Yesterday's inauguration was a day I shall forever remember. I'm not much of a TV-watcher these days but I was riveted to the tube until 9:00 PM, unable to take my eyes off of the history being made. By the end of the night I was fatigued and stiff, my neck aching and my mind spent. The sensory fatigue of watching television is undeniable. There are too many sounds, too much movement, too many opinions by too many people. It is impossible to contemplate or absorb anything.
Today I was struck by the still images that are now being published everywhere in print and on the Internet. A totally different gestalt of yesterday emerges. Still photography has a power that video never will. It concentrates the power of a moment, quiets the observer, gives us an otherwise-unattainable perspective on life. There is nothing in the continuity of reality that quite matches the still photograph. The distilled power of the singular image is unique.
Right now I miss the old photo magazines like Life and Look. I remember, as a boy, looking forward to the weekly arrival of Life. It was a summary of what had recently happened, presented in a compelling, yet understated way. It was a uncluttered display of photography at its best. Not having the blunt immediacy of the Internet or television, Life had this pleasant delay to its publication. It seemed to count-to-ten before it unfolded itself onto the world. A little time had passed before the magazine arrived—in a way implying that this was a more sober reflection on the happenings of a frenzied, contemporary world.
Back in 1966, one memorable issue of Life arrived with the sad images of the tragic floods of Venice and Florence. I recall, in my mind's eye, rescuers carrying a painting half-covered in mud out of Florence's Uffizi Gallery. That image brought us a story that simply could not be told on the TV-network news of that day. The image is frozen in my head to this day, the impact like a dent in a favorite car. Still images are that way—they permanently dent the psyche.
Today, in celebration of still photography, and in memory of that 1966 issue of Life, I present a photo I took in Venice back in 2005. It was a cold winter day, the sun setting behind the bobbing gondolas. It is a moment I shall always remember as it was—the photograph allowing me to savor it in a somewhat different, perhaps more dramatic way.