Ashes

When I collected my little Selected Stereotypes web gallery two years, ago, I didn't anticipate the effects of time.

The first image had been made at a 9/11 memorial service, at the Hawaiian state capitol. The kids were from a nearby school, just standing to one side observing the dense crowd of grey-faced or crying adults packed into the center of the building. I saw the kids, up went the 200mm, click whirr click whirr and they were dispersing before I coud get the next frame composed. I liked the shot for its ambiguous mix of emotions, sympathetic sadness, confusion, anxiety, and bored impatience.

Now I see something else, though the pixels all remain the same. Imagining these same children today, that moment in their lives gone, and now they, like all of us, are part of a changed world, very different from that end-of-summer day. Reading the photo across this distance of time, their expressions and reactions to events feel amplified to me. The prosperous, friendly environment of their earlier days has since been transformed in ways that could only be vaguely guessed-at in 2001 (was it ever really there? Did we know what it was?). Now more than before, they seem to be behind a fence, a fence called then.

Their worlds changed, my world changed. I had been doing some portraits that very preceding weekend, a technical exercise. From that point forward, it seemed that my eyes were pulled open a little wider, that everything seemed to be a little more solid and fragile and beautiful and alive at the same time, and that I had better do something to see it clearly and hold onto it before it all vanished without my noticing.

For the first time ever, I started to think of my shooting not as a way of examining what is, but of instantly providing a link to what was, even one split-second after I pressed the shutter button.

A photo is just a thing, an object, but it's the trace of a living moment. Not the fire, but the ash.

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