||[Jul. 19th, 2006|11:40 pm]
Saving People, Places & Memories of the Past
Holding On By David Isay and Harvey Wang (my photo-hero) just came in my mail today. I tell you, this book just lights another fire under my ass to get my own project on the press. Everyday people, vanishing professions and places, and so many of us just walk by or disregard. |
In light of this, I've started this community.
If everyone took one picture and interviewed one person in their city that did something seemingly mundane but old-fashioned, imagine what we could capture.
When I first picked up Mr. Wang's "New York", I was struck dumb by his outlook and simplicity. Simple one-shots, simple one-page bio/interviews that summed up the person and their life. Click. This is Joe. He has
sold hot dogs out of a cart for 56 years. He wakes up at 4am everyday and walks three miles to his designated corner. He loves his job. The end. Yet it opens up so many questions and thoughts: 56 years of walking so far? Selling hot dogs?! What would drive a person to do that? But there he is, smiling at his cart. Hundreds of people see him every day, dozens buy his hot dogs, probably regularly. They know him, he knows them. Joe is important to them, and he probably cares for them too. They share stories about work, kids, weather, books and movies, and so on. Joe is a piece of their lives that makes a difference. And all he does is wake up at 4am, get his cart ready, and walk three miles to his corner to make sure people have hot dogs for lunch. Simple.
It made me think of all the people, places, and so on that I have interaction with, or that I take for granted. Things that I was always curious about, but never got around to asking. Who is that person? What was that building? Why is this here? Where did this go? So, I strapped on my camera, loaded with a crazy sense of determination to not forget, and went about trying to get things in my head, on paper, and on film, that were being lost or overlooked.
When I spoke with Mr. Charlie at the Theatre, he was full of stories but a very simple person. He liked his job. Period. He showed me how everything worked, took me up and let me see the projectors, the reels, the old cameras that are collecting dust, and finally outside on the roof to scoot around the marquee and pose for me. I love that picture. Cowboy boots, a flaming tie, his pommade-slick hair and a gruff half-smile all captured in a moment. His face is so recognizable, and everyone 'knows' him, but only a few know his name, and barely a handful know his story. His header could be, "He found the Golden Ticket."
The same feeling crept into me when I clambered up the pipe ladder in the church behind Mr. Eric to see the bells his family had rung for generations; to gaze upon the tons of metal that had filled my ears with sound by never filled my eyes. Dust and tang lay on our tongues as we discussed a century and a half of his family's history, and of the town that responded to the sounds drawn out by his grandfather's, father's, and finally, his own hands and back. Joy and tears were both summonded by the tolling of the bells. His header could be, "For Whom the Bells Toll."
In a world full of cameras with phones, digital cameras small enough to fit in a pocket, disposable cameras, iTalks and PalmPilots, everyone can find one place or one person and record their history online and share it.
Screw letting things fade away, or forcing the old out. Get out there and remember it. Shoes used to be repaired, not thrown away. Radios were built, not bought. Hats were reblocked and furniture refinished! We knew how to dance, how to sew, how to darn our own socks and how to whittle. We still have time to remember, and time to record. Get out there and save someone, save something. Do it now.