Street Photography: Looking Up

I was near Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village. I lived in the Village during law school when the neighborhood’s artsy bona fides were still vibrant and less corporate than it is now. There is a building with its entrance right on the corner of West 4th Street and Grove Street. I’ve walked past many times before but this time it was different. I was still in my self-imposed challenge of looking upward for things to photograph as a way to avoid re-creating visual cliches.

So this time, I notice a large stone emblem of a seahorse above the doorway. There was lots of sunshine that helped accentuate the depth of the relief sculpture as well as the rough textures of the stone and patchwork repairs.

There are so many artful details hiding in plain sight a few feet above our heads. Even the fluid curlicue of vines and leaves above the seahorse is unique. You might expect that the same design would appear on either side of the central floral figure as a way to maintain symmetry. Instead, they are completely different. Yet they share a common style that keeps the overall design cohesive. The central floral figure is decorative, yet intended to be natural looking. Each of its petals are different in size and shape from the other. A lot of thought and care went into an adornment that probably many people do not notice.

Why there is a seahorse over the door is unknown to me. Perhaps the building originally housed a fish market or sold nautical supplies? In any case, the seahorse remains as a unique vestige of this building’s history.

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Published by Xiomáro

Nationally exhibited artist, photographer, speaker, teacher, and curator. Author of "Weir Farm National Historic Site" (Arcadia Publishing).

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