Every now and then I find myself sitting still — though more rarely these days. What do you see when you sit still?
Great shade making, breeze inducing oak trees. Water Oaks, I think. These are real trees. Not the plant-‘em-and-they’ll-grow-fast variety found in mall parking lots.
Oddly, I seem to find myself sitting in the company of those who regularly sit. It seems to be a part of what they do.
There are the immigrant workers sitting and hoping to be snatched up to do some task. Not sure I could sit so long just waiting.
There was the fellow at the garage where my busted truck was being patched together. A happy guy if I ever met one. He was with a group outing — some sort of a group home I figured. He sat down and politely introduced himself and made small talk as their massive van was being filled with gas. I had been sitting for four days waiting on my truck and to myself, as he chatted on, I thought, “This is really taking a long time.” Just then, as the gas tank filled and the pump lever clicked off, my new friend remarked, “Wow, that was fast.” For some reason I have never forgotten him or those pre-internet days of sitting and waiting.
Then there’s the guy who makes daily rounds and jackjaws with everyone on his route. It seems to be what he does. I imagine all sorts of scenarios to explain his life and his seemingly endless supply of free time.
Does sitting imply waiting?
I remember sitting into the night one summer eve in 1974, waiting for the cousins to arrive from Pennsylvania in their already-old-by-then 1963 Chevy wagon. Just sitting and waiting, thinking that each approaching car, headlights shining our way, would be them. What a night.
I miss sitting. And waiting. Internet be damned. I think I’ll sit a spell.
I have written in the past about my selfish concern that there may be too many pictures. I suppose I can take some mental comfort in the fact that if I wait around long enough, they mostly will be gone or inaccessible. Even those of us who are practicing safe archiving often are falling short of the final step of printing.
This winter I have been digitizing my analogue files dating back to my first college photography courses. Why? Mostly, to have quick access to images I want to share online. Also, though I have made it this far without suffering a catastrophic disaster such as flood or fire, I have to believe a digital backup couldn’t hurt.
Today I came across a box full of paper archives. This stash included: ticket stubs, drugstore 3×5 prints, newspaper clippings and random other scrapbook-of-life stuff. It all feels, and even smells, so good — like life.
I’ll leave you with this: In this digital era, as much time and effort as we spend saving and backing up files, are we really saving what counts?
I happened to visit a library recently, looking for a place to sit and do some work. When I stood up to leave I turned to see a flood of intriguing titles. Instantly, the being of books filled my senses, with smell being the strongest.
Had I forgotten the sense of discovery in finding a book I did not know I was looking for?
Today, while packing for what I hope is the last move I ever knowingly make, I photographed this random stack of well loved paperbacks.
Sort of makes me wonder if people living in the Dark Ages knew they were.
I’m deep into my winter project of scanning and archiving my personal work. This includes the images from my first college photography course. I could not have seen where I was headed but I’m thankful to have preserved my negatives and prints from those early darkroom days.
Flash forward to present day. I find myself teaching photography and enjoying a renewed sense of connection to art of capturing instants. Before and after. Not much has changed.
This shot is from my third roll in that first class. The assignment was to show or interpret motion. It was the beginning of a long run of mannequin oriented work.
The definition of time that I came up with all those years ago was this: Time — irreversible change.
I do not have much to say about this image. It’s an old file that I have been trying to make something of for some time. I keep returning to it, hoping to evoke the surreal feeling of the morning I shot it.
In this case I think I will only find what I am looking for after experiment I with printing it. I suppose the point of this post is this; I really do not consider a photograph to be a completed work until I print it. Files, gigs, bytes, etc., are nice — great tools. But I want something more and something that will last.
I, perhaps like many of you, learned photography by shooting and processing black and white film. I started out with a $20 darkroom kit ordered from Sears and continued on through high school and college, studying both the artistic and journalistic aspects of photography.
There is no denying the magic of that darkroom experience — and magic is the one word almost universally used to describe the experience.
I now have fully embraced the Digital Revolution and come full circle back to my black and white beginnings.
What is the attraction to black and white images? Certainly, there is an emotional appeal. There is the presumed timelessness of the image represented in shades of gray. But there must be more. The desire to create black and white images has remained through all of photography’s revolutions and iterations — color negative and slide films, Polaroid instant imaging and now digital technology.
I think it is because photography as a medium is so inherently strong, capturing actual instances of experience.
Recall the history of the photographic image. Sun pictures and the first negatives date back to the early 1800s. The technological progression has never stopped.
So what’s the appeal? The world never existed in monochromatic tones, nostalgic or otherwise. But when we capture and view these basic images, we begin to present and see an essential or elemental world. Color can be a distraction. Eliminate the distraction and we then can concentrate on the tones, shapes and textures of the image.