I’ve been perusing stacks of old photo albums to recall my mother and her friends’ style, their manner. The camera used from my childhood created these rather small square images. They’re very faded now. Mostly wide shots with the head smack in the middle. Our old photo albums are like everyone’s. Like the way old televisions shows’ newscasters have their heads smack in the middle of the screen.
The narrative of seeing all the pictures at once on an album page tells a story in a way that a single picture doesn’t. Even the aesthetics the photo album alters the way I recall past time. Today people either “scrapbook” where everything looks so ‘done’, or they never develop the photos since it’s on their computer/phone/email anyway. In the 70s there is a rawness to the hand of my mother haphazardly laying them on the sticky paper.
Today, with disposal digital pictures (take twenty, keep one) people are much more experimental and favor tight shots and liberally clip the tops of heads. More prints are made, fewer treasured. I wonder if we’ll all reflect upon our future past with less preciousness as a result.
Today I visited a Markham Middle School. It is in the east side of Los Angeles. They have two giant empty buildings that use to be where they have a music program. The statistics of this school are grim. The kids are more likely to join a gang or be a victim of gang violence than graduate. Funerals of classmates are held throughout the year. I took some pictures of the walkway and for obvious reasons couldn’t take pictures of the kids. I really believe that if they had an arts program, things would change for the better. I was a dreamy kid, growing up in California in the public school system too. Art gave me hope and a mission. I’m on the board of a great organization called P.S. Arts (www.psarts.org) which raises money to put arts programs back in the public schools. I want to help Markham.
But i was raised here
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I was at a dinner party tonite and a man was telling me how his ninety four year old mother was dying. She woke up in the middle of the night last night and said,
“Oh Henry, I thought it was seventy years ago and you were six years old and I was getting you a glass of milk!”
“No, mom, it’s not. It’s just me and i’m an old man and you’re an even older woman.”
“My god.” she clutched his arm. “It went by so fast.”