The Gatsby Garage

An old service station sits at one corner of my neighborhood. It’s compact, with fine brickwork, and radiates a sense of history. I’ve come to think of it as the Gatsby Garage — not because I live in a west coast Valley of the Ashes, thankfully, but because of the building’s vintage look. Since appearing in 1926 it’s had incarnations as gas station, car dealership, and foreign car repair, but for years now it’s been closed, and then fenced in to protect it from trespassers and protect trespassers from crumbling brick. Almost everyone says they’d hate to see it go, but it seems that no one, as of this writing, knows quite what to do with it. You can learn more about it, and about its wonderful owner, now passed, in a great article by Lorri Ungaretti at the website of the Western Neighborhood Project.

Partly because I walk past it every day, and partly because the fence presents a visual barrier, I haven’t given the garage much photographic attention. But last week I was drawn by the play of long winter light on the old building. I purposely included the chain-link fence in one image, and otherwise did my best to photograph through and over its diamond openings.

If you’d like a peek at the entire structure you can look at the article linked above. My own interest that day, to paraphrase Garry Winogrand, was not in the thing being photographed, but in how that thing looked photographed. I honed in on pieces. I was after the framed shapes and odd objects, the emblems of age and passing time, the geometry of brickwork, the warmth of brick against blue sky, and most of all the Hopperesque light pouring through dust-caked windows. Here is some work from that day.

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