Bricks, Hard And Soft


This one jumped right into my camera.  Easy composition, great light, and the wall wants to tell a story. Sandblasting or power-washing has revealed that the lower courses of brick were of a different type and harder composition than the upper, doubtless to provide a sturdy foundation below and to save money above. The two plates are to support heavy things in the interior, distributing the weight so that the soft brick can carry it. The diagonal shadow is from the heavy three-phase electrical line that enters above, possibly to power whatever machinery is supported by the plates.

I say it wants to tell a story, because it really can’t.  It only shows us limited information, and we have to extrapolate the rest. It’s a fun exercise with a building.

People have hidden stories too, often signalled by outward scars and support structures built up over the years.  It can be fun to extrapolate stories about people too, if they are strangers at a distance.  Simon and Garfunkel wrote a great song called America, which tells of a couple on the bus making up stories about their fellow passengers. “The man in the Gaberdine suit is a spy.  Be careful, his bowtie is probably a camera.”

The difference between walls and people is that we can ask people what their stories are.  They may not always be fully honest with you.  If the man is a spy, he probably won’t tell you, he’ll just snap your picture with his bowtie as he tells you he is a traveling bible salesman.

In that situation, it isn’t important.  He is a stranger and you are just satisfying  the curiosity he has piqued. With a friend, on the other hand, making up stories based on assumptions derived from surface appearances can be damaging to the relationship.  Bricks all look the same when they are painted.  It’s only once you hit them with the sandblaster that you discover and damage the soft parts. If you are careless, you can even gouge out the mortar, degrading the integrity of the building.

When a friend shows a scar or a hard exterior, ask where it came from before reacting.  Don’t make up stories to explain their incongruous actions, ask what their motives are. Trust your instinct. They are a friend. Trust their explanation. Friendships, especially new ones, are made from soft brick and are easily damaged.