2023 Photo Challenge, Week 3

January 22, 2023
2 min read
Photograph by Forrest Dylan Bryant

Gibson Girls Gone Bad

January 2023
iPhone 14 Pro Max

This week's theme in my 2023 photo challenge was "nostalgia," another one that should have been easy but proved rather difficult. The problem this time wasn't a lack of opportunity, but too much.

My wife and I have a habit of collecting vintage stuff, so our home is full of old cameras, dusty hardcover books, antique photos of strangers, and other knick-knacks that would easily fit a nostalgia theme. But that felt too easy, somehow. I hate staging or planning photos—I want serendipity. I want that moment of sudden inspiration when a moment and a place converge and reveal an intriguing image.

I thought about some cool neon signs I know in the area, and considered hanging out near one of them after dark to see what happened. But serendipity struck when I had a few minutes to kill before a lunch date and spotted the old Holmquist Hardware building in downtown Redwood City, a grubby structure that's currently fenced off from the sidewalk.

I was taking photos with my phone from across the street, trying to juxtapose the old brick facade with a Tesla that had just parked in front, but it wasn't working out. So I got closer, and that's when I spotted these four Charles Dana Gibson beauties, surrounded by graffiti and peeling stickers in a boarded-up doorway.

Something about their arrangement and the chain-link fence felt just right. One woman, exiled from the others, looks boldly out at us while the rest of the clique gazes knowingly at something beyond our view. Why are they here, in this prison of decay? Your guess is as good as mine.