At an antique store in Santa Rosa, California, boxes of discarded photographs sit on counter tops curling in their old age as their subjects peer out from years that have long since faded and discolored. Those faces from from the faded past stare out to a time in which they’ve found themselves adrift, disconnected from the memory to which they were once attached. Who are these people? What were the stories behind these pictures?
I look at random photographs, checking the reverse side to see if there’s a clue to the story behind them. More often than not there is nothing, just the picture. People stood in front of a big car, a family perhaps? Two men carrying a line of fish, and in another, a man carrying a deer. A heavily faded classroom picture, the children stood in rows with not a smile between them. A young woman perched on the rear bumper of a car with her arm around a soldier, his uniform hat upon her head. And a portrait of a surly looking couple, their backs stiff, their expressions tempered, they look like the enforcers of a strict moral code. All of them disconnected from their characters, their identities, and the stories that distilled these moments in time.
A photograph of a girl pokes out of one box of pictures. Her friendly smile catches my eye today just as it would have back then, whenever “back then” was. She’s young, maybe 20 years old, perhaps younger, it’s difficult to say. She has a somewhat mischievous look in her eye, and she’s holding something in her hands that’s difficult to make out. A woman in the store guesses that the picture is from the 1920’s and might have been in an album due to its good condition. On the reverse of the picture a personal note gives little away. Written in pencil and an almost ornate swirling script the note is simple. “Lots of love. Maria.”
Who are these people? I’m fascinated by these pictures. We don’t print pictures nearly as much these days, so what will become of the photographs we take today? Will they forever be tethered to the memory that owns them, or will they too become detached, severed from their stories, floating through a binary ocean that may of may not lead to them being discovered in a hundred years from now?
When our memories fade, and a digital devices have long become obsolete, will the pictures we snap in a heartbeat today somehow find their own path into a future without us? I think I like the idea of being found in a photograph, far from now, floating free and open to the imagination of a mind yet made.