“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.
I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.
A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle
They were in Love. Mad and passionate, unbelievable love – like being lost in a world unimaginable, but with someone else there. There had been a lot of madness and passion and even a little bit of love in that French Quarter bar, but they felt like they were the first and last. Everybody does.
They were both afraid to take the photos. Maybe photographs can’t steal your soul, but maybe they can steal your love. Especially black and white photos, especially machine-made photos. This is dangerous ground.
So they abandoned the little strip after it fell out, threw it on the dirty floor right outside the bathroom. Someone found it and thumbtacked it to the wall. If you could find the person that tacked it up (and you can’t) they wouldn’t be able to tell you why they bent over and picked it up, or why they pushed the rusty old pin through the paper. It fell five more times, the cork was old and brittle, as if it was trying to escape, but someone always put it back.
They shouldn’t have worried. Photographs, especially black and white ones, do steal your soul and do steal your passion. But there is plenty more left – an unending fountain, really, if that is what you want. The photos are only gifts, bits thrown out into the cold night, given away, but never really lost. Never lost.
Time is the real villain – the relentless thief. Time will steal your soul and your passion and your love. Though defeat is inevitable, a photo or two cast out into the pond of the world is one weapon against that inevitable doom of chaos. A small and fleeting victory – but maybe the best you can do. The best they could do.