Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tempus Fugit, Part II

Taking photographs, for me, is a bit of a sickness.

That's not to say I'm so busy capturing moments that I fail to live them. Rather, you might say I'm so busy trying to live them that I experience a nauseating compulsion to draw certain moments out to infinity.

And since *I* won't live forever (though science is working on it), the fact remains that a significant portion of my photophilia is the desire to share moments — or my perspective of the everyday (the same thing, really) —with others: whether that's a particularly breathtaking sunset, or an old grain silo that has most certainly seen better days.

And yet: there are some things I cannot show you. Like four weeks ago, driving just minutes after a tornado and severe thunderstorms downed trees and flooded roads — stifling my daily commute for the rest of the week. At the midsection of a particularly gruesome downpour, I drove past a 9 or 10 year-old boy holding a mangled STOP sign over his head for protection from the rain.

Once I realized he was heading down a driveway which I assumed to be his home, I was free to address my own, personal agony with the situation:

I had left my camera at home that morning, and would never be able to show someone what I saw. That boy and his STOP sign — and the jungle of fallen trees behind him — are now at the forefront in my brain, but only as I type them now — with the actual experience just recent enough.

But how long until I forget about him? How long until that memory is covered in another, and then another, and with no pictures to remind me... the memory becomes lost?
There was last weekend, too. Hiking over and around sand dunes that seemed never to end, with winds so severe that — when combined with sand — they meant certain death for any camera.

So you leave the camera behind.

Lock your car doors (click twice until it beeps).

And almost immediately experience this dip in your stomach as you realize just how much you will never be able to show people. Just how much you may one day forget.

Kids running sideways, yelling and laughing after tumbleweeds.

Adults jumping and yelping as the sand beats against bare skin.

A three-year-old girl with ringlets and a sundress, running as fast as her little legs will take her

Her father, panting and shouting behind her

This was taken from my car, after the "end" of the walk -- here you see the first of several climbs on a 4 mile (if you walk the whole thing there and back) trip.

Both of these were taken at another dune prior to stowing my camera away for good

But these instances, as I describe them, really only cover one of the five senses: and as much as I prefer to go on kidding myself, the fact remains that life isn't all about what you see. In which case, even with my camera in tow, I can never wholly recreate anything.

Not the feel of my bare feet sinking into sand — so quick, and so assuredly — as we make the steep descent down.

Not the sound of the waves coming in (and then out again). Not even the taste of a raspberry "Squishie" after a long walk in the sun, or the smell of wet leaves just beginning to give in to autumn.

But sometimes photography, purely on the basis of sight, triggers something in our brain that recalls all of these senses. And then, in a flash, you're there — again, or for the first time.

Science tells us our olfactory senses work in much the same way — it is for this reason that being re-introduced to an old, vaguely familiar scent can propel us back through time to a memory we'd all but forgotten.

And then, before you know it, you're in your grandmother's garden. Or crawling onto your father's lap. Or sitting in the truck bed of an old Ford, driving 50 mph on a highway with the wind at your back.

But there is no button I can push to record these scents. No technological interface that would allow me to instantaneously share these aspects of living with the rest of the world.

But I can hit that shutter in hopes that one day looking at that photo will bring to mind the touch; the taste; the smell; and the feel.

For me, or anyone who cares to remember.

Because, well. As much as I hate to admit it, this life won't last forever. As soon as we're that kid chasing after tumbleweeds near Lake Michigan, we're sitting alone at a restaurant just to help the time pass.

Though secretly, and enviably, you can't help but think — old or young — that there was never enough time... before.


Mariposa said...

I feel many of your photographs.
I smell some of them too.
Of course, I mean that in a good way.

Eli Edmundson said...

One thing that is great about photography though is that it can frame an image in such a way as to share something that most viewers don't notice, something the photographers eye uniquely envisions,that frames and shapes the experience for others creating a new moment that never really existed.

Eli Edmundson said...

How long has this blog been black? Just today right? I like it!

Pamela said...

how interesting - we were discussing something just like this at work today. My boss said she was starting to write notes down every weekend - because she was forgetting all the wonderful things they did and saw.

I think that is a wonderful idea...

Unacademic Advisor said...

I confess that I often feel a sense of loss while I am experiencing something because even as I am enjoying it, I know it will not last. And while this does inject a note of sadness into even a joyous event, it also helps me to appreciate it more. The desire to capture and keep something is an expression of how much it means to you. It is the way you recognize and embrace the small moments in life that I admire in your photos.... but don't forget that your writing is sometimes even better.

Mollie said...

Sleeping Bear Dunes by any chance?

disgruntled world citizen said...

your pictures offer us a view in to your soul.

ds said...

well done, boss


XOXO said...

I can't help but feel there is no need to capture the additional senses. I like to have my own feelings along with your images. Honestly though, you have such a way with words that I feel I'm there when I read. bravo

Woodrow said...

I think you should paint the little boy with the stop sign.