Invisible Spaces

There are images of St. Martin that many people can probably picture in their mind right now: the Philipsburg courthouse, the bustle of Marigot market and the geometry of salt pans on the Great Salt Pond. We know the view of Marigot from Fort Louis and Great Bay from Fort Amsterdam.

We know these images because they have been captured and shared over and over again. They were made into postcards. They illustrate books. A google image search brings up many of these iconic views, along with countless views of planes landing in Maho.

There’s nothing wrong with having iconic views. We don’t tire of classic images of Philipsburg stretched between pond and bay or looking down the hill at La Savane and Grand Case. But the invisible places on St. Martin outnumber the familiar ones.

Churchgoers in Colombier in 1963. Photo by Gordon James.

When most people picture St. Martin, it isn’t Middle Region, French Quarter or Colombier. There aren’t postcards of Colombier. Coffee table photo books aren’t full of images of Middle Region. Most of the commonly seen photos of the island were created by outsiders, for outsiders or both. They may do a great job showing what the island is like to visit, but they capture just a thin slice of island life.

It is human nature to capture the things that seem important: big buildings, busy places and capital cities. Of course the images that spread are the ones that sell the island. But when it comes to history and culture, everything is important. Invisible spaces are a problem. They leave a community with an incomplete memory of itself.

French Cul-de-Sac and the view of Pinel. Photo by Gordon James.

Many places on St. Martin may be all but invisible to the outside world, but the people that live there know them. The people that live there surely have photos of their neighborhoods. Thanks to the internet, we are no longer limited to the photos that appear in books. It is possible to share images of every place, and we should. In the great scrapbook of St. Martin memories, there should be no invisible spaces.

People gather at Coconut Grove. Photo by Gordon James.

Do you have a photo of one of St. Martin’s invisible spaces? Share it by sending it to [email protected] or to The Daily Herald.

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