The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.
– Robert Mapplethorpe
It was approaching dusk as we’d begun to settle into our home for the next five days — a seventh floor Marriott hotel room at Camden Yards in Baltimore. For me, that means an immediate open draw of the curtain sheers to assess the view.
The emerging evening glow of her southern and western red faces paired-up against a smattering of cirrus clouds backdrop told me all I needed to know: we were fast friends and going to spend a lot of time together.
She was designed in the Renaissance Revival style by local architect Joseph Evans Sperry specifically for Bromo-Seltzer inventor “Captain” Isaac E. Emerson. Erected between 1907-1911 and at 15-stories she stood as the city’s tallest building until 1923. She is known by different aliases: Emerson Tower, Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower, or Bromo Tower. Today she is called the Bromo-Seltzer Arts Tower, providing studio art space to creative artists, writers, videographers, photographers, poets, etc. I call her Baltimore Muse.
Our relationship was brief, fierce, and unquantifiably satisfying. Throughout each 24-hour cycle, her chameleon beauty and evocative mood were indiscriminately revealed by the transient light of day-to-night-to-day. It didn’t matter whether she was center-stage-headliner or supporting cast member, she was always hypnotic in her role as muse, subject, and teacher and each time my gaze met her I was insatiable shooting her.
George Eastman said, “Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” This similar philosophy my favorite Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, adopted while creating his Haystack series in 1890-1891 — the exploration, admiration and adaptation of light using a single subject made his series pioneering and significant. It’s also the philosophical argument I applied in conversation with my loving albeit begrudgingly patient companion, L.G.
L.G. said: “Enough with the clock shots.”
SMO said: “I’ll bet Camille said something similar to Claude Monet about haystacks and look how that turned out.”