I rediscovered sepia this weekend. I like how sepia suggests that this image is of the past. A past moment suspended in the now. A ’54 Chevy suspended on this page. Lately, I’ve had this recurring thought that wherever I go, the moment has passed by already. And time appears to me like a shadow-line moving over what was in the light and I’m standing at that line mesmerized at the movement itself. Paralyzed by thoughts about the experience of time.
Then the illusion is blown by a row of city bikes in the background. The 1954 feel / time bleeding out of the main object betrayed. I remember the point Roland Barthes made so well about a photograph being more akin to a hallucination than any kind of memory (actually a counter-memory that blocks memory). His quote from Camera Lucida about what a photograph is has always struck me as closest in my experience, “The photograph becomes a bizarre medium a new form of hallucination. False on the level of perception True on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modest, shared hallucination (on the one hand “it is not there,” on the other “but it has indeed been”): a mad image, chafed by reality.”
Photographs. Our dear sweet little false memories. As yummy as apple pie with a little hot pepper in it. I’ve always felt this push-pull from photographs. And I feel it when I photograph. Something maddeningly ordinary but also hints of something gone awry. The maddest image tries to tell you that it’s as normal as a car parked on the street. Even objects and places tell us how they want to be seen.
The more experimental or expressive the photograph, actually the less mad it appears to me! Closer to its medium as an image-maker rather than a truth-teller. The utterly mundane being most mad of all. But who doesn’t love madness in art? And that might be why some artists like me tend to be most mundane of all. Blending in. Hiding to better witness the mesmerizing shadow-line of time.
On one of my regular walks, a sense of waiting overcame me. Earlier I had been thinking about how a photograph is really a suspension of a present moment. So I went for my normal walk through the neighborhood and took snapshots with my cell phone of whatever ordinary stuff seemed to involve my attention. Somehow interlinked in the desire for a walk was this feeling of waiting reflected in the ordinary things around me. And by the end of the walk, I felt as if a walk is very much about moving through a world waiting all around. Even I, though moving, was waiting to walk to the cafe and then waiting to get back home. Waiting for ordinary signs of waiting to stick out at me. And even though other people were engaged in activities, I saw them more like moving bodies waiting for something else to happen.
Wait Eucalyptus tree.
Wait wide open space.
Wait debris on steps.
Wait empty chair in the shade.
Wait balloon on grass near a dandelion.
Wait seed pods to drop.
Wait long shadows.
Wait horse tethered to a tree.
Wait pigeons perch.
Wait red truck at red light.
Wait shadow of stop light.
Wait paint on brick wall.
Wait bagel with gentrification.
Wait wall for next rebellious poster.
Wait empty store.
Wait sticker on a bench on a tattoo parlor.
Wait windows clean.
Wait unload truck.
Wait street cross.
Wait hair cut.
Wait old Pontiac locked up behind a fence.
Wait mail outside motel.