You need not set foot in Australia to know its iconic symbol the Sydney Opera House which has been photographed from every conceivable angle, day and dusk.
On a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Qantas on-demand entertainment featured, naturally, a documentary about the design and building of the Opera House. At least I’d be an informed visitor. A camera toting tourist ready to adopt the traveler’s credo of “leave nothing behind, take only photos,” I had my first shot of landmark from the ground came during a weekend visit before traveling on to Melbourne.
A path wound through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Farm Cove, leading to the first glimpse. The Sydney skyline to the left, the arched Bradfield Highway Bridge to the right. There, there it was, but more diminutive. The Opera House looked familiar, but not fully as expected from photos and paintings. For an emblem of Sydney and all of Australia, I expected grandeur at the most, really big at the least.
I attended a “Tea and Symphony” concert at the Opera House featuring the magnificent organ in Saint-Saens’s Organ Symphony. With plenty of time to tour the facility, I studied the building from available angles during a walking contemplation. Many people think buildings are neutral, that any experience of them at all is solely dependent upon the person looking. I believe places have soul and that our interaction with them creates a new dynamic that doesn’t exist except between the particular place and the person.
The Opera House has soul. And she reveals herself readily from many vantage points. Yet, she reveals aspects of herself once she knows you really want to get to know her. One of my favorite photos is the close up of where two sections of the building join.
During a recent visit to the Denver Art Museum, an inconspicuous sign near the Impressionist paintings offered this expansion upon the notion of places:
“We all see the same place in different ways. So where one artist’s painting of that place is an homage to nature, another’s is a study in form and color. Still another’s may be an attempt to crate an accurate record of the topography. Claude Monet painted the same places again and again, each time capturing what he called an ‘instantaneous impression.’
“Many landscape artists rely on our imaginations to pick up on the sensual elements of their works — the sound of leaves rustling, the feel of an ocean breeze, the warm sun on bare skin. Landscape artists even have the power to shape our notions of beauty: how many of us have marveled at a place that reminded us of a great work of art?”
Even though my amateurish shots look like those of most other tourists, I hope you’ll get a sense of how I experienced the place.