Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Disk Dog Ate My Digital Homework

I took lots of stunning photographs of Newport, Rhode Island on Monday afternoon. By stunning, I mean I was stunned to find out the information was corrupted and I lost 75% of them.

It was only a few years ago I would have blasted away with a 35mm Canon "cannon," brought the coated plastic plugs of film to the processor, paid a small child's ransom, and received eight hundred assorted out of focus unusable snapshots. So I'm not going to complain about what might have been; it was never very good. At least degraded ones and zeroes don't cost anything but your time.

But it's you, dear reader, who was cheated; I still had the lovely afternoon with Mrs. Sippican, and the bangers and mash I had for lunch in an open air Irish cafe has stayed with me as tenaciously as any pleasant memory. (Pounds chest gently; Excuse me!)

When you are a photographer, you are disconnected from the proceedings in a very real way. You are an observer. And when you have that lens-y thing in your hand, you're always looking at the world differently, searching for the next thing to point it at. I had the most fun inside the museum I extolled yesterday, because the camera was put away. And I have a much more vivid memory of the child's bed in the attic room than I do of that cabbage rose I stuck the lens right into from yesterday's essay.

That's why you read books to understand things. A movie is another's idea of something. The act of conjuring up the vision in your own head of the topic at hand, a requirement of reading, makes the vision yours. And if I had the pictures, I could write fabulous bon mots about the whole affair, and you could assemble a gossamer image of it in your head, and vicariously live in Newport for a minute. Now you're more or less SOL.

Except for these:
Extreme age softy molded by the touch of a million hands and the gentle scrape of a million shoes. There is nothing quite so lovely as something cared for but old. Nothing that gets used to replace this configuration of material, design, maintenance, and just plain love will ever get to be this old. Fiberglass, steel, plastic, resin -- bah! It's all designed to look brand new for a little while and then get chucked in a dumpster. There's no picturesque in plastic.
Roses. Fence. Grass. Wood. Paint. Repeat as necessary.

What a magnificent mess. I've spent countless hours looking for such a wreck to resuscitate. I gave up after a while, and built my own wreck, but still. This place has had the most benign sort of neglect. It's the "fixing" that kills a place like this. The average handy person at the Home Depot would ruin everything about this place that makes it interesting, all because the paint is peeling. Vinyl siding would have been plan one for everybody involved, no doubt; I'd like to slap everyone that even considered it. Pressure treated this and false muntin that, and in no time, this place would have looked like every other suburban tract house in the snouthouse/ranch/colonial/japo-scandinavian/moorish tile/wrought iron/gay nineties/swiss chalet/corbusier abbatoir/bauhaus/prairie/cottage style. Then we could have knocked it down and put up a concrete block dry cleaners.

Don't laugh; The Samuel Whitehorne House Museum I showed you yesterday was turned into a dry cleaners/flophouse, and about to be torn down, when old Doris Duke purchased it and restored it.

Sometimes --you can't do it; they can't help.

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