More Crooked Doors of Portsmouth

Posted on January 3, 2017


Last year, I did a post, 99 Crooked Doors of Portsmouth, (I thought it was much longer ago) which turned out to be unexpectedly popular.  I followed this up with Crooked Doors of Woodstock, another town my sister wrote about (one of those shots became a magazine cover)>As I am wont to wander Portsmouth, especially the South End and Strawbery Banke (sic), I decided to do it again. It’s part of the grounding process when I come home. My sister, Elizabeth has book coming out on Portsmouth, so walking around with her is like getting a guided tour. That said, it’s still a walk and every door gets about 15 seconds, exposure-bracketed, shot at burst, to be stacked later. Yes, someday I want to come to Portsmouth with an architectural lens, a tripod, a ladder, and hit it after a storm to create the ultimate series (which my friend Donna suggested should be the Portals of Portsmouth), but until then, this is all scouting.  I  can confidently say I know every door in the South End, and those without wreaths will be getting notice when I prepare to do it for real.  That said, in two walkabouts, I shot almost 1750 shots.  So, where their is not quality, there is digital.

Ultimately, I set my camera on WREATH mode and let it rip. No, actually the camera does not have a wreath mode, although yours may. I set the ISO up high so I could switch from aperture bracketing to shutter speed bracketing and crank the 3 shots out in a few hundredths of a second. It’s not ideal, but it also doesn’t break the conversation. It turns out that Beth’s camera took much less crooked shots the first day, less so on the second, and totally undifferentiable from my camera on the third. Que sera.

On the way in I was looking across Great Bay, musing how I always do about the sea run browns they put into Berry Brook in Rye every year, and the reports I’ve heard about them rising to BWOs in the estuaries on summer evenings. I redoubled my commitment to catch one of this mythical beasts and fantasized about moving home, getting a Zodiac and haunting the bay.

Anyway, as we were walking along, my sister gave a continuous discourse on every house and street. We talked about the Widow’s Third. This is where a widow was allotted 1/3 of the residence she had had with her husband after his death. This results in houses split 1/3 – 2/3 with two front doors next to each other. Well, don’t you know we come to just such a house with the guy unloading groceries. Beth, having my Irish grandmother’s gift of gab, starts chatting the fellow up, and next I know we are in the  house, which is appointed a cozily as a ships cabin. Right to the point that he has a Moses Pond wood stove appointed from a clipper ship as heat.  We get the tour and are on our way out when I see a fly fishing magazine I happen to write for on the stairs. He allows that he is a guide, and we discuss the brown trout problem. He in turn downloads a bunch of information on where and when people have caught them recently, which goes into the vault, I get his card for the summer, and off we go.

Last year, I was just fascinated by how individual the wreaths were, and how ubiquitous the practice. This year I really started noticing things like the shape of the transom, the type of mouldings, the variety and details of the pillars, the age of the glass, the shape of the doors themselves, the riot of colors, and even the the style of lamps hanging near them. I’m sure a better student of history and architecture could tell us volumes about the houses just from these portals. This is from a time when all craftsmen were artisans. Sometimes I wonder if the doorway was how they “signed” the houses they built.

Unlike my usual MO, I’ve captioned many of the images with some of these observations, rather than clutter up the verbiage here, so if you are interested, click on the gallery to get the slide show, or mouse over the images to see the caption if there is one.

Happy New Year!

Posted in: Photography