The old Pentax camera was at the bottom of a box of odds and ends. Apparently someone cleaned out the bureau and just threw everything in the box, its value marginal, its presence a nuisance.
The camera like so many things have become obsolete as they have been dwarfed by technology. We no longer need many of the things once necessary in capturing images, making phone calls, flying across the country, the world. Many of the things that have claimed to be an improvement have literally simplified one’s personal involvement in the process.
The camera flooded my memories with the visions of youth, box cameras and polaroid’s, being finally replaced by apertures and film speed. Black and white visions of life replaced by colored management of people and places, leaving the intrinsic value supported by the colorless infusion of reality behind. Color shocked us in to the Kodachrome age, where our flamboyant wishes overcame our institutional conservatism, exploding in the rebellious nature of the 60’s.
The camera encased by its leather shield; the strap no longer attached to the chrome ring a disheveled craziness resembling a worn snake occupying the bottom of the box. I plucked it from its tomb, undid the clasp, and as the molded leather dropped from its purpose it exposed the rings of f stops and focus, which gave life to the concoction of lenses that reshaped the eye of the beholder, and a renewed the spirit of my empty shell.
Older cameras required the insertion of a celluloid soul capable of capturing a reality our eyes and minds filtered in a way that left the result contaminated by subjectivity. I couldn’t help but marvel at the corpse of a distant relative of todays advances, which allows for the disconnection between purpose and relevance.
I hold the possibility for the mind to interpret the light, speed, focus of an event we see in real time and capture for a future that has yet to be imagined. I opened the latch exposing the soul and the bowels of the mechanical documentarian. The film had retreated like the turtles head back into its shell, awaiting the sense of freedom that comes after the doors of the cell have slammed shut, leaving its occupant with only memories of what freedom was.
Confronted with a history that belonged to someone else is an experience that frightened me. It was as if I was seeing, thinking, judging, praising, condemning a vision I did not see but came to possess. What to do with it? Perhaps it had never been threaded through the process of cogs and wheels and exposed to the realities of life, or could it encompass the true vision of who and what the perceiver saw.
There was no way to tell if the film had been exposed to the eyes of the world, or had remained in its plastic shell waiting for its chance at immortality. The fear of upturning the buried remnants of another’s existence is frightening because it leaves the possibility that one day my own soul will be nailed to the wall of the court house, for all to see.
I believe no stone should be left unturned in the atmosphere of todays distractions, nor a documented vision of someone’s reasoning left undeveloped because of speculation. I lumbered down to the nearly extinct place where visions were left to be developed, turned into the reality envisioned in the eye of the peeping tom.
Several days later I returned, picked up the visions of hopefully Christmases past, and headed for the privacy of my cave to distil the essence of another’s eavesdropping on the workings of a world, I had only heard tales of.
I enjoy the simplicity of black, white, and shades of the two mingling for their own purposes, and yet providing the basic information without the painted semblance of truth.
There was a car, old, not immediately recognizable. A man in a suit wearing a felt hat, his hand resting on the vehicles hood, his foot resting on the running board, a provoked smile gracing his lips. He stared into the sterile lens and knew he was becoming a part of history, if only his.
A child peered from the rear window of the back. Her head was crowned with a hat of flowers, her dress of ruffles and lace, her smile genuine, as though happiness had not as yet become a future enticement at the expense of the present.
The sky above was free of clouds, the tree that shielded the area from the winds had bent its top, as though allowing God a better view. The photo was grainy, out of focus, and the entire envelope was a duplicate of the picture I viewed. Eleven duplicates of a scene that appeared to spill from the 1940’s into the present as though lost as one would expect.
Todays technology, although confining our ability to participate in many of processes we at one time were required to participate in, as the results are what we determined them to be, and have the potential to expose details lost in the lack of depth and clarity.
I recognized the man, or thought I did. The stories that permeate every family drift like dust down through the ages, leaving those blind to past history in some ways, feel the responsibility inherent in our history.
I spent the next several days rummaging through the albums and loose photos left to those that come after the events encapsulated, to decipher them. Some have names, times, dates, printed on their backs, others as blank as the faces that stared out from the bleak backgrounds of their time for us to give life to by confirming the fact that yes, they existed, someplace at some time, but I was not born with the card catalogue implanted in my imagination to little more than speculate about the seeds that were planted, and had become a part of me.
The man, I recognized or believed I did. At times when reality backs you to the wall and there is no hope of escape we turn to symbolic images implanted years before that give us an uncanny insight into not only where we came from, but how. The face and steely black eyes pulled me through the decades to that time, where I became the man behind under the felt hat.
We find ways to remember when there is no alternative. Would it matter, does it matter if I resemble the man whose car defines not only him but me? I have to admit I’d rather he wore a baseball uniform, or stood before the presidential crest, but stolen memories are not always as accommodating as the thief that stole them.
There is no end to filling in the holes left us by the past, or the rows of furrows promised by the future. Pictures can define who we are, or destroy the image of who we are not. I put the old Pentax back into the box beside the envelope of developed history. I assume if they are capable of existing in their own time, they may have enjoyed the distraction of living in mine.