I’ve come to terms with the fact that my natural rhythms are completely at odds with our modern world – with its ever-increasing pace and ever-present connectivity.
I grew up in a time when cell phones, let alone the web or cloud, were the stuff of fantastic science fiction. Here’s a favorite story to illustrate. My family drove into downtown Philadelphia for the U.S. bicentennial festivities over the July 4th weekend in 1976. As we got out of our car, we came upon an altercation in the offing. A street vendor, a very diminutive woman, was being hassled by an aggressive drunk who towered over her like a giant. The situation felt very volatile to me. Before I knew it my dad stepped in between the dude and the vendor’s table. He was jovial and got the man talking. Turns out the fellow was belligerent because he needed to make a telephone call, and he was incensed that the woman wouldn’t let him use her phone. Again, it was 1976. This is an indication of how far gone this fellow was – or maybe he was a time-traveller. Bag phones were nearly two decades away. My dad, without missing a beat, said he’d be happy to oblige. He made great show of patting down all of his pockets, and then said with dismay, “I wish I could lend you my phone, but it looks like I left it in my other pants.” That answer satisfied him, the man went on his way without incident, and my father had this hysterical anecdote to share with friends for a few decades . . . that is until the preposterous became commonplace.
I resisted carrying a cell phone for years, because I treasured my ability to be occasionally inaccessible. I avoided all forms of social media for many years too, because I value my privacy in a decidedly 20th Century kind of way. I read physical books, and I prefer to buy tangible objects I’ll treasure vs. renting various patterns of 0s and 1s. I live in a digital world, but in many ways I am analog at my core.
How does this impact my photography? I’m coming to realize that as much as I love the physical, tangible aspects of shooting film, it may well be the speed – or lack thereof – that suits me best. The lag time between all the steps: making an image; finishing a roll; collecting a few rolls to send to the lab; and then, finally, at that point, eagerly awaiting notice that my scans are ready for download – this protracted timeline complements my dial-up internal processing speed.
By the time I see my images, I’ve lost most of my expectations of them. There may be a few special frames where the making of the images was so deliberate and intentional that I am able to recall them in full detail when I first view my scans, but most frames have become new surprises. The perspective that a bit of time and distance provide enables me to see what I’ve made with a discerning gaze that I personally find myself unable to train on a disc’s worth of images shot the previous day. I need the lapsed time to make sense of what I’ve made.
The world only moves faster, but my processing speed seems hard-wired to a different era. So while I do carry a cell phone now, I don’t let many apps beep distractions at me, and often when I do post something it’s Christmas lights in April or late summer apples in December. Out of synch is just my speed.
Keep your eyes wide open,