Old Photos

I’ve had some cameras that I thought were top quality, an Olympus 35mm for awhile, when they thought a lot of themselves, like they were the top choice of the professionals, and they might have been, I don’t know. They used to brag about how many lenses they had. So many options. A lens for every situation. I only had one, the one that came with the camera, a nice 50mm lens that got as wide as, what was it, something ridiculous, like, 1.2 or something.  I bought a couple more lenses, but they were third party, Sigma, Tokina, and I liked them too. Well rated by consumer’s report.

I took that camera on a cross country trip and shot a lot of film. It was mostly a manual camera, but it needed a small battery for metering that never lasted, so I sold it eventually. It would actually shoot without the battery only at 1/60th of a second, and without metering, so you’d have to guess – I should have learned to do that, though it could be expensive to experiment back in the film days.

Then I had a Canon Rebel for awhile.  I took a lot of photos with it in the early years of family.

I look at my old pictures now and realize that there’s a soft focus about them. I took a lot of landscapes because when I travelled, I wanted to more than document my trip, I wanted art. I thought that an artsy photo would only include what I was there to see, and an amateurish photo would have us in it. I did also like to take pictures of people, just not us, but also the mountain wouldn’t look at you funny if you take a picture of it. I guess I could have asked a person, “is it ok to take your picture?” But then it’s posed, and I hate posed pictures, for the most part. I was with someone once who asked a guy whether she could take his picture, and he said no.  She said, “no?” He repeated, “no.” And she didn’t take the picture. So, I took mostly landscapes.

Landscapes are where a professional’s technique shows, and I didn’t have all that. I really didn’t have the patience for it.  I assume it was me and not my equipment, although I didn’t have the best money could buy either. You can tell the professionals; their pictures have unreal clarity. People have a lot to offer in terms of character, such that you can forgive some technical imperfection, or just be satisfied with a certain standard you don’t have to go beyond. Photojournalism even more so, because it’s the content that matters, and they’ll take the best they can get.

But I like my photos. To me that’s how I remember the places, just a little fuzzy. Memory is always a blur, amirite? and a photo like that reminds me that things aren’t so still. Time never stops like in a photo. No matter how perfectly a person can recreate with a photo everything you could possibly have seen (and couldn’t see), it’s always going to feel woefully incomplete. You’ll never hear that creak, feel that breeze, smell that grass (or manure). A perfect image reinforces that so much is missing. Why not go impressionistic in general? Something can be abstract and still representational. It can hint more effectively at all of it, if it also just hints at what you would see. We don’t want to focus so hard. You’ll miss it.



DrummingI’m so spoiled.  When I was a child my family used to drag me from New York City to Old Lyme Connecticut where Lyme Disease was just emerging, though I wouldn’t contract it for another 40 years or so, to the beach where my father liked to soak up the sun every single day. I got bored with that pretty fast and had to try to find other things to do. It wasn’t very commercial at the Old Lyme town beach, but that’s another reason I don’t like beaches these days: too commercial.

I never wanted to go to Connecticut, I was a city boy and all of my friends were in the city, and there were things to do in the city when you didn’t have to go to school anymore, it’s like one big playground, and I still feel like I missed out, not being there those hot muggy summers, but I made friends in Connecticut too, and I learned how to climb trees and explore windy roads on our bikes and to swim, sort of. And it would cool off at night, sometimes.

And they had the best ice cream I ever had, Hallmark’s.  But nothing lasts forever.

Everyone wants to go to Cartegena, Colombia (not Columbia) these days now that it’s safer there than it used to be. But its a beach and its commercial, and that’s just not my thing having become “founded” on it in my youth. The beaches are not the most beautiful in the world either, but they’re certainly as nice as Connecticut beaches (even if the water is a bit too warm to actually cool you off), and the constant harassment from people trying to sell you hats or bracelets or water would detract from the experience, even if I did like beaches.

But it has a lot going for it.  Ceviche for instance.  And the cabs are not expensive. And the people are nice. And if you don’t make eye contact, if you can get right with feeling rude, the salespeople give up on you pretty quickly so you don’t have to waste your time or theirs.  I was there this past weekend with my wife. We said no to so many hat salesmen, until on our last day, at the top of the hill upon which sits La Popa – a cathedral from which you get an expansive view of the city – a sole hat salesman came over and put a hat on my wife’s head, and it looked good on her.

So, we bought two.  Just in time to leave. I also bought some Oakey sunglasses.  They look like Oakley’s  but they’re Oakeys. I needed them, after I lost my others, because it was bright outside.

I got to practice my Spanish, eat some good seafood, drink good coffee and meet a volunteer tour guide who for about $70 US ($200,000 in Peso) spent 4 or 5 hours showing us around, driving us to places, in his own beat up Mazda.  He even showed us his neighborhood and introduced us to his family.  If we wanted to he would have taken us to a cockfight, or secured us weed (he suggested it) or hookers (I’m guessing). But my wife and I didn’t want any of that, not this trip. He was a nice guy, and we trusted him. When he left us at the fort and waited for us outside, we could have ditched him, and he hadn’t collected any money yet, nor would he have known how to find us. He trusted us as we trusted him. Spending the day with our “rent-a-friend” was probably the best day of the trip.

But there was also some good African drumming.


And that mural of Miles Davis too.

But man, they are proud of their chocolate.  $10 a bar? creo que no.