Readers of this blog might be interested to know that local photographer, journalist, writer, and practitioner of St. Louis-ism Wm. Stage is having a photo exhibit opening and booksigning tomorrow night from 7-10 at Mad Art. Once again, 52nd City's got the write-up.
As Thomas notes at 52nd, Wm. Stage is probably best known for having done the Street Talk column in the RFT for years and years. But he's done other work, as well. His 1989 book Ghost Signs is a standout in my mind.
But when I think of Wm. Stage, gotta say the first thing that springs to mind is not a book or some big project, but something small and simple. Floating around in StL are postcards of photos he's taken over the years. One of them is a black and white image of an old, turreted, brick building. It's a nice, clean, eye-catching shot. One can't tell whether the building is in use or not, but visible across its facade are big, white ghost signs: "BIRD HOSPITAL" "BIRDS BOARDED AND CARED FOR" "EXPERIMENTAL CANARY FEEDING STATION".* The questionable occupancy or vacancy of the building, the huge bold words slowly washing away, the sheer quixoticness of the advertisements, and the fact that in 1989 such a curious anachronism had still survived here, all of that says a lot about St. Louis. The photo is absolutely simple but nonetheless dense and rich with information, and both beautiful and haunting** to boot. And I have to say, if I had to pick just one postcard of our city to send to an out-of-town friend to explain what is so special about StL, and to explain why it's worthy not only as a place to live but as a place to be obsessed and in love with, that would probably be the image. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing his photos of people tomorrow night.
*I'm ashamed not to have a link-able version of the image, but last time I checked, there were postcards of it for the buying at Washington Avenue Post.
** Had to track down the building. It's an LRA vacant lot now, sadly.