I’ve lived in Charleston all of my life so far –72 years – with the brief exception of three years in law school 110 miles away. Still, when I walk the streets and alleys of this historic city and cast my eye about, I notice something stirringly beautiful for the first time. The opportunities are limitless – the cornices of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings, the alignment of church steeples against the sky seen exactly that way never before, a fig vine creeping up an old brick wall, the striking pastel color of a building, features in a little garden, a gable, the detail of a wrought-iron fence, the shadow of a side porch of a single house, a stream of brilliant light down a narrow alley. It is never ending – the variety of the feast that awaits the eye in this, one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Only very good writers can depict the haunting and exhilarating beauty of Charleston, and they need to have lived here all of their lives or a good bit of it. A short visit, or even a few years, is usually not enough to do justice to the city’s beauty. It is like trying to adopt the accent of another city after only a short time as a citizen. So it is with artists who have lived here long enough to display the variety and unique beauty that is Charleston with their pencils, watercolors, and oils.
Jack Alterman is a great artist. His medium is his camera’s lens. And Jack has lived here nearly all his life. In this book, you see exquisite glimpses of Charleston’s limitless beauty, captured by his brilliant and knowing eye. This book is the result of a lifetime of love and study of his city. After I saw a proof of the book, my wife Charlotte and I were walking down lower King Street late one clear, crisp November afternoon. Stimulated by Jack’s book, my mind’s eye intentionally knew not to miss anything. I saw gorgeously rich colors of stucco houses one after the other, deep-red roofs, diminishing sunlight coming through narrow gardens. Everywhere I looked there was a discovery. Such is Charleston.
If you have lived here all of your life, this book will enhance your ability to look about this beautiful city even more. And if you’ve never been here, you will see what a beautiful art gallery is this city. Jack Alterman has movingly reminded us of that.