It doesn’t matter what photographic process it is, camera less, chem gram, with a camera whatever, they all tell a story. It doesn’t matter. The photograph is more than an index of what is infront of the lens that reflects back to the film, sensor or whatever it is an index of the time spent making the tangible and intangible thing called a photographic image. I hope digital workers see I said INTANGIBLE thing too because if a digital file is created and presented on a phone or digital picture frame or instagram or a website or whatever, it is not a tangible object, it is intangible. I like tangible things but sometimes all that’s left of the index of the experience making them is an intangible thing.
The other day I went down the street to a construction site to rephotograph it. I say rephotograph because I’ve stood there with a camera (digital phone and larger contraption) a few times. I watched construction crews turn to rubble buildings that had been on site for thirty years.
They weren’t impressive buildings, no historic significance there other than the woes of urban and suburban sprawl. These two images were made with my cellphone, nothing tangible.
I went back and made some long exposures on paper
and like all of these long exposed negatives the digital file is all that exists, the paper turned to grey even after it was stabilized, that’s ok. I sometimes think of the images like what historians and archaeologists would call a “stone fence” here in RI. There used to be a wooden fence. The property owner / farmer pulled rocks out of the ground and piled them up by the fence, eventually the wooden fence vanished and all that is left is the stone fence.
Soon after I made the long exposures (anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes each) I the imprint on the paper vanished, but the time I spent making the exposures was spent talking to an old friend. THAT is what the photographs indexed for me.
The other day I made exposures at the construction site again. The first time all the exposures mistakenly went on one sheet of paper instead of 4, and this is what I got.
While I took these photographs (photograph?) it was between 345 and 4pm. the sun was beginning to hide behind the clouds. People walked by worried they would be in the picture but I told them nothing would be in the photo but the trees and buildings because they don’t move. I talked to a teenager who was interested in photography about what I was doing. The police drove by and didn’t notice me and I packed up and went home. The image is now almost vanished after a couple of days, but the time spent is my index. The conversations and watching time pass.
The next day to remedy my “equipment failure” I returned to the site. Once again I parked and set up my camera and pointed and exposed 4 different views.
I spoke to a neighbor for a few minutes when he stopped, and when I got to the 4th image, two police cruisers parked and the police approached me and asked what I was up to. Most people are kind of freaked out when the police ask them questions when they are making photographs, I gave them my license and chit chatted about what I was up to. I showed them the “mistake” from the day before and removed the film holder and showed them the image stain on the paper and told them this is how some of the first photographs were made in the 1820s. They left and later on that day I made the image I just posted and printed out a physical copy, drove to the station house and gave them a copy. The images exist but the conversations and story remain permanent, more permanent then the actual physical mechanically made photographic stains on the light sensitive paper.
I pretty much remember every exposure I made. I remember the scenes where they were taken, the dangerous situations I might have been in ( like 23 stories up on an HVAC Unit making an aerial view ) conversations made with my subject, or passers by. Photographs are stories, that sometimes have nothing to do with the subject of the image.