I have been trying to write this blog for about 4 weeks now. It wasn’t lack of words or failure of expression that kept me from it, the problem was purely technical, Word Press wouldn’t let me add photos… Well, Angela Channel called today to notify me that all was fixed.
Something interesting happened in that time, the direction, the tone of this blog has changed many times… even before it was written. The way I work is in the moment, the emotion that inspires these blogs (The ones that are truly about my life and not just day to day stuff) overcomes me and I must write… They plague my mind until I can get the words in print, and then I feel free of their burden. So I usually write them as quickly as they come to me. But I couldn’t do that this time, there was a barrier beyond my control, so this blog has been stuck in my head for a month festering.
The part that has intrigued me is how it has changed, almost day to day. I feel like our outlook on life changes over our lifetime slowly, for me it seems like ten year intervals, where I have major shifts in my perspective… But I didn’t realize how day to day events really shape my outlook on things. Some days the slightest thing can make everything brighter… Someone flirts with you at the market, you get an unexpected compliment at work, your kid does something extremely sweet. And other days are darker… Your Ex finds a knew way to dehumanize you, some treats you like crap at work, you don’t see your kids for an extended time. With every slight shift, so is the tone of the writing… or at least what I planned on writing.
So here is my blog, four weeks in the waiting, written from my current perspective… which may or may not be the same way I feel tomorrow!?!?
I was cleaning up after the kids had stayed (I originally typed “Visited”, but they don’t “visit” their Father, you visit a distant relative or friend, they belong here when they are here, they’re not just passing through) and I came across some larger photos that I had mounted for presentation in college hidden behind their toy chest (OK, “hidden” is the wrong word too, they are not hiding, but merely resting in the only place I had room for them). As I flipped through these photos I found an assignment from 20 years ago, a self portrait that expressed who you are. (posted above)
I sat on the couch and looked at this Jack of 20 years ago and thought about who I was then, what I was going through and what came of that young man. There was a me I remember from long ago, shot on Kodak T-Max 100 film, developed in my bathroom, printed on grade 5 Ilford paper by hand in the Glendale Community College photo lab, mounted on black board on the mounting press in the back corner of the classroom. I remember taking the photo, outside on a cool evening on our driveway beside the house, Minolta 5000 sitting on a tripod, the legs fully extended, an extension cord ran from the inside with a single bulb lamp plugged into it, The kind with a clamp on the end mechanics use when working on cars so they can hook it to the hood and see the engine, me covered in calamine lotion (I felt it would give me texture and symbolize the “costume” that I hid behind, the one that hid the real me from everyone) and shirtless. I shot two entire rolls of film, all with the self timer, adjusting exposures, not knowing what they would look like until I had manually developed the film. What I scanned and posted above, was the one I felt turned out the best and fulfilled the assignment. There is no grade on it (The teacher gave the grade on a piece of paper which he attached to the proof sheet, which I long ago lost), I have no idea what I scored, I do know that I got an A in the class for the semester.
I was 19 years old, in community college with no idea what I wanted to do, dating a girl that I felt was way out of my league, so I sabotaged the relationship, working in a photo lab and living with my Mom, her partner and my Sister. I felt much turmoil over this girl that I had this relationship with, who was in the photo class with me and who I helped take her self portrait (Which really defeats the point of the assignment considering I conceptualized and executed the actual photography, but women have always been able to get me to do what they want or need). I look at this photo and I remember that intense emotion of first love… and first heart break, the realization that no matter how hard you want something to work, you can’t make it happen if someone else doesn’t.
I liked that young guy, the one in the photo, he believed he could create unique works of art with light and silver halides, he thought he possessed a talent with his camera, rolls of film and vision. And in heart break, in this old mans opinion, that kids photos actually got better.
Somewhere down the line that kid got busy with real life and didn’t have time to coat himself in calamine and take photos on a darkened driveway. He had to work more, pursue a career. He got married and had a wife to share his time with. He had first one child, then another… He was like all of us, busy living.
Now I’m 39 and I’m sitting on a couch looking back 20 years, and I thought the only true way to compare, to analyse the differences or similarities, was to try and recreate the photo… Self Portrait + 20. Here is what I was able to do:
Shot on a Nikon D-90 onto a 8gb SD card perched on a tripod, legs again fully extended , in a darkened bathroom in a huge, corporate style apartment building, lit by candle, coated again in calamine (I figured I’d stick as closely to the original as possible) and shirtless. I took maybe a dozen that I kept, I was able to review each shot on the cameras screen, noting shadows, expressions, composition. I tried to regain the feeling, to put myself back where I was 20 years ago… But I just couldn’t do it, I am not able to go back technically or emotionally.
The Jack in that photo of 20 years ago, doesn’t exist anymore… Just as the Jack I am now will someday not. It is strange how in many ways my life is similar to that boy in the driveways… Failed attempt at love, heart broken, confused and unsure of my future. I still use the camera, but no longer is there the artistry of capturing light on film, now I convert what I see into a bunch of 1′s and 0′s and then manipulate them on a computer.
We can never remain the same, experiences eroding and depositing new perspectives and views on to us. Some of these forces are beyond our control and others are our by our own crafting. I will never again be 19 year old Jack, just as I will never again be the person who married my wife.
Maybe I’ll try again at 59, on whatever format we are capturing images on, in what ever state of being Jack is then.