American Flag Series

Flag-Ladies-Pix           The Freeport Flag Ladies of Freeport, Maine © Steven Willard

The photographs presented here are the result of my desire to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. What I have come to think of as my American Flag Series resulted from a chance meeting of The Flag Ladies of Freeport, Maine.* Their story and my photograph of them moved me to look back through my files where I was surprised to find several images containing American flags.

At the time these photographs were made the flags seemed a minor element in the composition with no more importance than a chair or a bush. Such is the ubiquity of flags in our environment that they have disappeared like trees in a forest.

It seemed to me that since 9/11 displaying the flag had devolved from an expression of patriotic solidarity into something closer to ornament, like hanging colored eggs in trees at Easter. And, like the eggs left to hang until Christmas, the flags tend to fade along with our notice of them.

Here was my project; show the flag in the environment in such a way that reminds people that the flag is not only all around us, but that it matters. The flag is not only an icon that we all pretty much agree upon, a collective recognition that the flag stand for country, freedom, and the American ideal, but that it also represents many different things to each of us.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is a world of difference between looking at something and seeing it.” These photographs are part of a work in progress, and in part, are an exploration of the different meanings that can be attached to the flag depending on context. Since I started I’ve been amazed by how many flags are out there, and now every time I see one I try to really “see” it.

For all our troubles, we are blessed in this country; and now for me, each flag is a reminder.

Pentax K10D, kit zoom.

Dawn's early light2                 Deere Isle, Maine © Steven Willard

Chris and I stayed several days at Pilgrims Inn* on Deere Isle. It is a lovely place and I would go back anytime, but I have trouble sleeping in especially on vacation. As a result I was up before the sun to look around. Just outside the front door I turned left and this is what I saw. The camera was already on the tripod (the sun wasn’t up yet) so it was only a moments work to set it up and record the scene. I thought it would be safe to stand in the middle of the road but I was wrong; people in Maine get up before the chickens.

This was the second photograph I made in Maine that found it’s way into the flag show in just a couple of days and it seemed an omen that I was on to something.

Pentax K10D, kit zoom.

*http://www.pilgrimsinn.com

2010Jul21_1571Orland,-Me          Roland Grindle Agency, Bucksport, Maine © Steven Willard

My wife Chris saw this before I did and recognized it for what it is; a comment on small town America. Things are just different in small towns. Boys still work hard to become Eagle Scouts, and businesses still take the trouble to honor them with public displays like this.

Pentax K10D, kit zoom.

The Strand          The Strand Theater, Seymour, Connecticut © Steven Willard

I was walking around Seymour on one of those Kodachrome days where the light had a clarity and glow that made everything just look better. The sky was almost cloudless and was the deep blue one associates with polarizing filters. I approached the theater from the left, coming first upon the gun shop then the bingo sign with Knights of Columbus above. At that point I could see the flag just passed the theater marquee. I knew there had to be a photograph here so I crossed the street to check out the angle. There was little traffic which was  good because I had to stand in the middle of the street to make the exposure. It was pretty straightforward in Photoshop to straighten the verticals and open up the shadow under the marquee. It’s sad that so many of these scenes no longer exist now that mall multiplexes have put Main Street movie houses out of business.

Pentax K10D, 35mm macro.

Caddy-5x7          ’59 Caddy, Seymour, Connecticut

Right around from The Strand Theater I found the Seymour Pawn Shop with this Cadillac in front. It had been brought up from Texas where I guess Cadillacs aren’t as popular as they once were, and was advertised as having no rust. I immediately saw the flag on the front of the building but I didn’t see the smaller flags in the lower right until the image was enlarged on the computer. The man was so engrossed smashing up the glass display so it would fit in the trash container that he never noticed me. Trash, Cadillacs, pawn shops and American flags.

Pentax K10D, 35mm macro.

Flag-in-Window-2-sharpened

Flag and window, New Preston, Connecticut © Steven Willard

New Preston is a very small town at the southern tip of a Lake Waramaug in Litchfield County, Connecticut. I was killing time while Chris shopped and I happened upon this garage window. Perhaps the owners take the flag out for special occasions, but I doubt it.

Pentax K10 D with kit zoom. Processed in Photoshop CS4.

Red,White,Blue&Gold-11x17

All Hail for the Red, White, and Blue…and Gold © Steven Willard

Well what could be more American that this flag and these golden arches? I happened on this image in Watertown, Connecticut. I pulled into the parking lot, got out and started composing the shot. I had taken maybe dozen when a man came out of the restaurant and approached me.

“What are you doing there?” I thought it must have been obvious.

“I’m taking pictures of your flag and arches” , I said.

“What are you doing that for?”

“I was attracted by them. Isn’t that what they’re for?”

“Well what are you planning to do with the pictures?” I wanted to say that I was going to open a restaurant and wanted to copy their idea, but I was afraid it would confuse. him.

“I have a collection of American flag images and this will be part of that.”

He couldn’t think of a rule that forbid taking pictures of the sign, which I’m sure was the issue, so he went back inside. I didn’t go in and eat.

Pentax K10D and kit zoom at it’s widest setting.

 

Separation of Church and State

 

Separation of Church and State, Brookfield, Connecticut © Steven Willard

I pass this intersection every day on my way to work. I’d probably seen this a hundred times , but it had never all come together like this before. This day the flag was at half staff and the light was perfect, and the image hit me between the eyes. I pulled to the side of the road and grabbed my camera. I had to make several attempts because cars kept forcing me out of the middle of the road.

I rather like the juxtaposition of symbols; read them anyway you choose.

 

 

 

 

13 comments on “American Flag Series

  1. Pat says:

    The Deer Island photo is stunning. I’m not anti-flag, but I am not a flag-waver either (my husband puts our flag out on national holidays). This depiction of the flag brought tears to my eyes. By the way, you also write well which I really appreciate. Make hearing what you have to say a lot easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joe says:

    Nice shots, I think windows are a sickness also besides doors, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Molly Tate says:

    Finally I am here. SO……………………………good…..comforting……….made me think of the small flag I put in my car when it blew down on Curt’s grave. Somehow it ended up in the back window and I like it there. Deer Island…my favorite. Do you want to submit thoughts or pictures to the magazine?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark Zander says:

    Beautiful shots Steve. Don’t ever stop shooting. Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve says:

    Stunning shots, and I’ve been enjoying your writing as well. Looking forward to seeing/reading more….

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for that. I only realized that it has been too long since I have added anything to this series. It’s about time I fixed that. Stay tuned.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SoundEagle says:

    Hi Steven! I like your excellent exposition on this series. You have indeed given this post many thoughts and considerations that it deserves. Well done!

    Like

  8. Theresa Sherwood says:

    Enjoyed the flag series, especially the Freeport Flag Ladies, and Deer Isle, but my favorite photo, due to the irony, is the Brookfield Church -flag – and Do Not enter sign. Great title too- Separation of Church and State. You have a photographer’s eye and wit

    Like

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