Those were the days. These are the days. That was then. This is now.
There is so much (too much?) photography in the world. Everyone has a camera in their pocket (iPhone / smartphone.) Flooding the internet with images. Good images lost in a flood of mediocre images. But then, thanks to George Eastman, everyone had access to a camera to document every moment for well over 100 years now, so this isn’t exactly a new thing. It just took more time to get your pictures back from the lab back in the day. And your audience was much smaller (though if your social media followers total in the low hundreds, like mine, is it even a point of discussion?)
Those of us photographers who pined for a moment, like those of Robert Frank’s 1950s, on to the Beats, into the 60s and that counter culture, realize THIS is the time. We have a man of questionable mental balance in the White House, promising to “Make America Great Again.” Turning back the clock on decades of social and environmental progress. And with a bluster that is echoed in other houses of power around the globe. Every action requires an equal, opposite reaction, to re-phrase Newton.
This past autumn, I was sad. Sad because the world was changing in a way I wasn’t ready to deal with. Or sad because I recently turned 50, and had faced two different surgeries in the past year. Or sad because I am reminded again that we are all going to die, and some of us go long before we should. And life isn’t fair. And “why me?” gets a fair response of “Why not you?”
Through it all, I had my camera with me, to construct a semblance of balance in the way I look at the world. Composing within the confines of a frame. Reducing things to black and white, when in reality, there are a thousand shades of gray in between. Seeking collaboration from friends in faraway places, while feeling pangs of isolation. Peppered with moments of joy, no camera necessary. A laugh with my wife, over a breakfast of buttered toast. A funny scene on the stage doing improv. A delicious bite into a tostada on a Mexican street corner.
Where am I going with these thoughts? Where am I going, in reality? I don’t have the answers. But I have my camera, and this platform to express myself. I will take slices of my life and freeze them at 1/500 of a second. I will strip them of their color, or perhaps not. I will share them with my friends, or complete strangers. I will get some “likes” or perhaps just an indifferent scroll past on someone’s device, and then the image will disappear like a leaf blown into the Rio Grande, making its way south, caught in the rush of snow melt from the mountains named for the blood of Jesus Christ.
While I breathe, I hope. While I see, I will document what comes next.