Two topics that peaked my interest collided this week – a discussion about the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and architectural photography.
Last Friday, Randy and I had dinner with some of his audiophile friends and their wives. The conversation came to Savannah, and then to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. If you have not seen the movie, don’t! Read the book first…then see the movie. It’s an intriguing story about Savannah, and true…mostly…depends on whom you talk to in Savannah. Than again, most Savannahians wouldn’t admit too much truth in the words that grace those pages. Southerners, specifically Savannahians (let me be more direct – the ones I grew up around) don’t cotton much to the trifling words of Yankees. Yes, the author, John Berendt, is a Yankee. The story revolves around an antique dealer, Jim Williams, and four murder trials, the last with an acquittal, in the murder of his assistant (male prostitute, lover, you decide), Danny Hansford.
Anyhow, as I recalled the story, and the wonderful Bird Girl statue on the book cover that could be found in a cemetery not a mile from my teenage home, I thought about Savannah and how I photographed the Mercer-Williams House (the site of said murder) when I was in college for my architectural photography class.
As I was pulling together my architectural photography class handouts this week, and getting sucked into reading articles and thinking about my own architectural photography course all those years ago, I decided to pull my photos of the Mercer-Williams House and see what I did 25 years ago. I have not looked at these specific images in a long time, but being reminded of the story and the assignments I give my students each fall, I decided to take a look.
Blast from the past
Pulled from my negative archives, I found two beautiful 4×5 images, each with exposure brackets. Now, with a 25-years-of-experience-critical-eye and my adjunct instructor’s brain to contend with, I decided…not too bad. I gave myself quite a critique. I listed all the things I’d mark off if I were my own student today, but I decided to scan them and share them here anyhow! 429 Bull Street…the site of a murder.
I shot these way back when on a Cambo 4×5 camera that my school offered, and used T-Max 400 film. The negatives were processed archivally, and were clean and beautifully preserved when I pulled them out of my archives. For my architectural photography students past and future (countdown…14 days), these views are a ¾ perspective, and a detail shot.
Like many homes in Savannah, the Mercer-Williams house is haunted, and many say the ghosts of Williams himself, and Danny Hansford walk the halls, and that of a young boy who died at the home in a tragedy that preceded Williams’ residence. Ghostly or not, it is a beautiful house with a wonderful history and I’m glad I photographed it for an architectural photography class assignment!
Oh, and the name Mercer…that would have been General Hugh Weedon Mercer, the great-grandfather of the legendary songwriter, Johnny Mercer. And, Johnny? He’s buried in Bonaventure Cemetery less than a mile from the house I grew up in!