Dispatch From Abercorn Street

Abercorn Street, Savannah. April 2016. Photo by me.


lightly after eleven in the morning in Savannah and I had come from breakfast a couple of blocks away on East Liberty Street. I stood waiting for someone outside the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist. I had been in the vast church before so I waited and watched people pass on the sidewalk. I studied the buildings on this particular block that I had never paid much mind to in my many visits to this city. 


For the historic district, this block was not all that noteworthy so I turned around and caught the light streaming through the gate of a locked courtyard. I liked most that the sunlight was caught in the English Ivy like a spider's web. I took this photo.

Nick Drake. Date and photographer unknown.

Many years ago I became a fan of the English singer/songwriter Nick Drake. I do not remember how or where I came to know his music, but I took an instant liking to it and him. His soft voice, his guitar strumming and the comforting melancholy of his music was so easy for me to relate. His music for me was like sitting next to a fire and watching the sparks drift upwards to the starry night sky or wading through the wet and green countryside on a cold, misty day. I am never more cozy than when I listen to his music.

Behind the music Drake’s life was brief, tragic and he never came to enjoy any measurable success in his twenty-six years. In 1974, when I was only a toddler, Nick swallowed thirty of his antidepressant pills that he had been prescribed and committed suicide at his parent’s estate in the English countryside. He had dealt with depression for much of his life and finally he gave into it. The legend of Nick Drake was partly built on his early death, but the posthumous fame and success is mostly due to the limited catalog of great music that he left us. He is most well known for his song Pink Moon which has been used in commercials, movies and television shows. My favorites songs of his are: Time Has Told Me, Man In A Shed, When The Day Is Done, Fruit Tree, Way To Blue and Riverman.

Photography has meant a lot to me since I was a child. I would not consider myself a great photographer, but sometimes I do get lucky and take something worthy of being considered art. I respect serious photography like I respect a painting. For some time now I have thought that photography as art was dead or on life support. I believe social media, cell phone cameras and everyone taking photos of everything all the time has made everyone think they are a master photographer. People take photos of food now and share them and we are obsessed with selfies (oh, how I hate that word) which means that really they are just self-obsessed. Photography has been devalued and has become a method to indulge our own narcissism. 


The famous photographer William Eggleston of whom I am a great admirer, had an exhibition and book called Democratic Camera. Now that film is no longer necessary and digital photography can be much more cheaply done I believe the camera is more democratic and thus so is photography. What was once a special hobby for enthusiasts or a meaningful way for people to record their family in snapshots for a photo album has become a thumb press away on a smart phone for every meaningless second to be recorded. The world is flooded with images and not photography. 


I was further convinced that photography was dead when I saw this recent ABC story.

Yes, photography died.

Nick Drake, Riverman