Americans is of a streetcar in New Orleans:


That one is an indictment of the racial segregation in public transportation in the South, and you could make a good case the entirety of The Americans is itself a political act.

While I think it's fascinating (and probably in agreement with Frank's POV), it's a lot more interesting to consider the viewpoint that catching a streetcar as it rolls by gives you. I snagged this shot at night, fascinated by how each seat of the streetcar is its own little cell, lit up like a stage for us to peer onto. The shades vary like a bar graph, and my eye catches a real sense of flow here.

I think this photo could be done a number of ways -- on my next trip to New Orleans, I'm going to catch this again with a longer lens, and break it up into three chunks. It'll give me better image resolution on the drama inside the streetcar, but I also think it might make for a fun study as a triptych.

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