We've got a ways to go in this album (there are 132 pictures, though I may not scan every one of them, and others I may scan as pages, rather than individual photos), but the process of putting the album up on Flickr and looking at each individual photo has changed not only the way I feel about this album, but also the way I feel about my photographs in general.
I've always been offended by those people (often the kind of people who keep booths in antique malls) who encourage prospective buyers to purchase their photos in order to gain some "instant relatives." Of course in my reaction there is more than a touch of defensiveness. I like the family I've got, my sister and
my mother and my stepbrothers, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and a whole slew of cousins, but I wish I had a wife (who loved me, whom I loved) and children (ditto). I haven't been too successful on that end. So I wish I had more family, wish my father were here and my sister Wendy were here, wish for a completeness that I can never have.
But I don't need any "instant relatives." And in looking over a
little box of family snapshots on a recent visit home, I realized that those photos have meaning for me that none of my collected images have.
Still, in struggling to scan and post this West Coast Chopped-up HodgePodge of a MishMash album, and being frustrated and irritated by the collector's lack of rigor, I realized that, willy-nilly, those are qualities I must treasure too, and that, now that I am in possession of this album, I bear a responsibility to it. Why would that man put that newspaper clipping in the album (the one that tells about the 1915 Washington State College football team, the one that he played right end for, the one that won the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1916)? He didn't need to remind himself that
he was right end. He did it for whoever was intended to see the album, but at some point, whoever that was fell by the wayside, and then an antique dealer (well, a used furniture dealer) got ahold of the album, and now I have it.
So his relatives are gone, by choice or chance, and I'm left holding the bag.
This album, these hundred odd photos, with their long train of unknowns, may be all that's left to evoke a life once lived---this ragtag assemblage-the earthquake photos and the San Francisco parade, the battleships in drydock (coming), the frat boys in line at the makeship latrine (coming), the serious college girls with their microscopes (coming), the hikers on that eighteen-mile slog in the Cascades (more of that coming), the professional photo of New York's Central Park (coming, and what the heck is that here for), and the absolutely wonderful photo of the church(coming), stark, matter-of-fact, amazing in its simplicity.
I've always liked the New Testament's admonition that "God is love." I never have troubled myself much beyond that, and I'd guess that, in my rather wayward life, when I've kept those words in front of me, I've pretty much stayed on the path. I regret that I have to choose which photos to buy, and I feel a mite guilty sometimes when I buy the photo of the "prettier" girl (in my, of course, highly subjective opinion). I think that, the closer I got to the divine, the more I would see that, truly, all things are equal. If we all saw things that way, it would be a whole heck of a lot harder to pull the trigger.
The point of this little ramble is that the lobster photo puts this album over-the-top. I feel a kinship of common humanity with this goofy guy who wanted this lobster photo in here with everything else. I don't think he wanted to eat the lobster (though he may have enjoyed eating lobster). I think the lobster is an acceptance of the strange, the other, the different, the not-self. "Look at this lobster," the lobster photo says. "It's just a lobster (not dinner). Isn't it weird? Don't you love it?"
It is, and I do. I'm going to have to stop bitching about the album after this photo.
Oh yeah, this photo is this month's edition of Mrwaterslide's Monthly Magazine.