Looking through my photographs from recent trips in our campervan one theme stands out. I have to acknowledge that I can’t help myself; I am always taking photographs of doors and windows. You might ask how many photographs of doorways and windows one travel writer needs and the answer is clearly an infinite number. Wherever I am, either at home in Salford and Manchester or in a new village or city, I look for the detail in doorways and check out buildings above the shops to see the windows and the details on the buildings. This got me thinking, what is it about doors and windows that appeals to me. I am certainly drawn to an unusual and beautiful doorway and window and I am a real sucker for shutters and stained glass. But is it just the aesthetics of the doors and windows themselves or is it something more? Windows and doors are portals to an inner world that is often private. Am I secretly longing to know what is behind the openings or am I more interested in what might emerge from those doors and windows?
The Romans had a god for many things, including doorways. Janus, usually shown as a two-faced god, looks to the future and the past and was also the god of beginnings endings and transitions; the Romans understood the lure and significance of the doorway. Doors, although often beautiful, are closed; they act as the border between the open street and private space. A closed door has potential but what is hidden beyond may be good and exciting or it may be evil. The locked door is a familiar metaphor in many tales; we have to get beyond these closed doors to reach something we are seeking. A locked door is both a temptation into the unknown and a barrier to access; knocking on an unfamiliar door is always daunting. Doors have the duality of Janus, being closed and open, locked and unlocked, positive and negative and these contradictions are intriguing.
In contrast, windows are transparent, we can see inside and out through the glass. Windows are also a public stage for beautiful objects; in our 80-year old flat we have wide windowsills and we use these to display favourite objects, a single ornament and an ancient inherited plant in a pot. By placing these at the public face of the house we are sharing them with the wider world. Windows are the eyes of the house and the items in the window give a glimpse behind those eyes.
Standing and staring out of a window is a way to travel to other places without moving from home. Our flat has lots of windows that let the morning and evening sun flood in to the rooms and from these windows I watch the outside world, creating stories in my head. Whenever we arrive somewhere new the first thing I do [before I check out the interior] is go to the windows and look at the view; I think this is me getting my bearings in a new place, finding out where the sun rises and who I can see and be seen by. Looking up in a new city I like to imagine myself standing at some of the beautiful windows I see; I wonder how life in this street looks from above and what it would be like to live there. For me windows only represent the positive; openings to different perspectives and portals for fresh air and sunlight.
The photographs in this post are really just a small selection from my collection of doorways and windows. The evidence of my addiction is right before your eyes!