Monday, October 13, 2014

Michael Crichton's view of photography

He says it in The Lost World, Michael Crichton wrote in 1995 how "the fossil record is like a series of photographs."

A fossil is a photograph?
Fossil of Domke brothers 1890's

He observes how a fossil is like a photo because they are both "frozen moments."

He sees, "looking at the fossil record is like thumbing through a family photo album. You know the album isn't complete You know life happens between the pictures. But you don't have any record of what happens in between..."

Well that's what words do, they fill in the gaps. But unless they are written down "you begin to think of the album, not as a series of moments, but as reality itself . . .you forget the underlying reality."

Fortunately the Domke brothers names were written below on the border of the photo, but like a fossil, we wonder what was their life like? They are in suits, were they loaned by the photo studio? But I know my great-grandfather was a minister, however, none of his kids picked up the cloth. My grandfather is on the far-right. Hated school, was an entrepreneur who had kids shinning shoes around Chicago. Bought a business and moved to Greeley, Colorado, I can only guess he thought it was a safe a secure business. Like shining shoes, he sold tombstones. Everyone dies, right. This is what I have to read into the fossils and family legend.

Did Crichton mean that by only seeing the birthday party, or yearbook photo it documents being six years old, it's only for the birthday party. Makes you think that being six years old was a party? Seeing the other people in the picture hopefully brings back memories, I'm in the picture. I remember adventures, playing with blocks in school, and games we played. But it isn't written down and what will others see when they look at the birthday photo.

What do my grandfathers brothers tell me? I have to know they were my relatives,  just looking at the photo doesn't say who they are. I then start fitting rumors and speculation together. I inherited grandfathers's like finding bones.

But like the challenge to match the fossils together, it was a long time ago and nobody is around to fill in the gaps. So what does that old studio photo taken of grandpa when he was a teenager standing with all his brothers tell me today. Over a 100 years later.

I have another family photo, taken in the early thirties in Kruner, Colorado. A farming community northeast of Greeley, Colorado, that didn't survive the depression.

But my mother grew up there, where her father was the school principal and mother was a teacher. It looks like it was a growing community. How far did the kids go to get to the school house? I have a photo of the entire student body and faculty. Located near the South Platte River they didn't know that it didn't rain much, only 12 inches per year and the river went dry in the summer.

Fossil of Kruner Colorado

Not a studio shot a lot more information. Tells a lot more of the times, the everyday dress. Who were the teachers. Solid brick school house out in the desert!

It tells me a lot about my mother growing up. Friends she may have had at 11-years old, etc.

This is a good fossil.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Capturing the moment results in preserving the memory

Newspaper reporters always complain how the newspaper, and their story, was read today, but was only good to wrap fish the next day. Nobody saved their story, nobody reread their stories, or talked about it. It was quickly forgotten. Readers forgot the story, threw the paper out at the end of the day and waited for next day's paper to come.

We all thought we were recording and preserving history. Bringing awareness of issues that would motivate people to work toward building a better community.

As a photographer, I worked hard to learn what was going to happen, then try be in the right place at the right time to capture the moment. Get the who, what, where, when in the picture. Feeling I was saving for archeologists the decisive moment as it quickly passed by. Stopping time, so viewers could see what happened, then understand and appreciate it.

Time passes by so quickly, so fast the still photo is a useful tool, capturing all the details that fly by and often missed. Video images show reality, but you still miss it. You remember the sound, not the images in video. Photos, still and video, need to be rewatched to help us remember the moment. Remember what happened.

I thought photography would help motivate people into action to stop the war, help the needy, appreciate the local cultural events and make it a better community.  That's how I saw newspaper photography. And I thought we needed to preserve all the successes and challenges of today, to be reviewed and shared tomorrow.

Photography did it better than words.
Group selfie before going on a trip.

That's how I saw things, that's what drove me to become a newspaper photographer.

But wait, I then realize that to know the whole story, you need SOME words to fill in blanks. Tell who is in the photo, what was the event, where was it, and why saw everyone there.  Yeah, the picture captured the moment, but it doesn't tell all the facts.

Back when I started in the 60's, family photos were taken with a Kodak Instamatic. With Tri-X and the faster 400 ASA film the pros were moving to take advantage of 35mm. Still it was heavy equipment, you didn't know what you had till the roll of film was developed and then prints made. Time consuming and expensive.

Things have changed. Now you carry a SMART phone that is a movie camera still camera, a radio, internet connection, picture album, and a phone. Instantly, we see what photo/video was captured by the phone, and can share it with others around the world. Instantly, but do they take the time to open it, then delete it?

Sure is simple these days, but we are overwhelmed with pictures. It is changing the way we treasure them?

I wonder if the photo is losing meaning, is it becoming like the daily newspaper that a day later is, "simply something to wrap the fish."

Friday, October 3, 2014

How many memories should we save?

Do you care about your baby pictures? Not those of your kids, they bring back memories.

But what does that photo taken of you when YOU were 1 year old say? You’re a lot older now. Why save it? Seems like it should be valuable. TO WHO?

Do I want to see a picture of Abe Lincoln when he was one year old? No.

This is what’s hard about saving memories. You have so many, what’s worth saving, who cares?  It is interesting if it shows other things, the surroundings. Sitting on a tricycle, in front of the old Ford says something. But a studio shot when you were one year old. What does it say?

Should we throw it out?