Thursday, December 23, 2004
Wandering into the frame.
It was near sundown just off the main drag in Honolulu. Kelly decided that she wanted to wander around and check out the “traditional” island shows that pop up all along the Waikiki shoreline after dark. They all feature young girls in grass skirts and tuna-bellied poi-boys strumming beat up guitars the whole scene bathed in the fire-torch lighting. Kelly likes stuff like that and the price was right so I strolled along beside her.
Kelly wanted to get a closer look so I stood back as she weaved her way through the crowd to get to a spot where she could see. Being 5 foot 4 she needs to get close. Being 6 foot 3 I prefer to stick to the back of the crowd so as not to block the view of others.
As I tried to find a place where I was out of the way but could still see Kelly I noticed that no matter where I stepped I always seemed to be wandering into the frame of someone’s photograph or vacation video. It was amazing… digital cameras, camcorders, even picture phones. No matter where I stepped I was in someone’s frame.
Theses are photographs that people take to capture a moment. They don’t take them to capture meaning but rather they tape it or snap it because it is something decidedly vacation-like. Not something they will frame and take to the office or make doubles of to share with families. I contend that out of every roll of film (or these days, gigabytes of digital data) only about 5 percent is actually meaning full. The rest is there to fill up the space. How many pictures of the sunrise over the Alps does someone really need? How many shots that guy in New York City that plays guitar wearing nothing but underwear and cowboy boots can a person use in their photo book?
Works the same way with our memories. I have no scientific proof of it but I bet that at the end of our lives we only really remember 5% of all the minutes and seconds of our lives. Out of an average 75 years we have probably only 3 maybe 4 years of information stored if played end to end on a high-speed reel. So why then… why do we think that some flower growing in Quebec City is necessarily noteworthy? Perhaps because we really want to capture everything; we are greedy and want to keep it all. We never want our vacations to end. We never want our children to grow up or our lovers to die and leave us alone. So, in the absence of the power to stop the current of time, we freeze it. We freeze it in this nice and momentarily significant block of irretrievable and unlivable time. It is not so much that we will ever look back at the tuna-bellied man who sings about his “brown island princess” it is all about the fact that we CAN. We can look at this man swaying in the cast of orange torchlight and think back to a time that had absolutely no knowledge of a future that has our lovers dying or our yet to be born children aging.
Kelly found herself satisfied with the show and came to the back to find me. She seemed happy that she got to see the production. She walked up and hugged me, pressing her firm pregnant belly into me. I bent down to kiss her and she asked me if I had remembered to take some pictures.
“Absolutely,” I said. I had taken a few. All the while folks wandered in and out of my frame. Some of them escaped the shutter close of the camera while others are forever locked in a moment of time I might never look at and if I do might wander why the hell I wasted the 387 kilobytes on the memory card to take this picture.posted by Mike | 9:02 AM
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