The Joy, The Sorrow, The Power of the Still Image
Driving around Los Angeles for this years holidays was, for the most part, a fun deal. Before the rains hit.
Living here for many years, each building is a kind of a landmark and flips the switch on various memories that can play back as a movie, and become just as fleeting.
As the car moved down the road, hitting all of the festivities, the structures had a totally different story for me.
For many years, the family holiday card was usually a photo of my daughter in front of an iconic LA scene or building. Not always, but mainly. The photos were made into postcards and signed and stamped with the phrase ” #___in the series. Collect the whole set!” One for each year
Like this one at the Rose Cafe in Venice:
I don’t remember the day it was shot, but nothing brings back the moment like this photo. And every one of them.
On the 10th year, the previous years images were made into a folding card and the 10th year postcard was tipped in.
Looking back at the changing face, time transported me to each phase in my daughters life. The still image allowed me the opportunity to quietly see that time.
Sure there are home vids, covering vacations, birthdays, holidays, and once screened, that turns on a different emotional switch. But the still image can be a connection in a split second.
Driving around LA, there were plenty of visual markers to start the movie, but when I returned home, the photos came out for the full experience.
And it’s not all the best of memories.
Motoring past Cedars Sinai Hospital, on my way to another bash, a seconds long cruise past the cancer ward, had a whole other movie playing.
As mom went for chemo treatments, my siblings and I would take turns bringing her to the hospital for the hours and hours of medicinal administering. She never wanted to sleep there, so the shifts became adjusted to the availability of treatment in the hospital.
A changing of the familial guard at 2:00 AM was not unusual.
That movie started to play in the brief passing, but once again, when I got home I pulled out the photographs.
The events that were taking place, needed to be recorded, I felt. The family was at a point of action and to stop and see sometimes was too painful.
There were the photos of mom sitting on the bench with a care giver outside the entrance. Photos of her in the lazyboy recliner hooked up to the machines. The exhausting results once she came back home.
The photos can now be looked at and the moments remembered. The passage of time, gives an emotional armor, that was not yet built. Or should have been.
It’s not the fleeting story of a moving image, which can affect you depending on the people in front of you. And unless they are actors or very young, an honest portrait is hard to come by.
The still camera can capture the moment of a reality, that you can study and reflect on later.
As my mothers illness progressed, I documented the moments, as I had for most of our lives.
Still tough to look at sometimes.
No, I won’t share those here right now.
She passed away, not long after treatments had begun.
The images on our walls are not small movie screens, although that will be coming, but static images of the frozen moment, or decisive moment.
To have time in your day to contemplate, react to, remember, add your own history, and examine a still image is a joy that brings us all here together.
As we become better craftsmen and artists, the message we impart within one frame, becomes more under our control, and hopefully, our voice.
The family albums we share have now become known as Vernacular photos. I’d like to think that they are all our contributions to the sharing of the human condition.
The power of the still image
Now, I said I won’t post the images of my mom near her end, at this point, but I’d like to close with this portrait of her made when I was a pretty young photog. It was a good time.
All the best to you and your families during this holiday season.