When photographs disappear . . .

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Upon entering S.M.U.T. (So Many Unique Treasures), you immediately encounter a row of lockers labeled Instant Relatives, 50¢ each. Wire bins are stuffed with silvered black and white prints, faded Kodachrome images and tiny curled-edge snapshots with spidery handwriting in the white margins chronicling long-forgotten events, people or places. On a recent visit, after much deliberation, I purchased $10 worth of “new family members.”

I wonder about all those abandoned people – some smiling, some not, some posed, others caught totally unaware with “deer in the headlight expressions.” Are they still on the planet? Did they have a good life? Are they missed? How’d they end up here? Another thought comes to mind: this type of photography is totally going to disappear. Photos are posted to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumbler and other social media sites, and while seen by many, are rarely downloaded, printed or saved. Those “uncomfortable” photos – double chins, bad hair, grumpy countenances, whatever … dumped in the virtual trashcan and never viewed, much less printed to paper. (I most definitely ‘edit’ photos taken of me, by family or friends – there’s nothing worse than having someone snap you from below the chin, is there?).

I think of this young man in the b/w photo as “Eddie.” Judging by his haircut, it looks like he’s in high school – probably in the 1950’s. A “boy’s boy,” a bit rough-and-tumble, but kind, I bet he owned a dog. Today while drawing (with felt-tip pens, pencils, ballpoints and finally Prisma colors) I listened to the final chapters of All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr – selected because I liked the book’s cover art and title – and was rewarded with a wonderful story and a view into lives so different from mine. When “Eddie’s” smile beamed up at me amongst the hundreds of discarded photos I ‘adopted’ him, so-to-speak. Again I have the opportunity to be the recipient of someone else’s story even tho’ I don’t know what “Eddie’s” life was really like, but given that grin, I bet it was a good one.

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