I debated for a while about posting this adventure, as the subject matter is quite sensitive. After pondering this for a few weeks, I realized that “taking pictures” isn’t always about camera mechanics, composition or making something look pretty. As a photographer, we can use our skills to document history or an event that will be remembered as long there are people. This can be a good thing or a curse no matter how we feel at the end of the day, it’s all history. America is a young country when you think about it and America has seen quite a bit of action over the years. There have been some great moments like when we landed on the moon, and there are dark moments that I’m going to illustrate here. Don’t take this as I’m purposely putting our country down or focusing on the negative, but this is history. Whatever you think about America, at least it’s OUR AMERICA.
I was having lunch with a good friend one day and we happen to have our cameras in the back of the car. It was a hot day since we are in the dead of summer here in the subtropics of Florida. Knowing this, we try to stay inside as much as possible and listen to the hum of the air conditioner. However, staying inside with all of the curtains drawn, one can get cabin fever, which is what was starting to happen. We made the executive decision to brave the heat and find a place that was close by so we could at least keep our shutter finger limbered up for when the cooler weather arrives. As we were discussing places, I was asked if I had ever been to the Punta Gorda Antique Train Station in Punta Gorda, FL. I have lived here longer that I would honestly admit, as I’m still a New Yorkian (upstate that is) at heart. I had never been to this place and was willing to give it a go. The price was right, as in free so even if it was a bust, I was only out my time.
We pulled around the back and you could tell this place has seen some action over the centuries. I was amazed that it has survived this long as once something is more than five minutes old in Florida they tear it down and build again. This structure was in great shape and there are a team of volunteers that keep the maintenance up to ensure that folks in later generations will be able to enjoy the rich history of this place.
As a side note, I did bracket some of these photos to capture all of the details. We were there about 2:00 in the afternoon and the sun was blazing so we had really crappy light to work with. I mounted the camera on a tripod and fitted it with an electronic release. This was going to allow the software to align the frames without any major issues later. I also converted these into black and white, as it seemed fitting for the subject matter.
The buddy that I was with said that he was going around the front of the building to take some photos. Like a lost dog, I gathered my gear and followed the person who knew where he was going. I arranged my gear in the front of the building and I looked up and I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
At first I thought I had licked one too many forks at the restaurant. Clearly marked in front of me were two doors for people. I try and stay away from discussing certain topics, but this is beckoning for a response. When I went to school, I got along with everyone. It didn’t matter who it was, sure there were times that I may not have gelled with someone, but that was personality, not skin color. I also get rather frustrated when I have to fill out forms and there is a “Race” box. The choices are all the same, Caucasian, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander and so on. As I have filled these forms out over my life, there is one choice that never has made it to any form and if you ask me, it’s the only choice….HUMAN. Are we not all part of the HUMAN RACE? When I was in college, on of the courses that I took had to do with psychology. This class was illustrating how something like this affected people. Since this is a dicey subject, for schools and other intuitions they got creative and decided to use eye color instead to classify people. The result was the same and it was all stupid if you ask me. Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
I visited both rooms just to see how they compared. First, I visited the door to the right. There are historical photographs on the walls explaining how things were done back in the day. At first I wasn’t really in the mood to shoot this, however as a photographer I was able to use the camera as a device to document what was in front of me. Who knows, maybe one day someone can use these to educate the next generation on what not to do. The bathroom was very small and the accommodations were less than inviting. I guess the bright side is that there was a bathroom accessible. There were plain benches to wait for the train on, other than that, no frills.
I walked into the left side of the building and the accommodations were much different. The photo above was the plush chars that they had available to wait in. Granted these aren’t lavish for today’s standards, but the concept is still there. This was a flash shot. My photo buddy had a Gary Fong Puffer for a pop up flash. I mixed the available light with the light from the flash to make this look as natural as possible.
On both sides there was a ticket counter. I was amazed how tall these windows were and went to the ceiling. The woodwork is just like the day it was in use and the iron bars aren’t going anywhere.
We made our way around the building to get into the other side. I noticed on the side of the building that the original signals were still installed. Since I’m not a railroad engineer, the technical term for this is call a “thingy”. I was glad when I entered the station from the other side, there was a document explaining what this “thingy” is and how it was used. This looked quite industrial and it should last WWIII when it comes. The semaphore is made out of iron and this was not a place to get your fingers stuck while it was in motion.
As I was walking around the main section, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the original hardware was still in place. Everywhere you look there is history to be documented.
Unfortunately at this point, the main section of the station has been turned into a flea market. I’m guessing that this helps support the maintenance of the building and what ever else it needs. It would be nice to have it restored to the time period for future generations to see how travel by rail would have been.
It was an interesting trip and I learned a lot. As I mentioned before, America is great, but we have had our share of issues. All I can hope for is that we all get along and make some new photography friends. I’m sure I could somehow use some duct tape to make Canon parts work on my Nikon for the sake of friendship!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean