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Friday, November 29, 2013

Paint it yellow: a facelift on Durham's Main Street

Posted by on Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 10:06 AM

  • Lisa Sorg

The building at 433 W. Main St., at the corner of Great Jones Street in Durham, was named the "Professional Center"—as opposed to the Amateur Center?—and sits on the lot where, until circa 1972, a Phillips 66 gas station used to be. (Endangered Durham has an excellent architectural discussion and visual history of this corner.)

Constructed in 1974, the Professional Center used to be a drab, faceless edifice that sucked the energy out of an otherwise vibrant Main Street. So last month, I was delighted to see the owner Robert Rosenbaum and local architect David Arneson do something bold with the building: paint it yellow and gray. Gone is the Orwellian "Professional Center," replaced with a gigantic "433."

  • Lisa Sorg

One day last month, I spotted several painters working on the building. It was one of those perfect fall days, and the blue sky contrasted perfectly with the yellow walls and cornices. By chance, I captured a man on the roof peering down at the painters. I didn't even see him through the viewfinder; it was just luck.

One of the main artistic questions facing street photographers is whether to shoot in black and white or in color. I shoot in both, depending on the situation. These photos, for example, would fail in monochrome.

A master of color, Saul Leiter, a street photographer (he also shot fashion to earn a living) died at age 89 this week. In the 1950s, his color work defied the black-and-white status quo of the time. The New York Times and The New Yorker published moving and thoughtful tributes to Leiter, who unsurprisingly was trained as a painter. Not a painter of buildings, but a painter of canvases—although I think of this structure as a canvas of sorts. 

  • Lisa Sorg

Lisa Sorg is the editor of the INDY. Her blog documents the small moments of life in the Triangle in photographs and stories—as a reminder to why we live here.

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