Monday, September 28
I went through some pictures earlier today, copying everything from my latest SD card onto a laptop. Suddenly I felt better about life, like I was seeing all the good shit in a series of experiences I’d been too troubled of mind to really absorb in the moment. Camping with friends and family in Kansas. Hiking a stumbled-upon trail north of Estes. Candlelight and aspen leaves at sundown. Unfocused altered-state clickery. The faces of the people I love. Elsewhere on the internet I looked and there were these little frame-slices of the similar experiences of half a dozen of my friends and coworkers and valued halfway-knowns.
Photography-as-was sometimes seems to have dissolved into the permanent self-surveillance of everybody-has-a-phone, but then so what? The way I haphazardly practice it is itself a product of digital cameras with lots of storage and long battery life, which must have been the really dominant thing for well under a decade. The one I carried all month, a Canon S95, is somewhere near the high end of design and function for a category of pocket camera which is likely to vanish from the collective narrative of technology some time within the next 15 minutes or so.
I don’t think there’s anything much intrinsically wrong with the computer in your pocket supplanting dedicated cameras for most use, but I find myself a little adrift in the ubiquity of that whole thing. My phone is a piece of shit (everybody’s phone is a piece of shit), and the pictures are mostly bad and too many by all the measures I ever learned even though I’ve been that asshole with a camera everywhere for half my life by now.
…but so what? I like pictures. I like them even though they lie (even when photographers are trying to be honest), and even though there are too many of them, and even though they tempt us constantly to make up stories and score imaginary points in a strange and trivial game when we should be experiencing something directly. I need all the help I can get, seeing things, in a life far too short and disordered to see anything clearly at all almost ever, and somehow it still seems like pictures do that.
Last night we sat down at the patio of the bar across the street to watch the eclipsed moon drift all blood-red in and out of clouds. I was ready to buy a beer as table rent, but no one asked, and I have already paid enough table rent at the bar across the street for any two lifetimes, so I didn’t bother to ask.
By the time we left, the moon was high enough again to watch from the bricks in front of my own door. It was visible, then it wasn’t. We stepped outside and back in and outside again. I unscrewed the neighbors' porchlight for a better view. In the darker darkness, the Milky Way suddenly seemed as clear as it ever does out on the plains and away from the cities.
I remembered standing in the chill outside my house and looking at the full moon through my grandmother’s half-broken binoculars, the sudden shock of a flock of geese passing precisely in front of the disc as I watched.
Tonight a shooting star in the northeast quadrant of the sky. The rare kind so long lived as to describe an entire sequence, where usually they’re the merest instant of sense-data. White-gold and green cutting to just above the rocks and trees of the horizon line.
There’s seldom a camera waiting for these things, except by sheerest happenstance.