I have boxes of old snapshots. These days I find myself rescuing every old snapshot that comes my way. Once prized—people always say that the first possession they’d save in a fire is their photos—so many photos eventually find their way to flea markets, antique shops, and sadly, landfill. We try in vain, with our camera, to forever capture these moments, only to find each and every image is also of this mortal world. And so it ages and fades just as we and our memories do.
The photo, however, has its own fate. It is eventually separated from us and embarks on its own journey. Sometimes the photo gets sealed in a box or an album. Or it gets discarded. Maybe it dies of neglect. I wonder how many billions of photos are out there wandering.
A rare few photos find their way to me. When I get them, I store them safely and eventually catalog and digitize them. It’s a laborious process that moves forward at glacial speed. In a perfect world I’d save them all, but the truth is that I can barely make it through a shoebox a year. It’s like saving animals in a shelter—you do the best you can, knowing you are only one person.
At first glance, most of my snapshots are quite ordinary, no different that all the others in the known universe. Yet, each one is unique and very special. In contemplation and reflection my relationship to each photo changes. I stare at the photos for hours, a natural byproduct of careful restoration. Each snapshot is a universe. It tells at least two stories. First, like a staged play, is the story that was meant to be told, what the photographer and subject want you to see. Then there is the story beneath the surface. It takes time to find the second tale as it is obfuscated beneath layers of mystery. Who is the person staring in the background? Why is that man looking in that way? Who is right outside the picture’s borders? The questions are endless.
In my work, I try to find snapshots that tell a universal story. Then I re-contextualize[ fix in blog post] them, changing the story according to my own perceptions and emotions. The result is my Desolation’s Comfort series of photomontage images. The characters in the old snapshots have become my companions. I bring them along to the desolate places of my life. They help me tell the vaguely haunting stories that seem to be within, looking for a place call home.