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There is no explanation for this photo. I can tell you where I took it, but I could have taken it anywhere, because I do take it anywhere. And everywhere. There is something about strong shadows of stringy trees on painted walls that I cannot get enough of. I want to freeze them and make them mine and look at them again and again.

And it’s funny, because in college I lived next door to a woman who (to my eye) painted the same thing over and over and over again. They were stick-figure trees on a pale background. I would see her at the Art Barn (an open workshop space), and out my back window, wearing fingerless gloves, painting the winterscape of New England, trees upon trees, spindly and dark, against a pale bluish-white sky. I couldn’t understand why, if she could paint the same thing inside and out, she would choose to stand in the freezing cold, fair neck wrapped in a slouchy grey scarf, hair in a loose bun, right arm extended towards her canvas, flakes threatening to fall from that bluish-white sky, instead of in the relative comfort of her workshop space.

I also didn’t understand why she’d paint what looked to me like the same painting again and again. But I bet that she could pick any of her paintings out of a line-up and know which one was hers, just like I could probably name for you the dozens and dozens of pictures of spindly trees on painted backdrops that I have taken, mostly in Santiago, because we have the right light, but sometimes other places, too.

This one is from República in Santiago, close to where I live. If I were a painter I would die of frustration of how the shadow moved over the course of the day, while I was trying to paint it. As a photographer, I have the luxury of snapping and walking away, but I do not have the luxury of taking this photo when the image is not there.

But fall is upon us in Chile. I shall have leafless trees with strong shadows on painted buildings in droves. And I know I’ll take dozens more of this photo (or ones just like it) before the leaves come back. It probably looks like nothing important to you. I don’t have an explanation for that, either.