Last week I had a day all to myself in the big city. THE Big City. A whole day to wander. I spent it in Chelsea climbing stairs and hopping on and off elevators in those old warehouses turned to art galleries. The scene interested me as much as the art, some of which was brilliant.
It felt a little like snooping as I found my way along the concrete hallways. The only sound was the tappity-tap of earnest interns at computers. Though their eyeballs were just above the reception counters in each gallery, they didn't even glance up. Tap. Tap. Tap. Poor dears. Dream job in the Big Apple. They mostly looked cold and nervous. But, I digress.
Did I mention that it was quiet? I didn't have to talk to anyone for a whole day. That never happens. Fourteen hours straight. Alone with my own thoughts in unfamiliar places. I got more clarity in one day than I'd have managed in a year of stolen moments.
Though I had two cameras with me, I took only two photographs. That day seeing was so much more important than anything else.
This is not the photograph I meant to take. It is not a great juxtaposition of these granite steps with the crisp, white Capitol dome. No Capitol dome at all, in fact. Too blown out to appear. Just a faint outline of the conservatory of the U.S. Botanical Garden which looked so striking in front of it.
And why couldn't I get my six-year-old out of the frame? (Because I was calling his name and waving, so he planted himself, faced the camera and smiled. duh...) And my sweet friend had no idea her shadow was in the frame when she leaned closer to see what I was looking at. Because this is instant film, by the time the print had developed in my pocket we were a block away. No second chance.
This is not the photograph I meant to take. It is the photograph I actually took. To me, a list of accidents. At first it was another Polaroid disappointment, but as it sat on my desk over the next few days, it began to grow on me. It became a photograph of my boy. A photograph of darks and lights. I love that he is a firmly planted on both of his little feet in the black shadow. I love the twin flag poles behind him for balance. And I particularly love that these darks emanate from a point nearly mid-frame.
It is not perfect, but I love it. And, that is why instant film matters. As it magically develops in your palm, you will have to reconcile what your eye saw with what the camera saw. They will never be the same, and they will teach you to see differently.
Last month the little man and I made a trip south. Presidents' Day in Washington, DC. How appropriate.
Can you say, "Grand?" The National Building Museum. Seven stories of open, indoor space with about a thousand people gathered in the atrium (most of them no taller than your belly button... oi). The little man and I headed up above the masses to eyeball the architecture. When I am in a city, any city, in consciously, intelligently, beautifully designed architectural spaces, I am happy. In this particular space, over-joyed.
For contrast (and a big bowl of real Thai noodles), we hopped off the train in New York on the way back up the Hudson River. Serendipity is always the best tour guide. She took us here:
Drink it in, baby, before sliding back onto the train and heading home, where this is the grand space that makes us happy:
For the past six months (an eternity), I was unable to scan and edit a single Polaroid photograph (dead computer). Excruciating. With my tools gone, I spent late nights flipping through my old digital archives on our son's computer (hoping that it wouldn't bite the dust too as it groaned through acres of data). Since it has been a long, cold winter, I kept my chilly digits wrapped around hot cups of tea.
Tea. Tea bags. Paper. Recycled paper. Perhaps you see where I am headed?
This not-so-interesting digital photograph was made with my old point-and-shoot (where is that thing, anyway? no matter). It is printed on recycled tea bag paper and augmented with pen and ink. My work table is now cluttered with dried tea bags and tea prints.
I love the feel of the handmade image. More experimentation ahead, and a new method for enlivening those crisp digital photographs.
Where have I been? On vacation. Turns out a much longer vacation than planned. Yes, I went to the little island off the coast of Maine in August (where I took this photograph and many others). When I got home prepared to scan pockets full of Polaroids, the little computer just refused to get back to work. Breathed its last.
Then, I got married (yes, married!). That was a little bit of a diversion, as you might imagine. Then Christmas in all its glory. Finally, with all that behind me, I made the long awaited call to the Apple hotline, and a new iMac (brand spankin' new!) arrived. With a monitor so big I can actually SEE my photographs.
It is now up and running, and so am I. My little experiment in living off-line turned into involuntary exile. There were things about it that I liked very much, thank you. But, in the end, I feel best when making photographs and writing about them. (yay!)
Thanksgiving week is upon us, and my thoughts are turning to this year's Christmas cards. For most of my life, I sent scores of cards. Scores. Then, I moved to Thailand and abandoned the whole thing in favor of perpetual sunshine and summer dresses. This year I am planning to reprise my old habit, as it is the one time of year when the mailbox contains actual letters. With inky signatures. And not just bills.
I am particularly excited, because this year the cards I will send feature my own Polaroid photographs, professionally printed and available on-line at Society6. (Yes! You could send them too.)
So brush up on your penmanship and go buy some stamps!
I'm packing the antique Polaroids into my tote bag (and boxes of film into a cooler) and taking a mental holiday. There will be a couple of road trips. I will be freezing my little toes in the icy waters off my favorite island in Maine. I will be checking in with my old haunts in Philadelphia. And, the boys tell me there is mini golf (lots of mini golf) in my near future.
Best part? It will be an internet free zone. But for the occasional e-mail check-in, I will not tweet, pin, post or surf. Remember when life was like that? I can't, but I intend to remind myself.
See you in September! With lots of new photographs to share.
Many thanks to everyone who took a look at my new Etsy shop and entered the giveaway to celebrate its opening! The traffic to the site was really hoppin' there for a few days, which is terribly gratifying. And more than twenty of you clicked away on Facebook and Twitter to join in.
The lucky winners are Retropage, Wooldust, Lauri H., Anonymous (I know who you are), and Jennifra (who selected the photograph of Pond Lilies shown here). The list includes friends old and new, which was the whole point really.
I will be in touch for shipping info, and you will receive your print in the mail shortly. Again, many thanks for helping me launch this exciting new venture!