99 Crooked Doors of Portsmouth

Posted on January 8, 2015


I have long had this idea for a “Doors of Portsmouth” project. While I was home over Christmas I went to Portsmouth with my sister who is working on several Then and Now books to get some of the last shots she needed.  As this entailed walking around the older  parts of town I gleefully started looking for doors. My intention was to take a few snapshots of notable doors, note the addresses, and come back and “do it right” some time. My experience is that anything worth shooting takes multiple trips. So for example, to really get this I would have to do one side of the street in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Or, perhaps more ideally, wait for a nice overcast day with even light and get a helper with a diffuse off-camera flash, which implies a helper, because many of them had to be taken from the middle of the street or had other issues which would prevent flash, because the light was either too good (sunlight and shadows) or too bad (end of day).  And after looking up many long flights of stairs, I think renting a tilt-shift would certainly be in order to clean up the parallax.And definitely, all of those wreaths could use a little snow on them, don’t you think?

But the absolutely most fascinating thing to me is that almost without fail, all of the shots from the first day were tilted to the left about 7 degrees, despite using two different cameras and multiple lenses on each camera.  This was even after noticing and sometimes retaking the shot multiple times. This was Crazy. Even if I lined the edge of the frame up on something horizontal or vertical, crooked door. None of the house pictures were crooked. Obviously the only conclusion was that all of these doors are crooked and we just never noticed.  So, I even drove back a few days later to figure this out, and I stood on the corner where it took me but a moment to figure out tall of the doors were leaning left, because the camera was tilted right. This seemingly paradoxical effect was why the harder I tried the worse it got. Look at that second picture and tell me that lamppost is not vertical!

I honestly wish I could say this solved the problem, but it did not. Knowing the problem does not automatically include the solution. Perhaps, I’m just bent.

At any rate I kept taking images, thinking you know that I might get 20 or 30 shots. Some doors were worth shooting because they were grand.

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Some because they were not.IMG_8461
Some were nostalgic, like Emilio’s door, a door I have passed through many times and am always saddened I will not pass again. but I am at least happy it has not (yet) been painted over.
Some were whimsical (unfortunately this one had a car parked tight against it).
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Some were mysterious.
Some could not be abstracted from the architecture that surrounded them.

_MG_4235Some were symbolic. (It’s hard to see but that is a pineapple above the door. Like Newport, Portsmouth once used the pineapple as the city symbol to denote hospitality.)
But all of them were so quintessentially Portsmouth. Every age and style has been captured and preserved, and thankfully damn few covered by screen doors. Originally I thought I might take a few shots of a few doors, but in certain neighborhoods I found every door worthy. After three days, they are all still crooked, they are all beautiful, and I have done none of them justice. I guess I’ll be coming back.

P.S. Who Are You and Where are You From?

Who is visiting me from the Ukraine?

WordPress gives me these awesome reports and I can see how people find me, where they live, how they found the blog, what pages they visited. I see people from Europe, Asia, South America, and I always wonder who they are. I would love to get comments from  you!

Posted in: Photography