Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anniversary of a Photographic Blackout

I went digging through my archive of photographs to see just what I had been photographing at this time last year. It's my time-to-time tactic for making myself feel better about the stage of photographic evolution I may be desensitized to at any given point. Last night was a particularly low night for me, with an interest in pursuing the muse ultimately defeated by an inexplicable inability to do so, a comedy of self-inflicted errors leaving my spirit deflated. So I sought the crop, the product of my photographic musings in May last year.

My ailing short-term memory seems to be evolving into a long-term memory problem - in May of last year I took no photos. I had no adventures. I had no camera. In May of last year I was recouping from my dance with the Reaper.

Wild to try and think back to that time, really. Much as I dwelt on a split sense of identity at the time, I no longer seem to feel that way today. If anything, the person, the personality and outlook I'd adopted during recovery was the John 2.0 he would always ramble about. Who I am now feels seamlessly connected to the person before the accident, but with a greater sense of self and profound understanding of the lessons to have been learned from the experience. My identity is whole again. Thus it is strange to think that I could have ever endured a period of doubt, that such a disconnect ever existed.

In any case, I wouldn't take a photo again until June 11th of 2011. I was sitting at the coffee house with the son of the woman whose car I was in when the accident occurred. Good kid, helped me keep tabs on his mother's progress through recovery as her's was a much longer process than mine. I had just acquired the funds to purchase a replacement camera, which I was very eager to do. All I could think about was rebuilding the camera system I had lost, putting together a similarly competent system and running into the photographic fray once again. Unfortunately, all I had enough for was a premium compact, the Olympus XZ-1, which I still use and love today, but was not nearly the kind of system I had lost in the accident (a compact is hardly something one can refer to as a system). I didn't care, though. All I wanted to do was take pictures again and I didn't care what the limitations would be. I needed to be able to photograph again.

We sat up at Starbucks, drank coffee and mused about how all our worlds were rocked. He nearly lost his mother (and at the time still stood the chance of losing her), I nearly lost my life, the legal repercussions of the event were still nebulous and worrisome, all we could do to keep our minds out of the sea of confusion was to talk out our stresses over coffee. He didn't mind me photographing him. Being a musician and therefore artistic type himself, he understood the swell of pain involved when a muse is untapped for so long. And frankly, the photos were terrible - I was learning a new camera after over a month of never touching one and being dry as can be on the concept of composition and processing. I was learning how to do everything from scrap puzzle pieces littering the ground, some of which were so malformed and destroyed they didn't even fit anymore. Amazing to think that I've managed to put the picture back together at all, let alone so well that I've monetized the process with a talent that others recognize enough to pay money to utilize.

I have a photograph of myself after getting home from the hospital. My face was still pretty discolored with bruising, scars bright and glaring against my skin. I looked like I hadn't showered in days (which, come to think of it, I hadn't). A sad, broken person, with a sad, broken history. One year later, on the very date of my demise, this self-portrait replaces the image of that broken person. And even though this whole nostalgic ramble was spurred because of a tragic dry spell in the pursuit of the next strong image, it's hard to be so pessimistic when the pace and progress of the past year is taken into consideration. Bored and frustrated as I may be, I'm still smiling.