ALPHA / OMEGA
By MICHAEL PERKINS
I USED TO THINK THAT ONE CLEAR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS was that the amateurs recorded almost exclusively happy things, while the professional chronicled life’s grimmer moments as well. The “ams” were weighted on the side of weddings and birthdays, while the “pros” also threw funerals and war into the mix. Of course, I now see that as a gross over-simplification, albeit one which applies less and less with the aging of our world.
I do believe that the average shooter still hauls his/her camera out mostly to freeze incidents of joy, but, to a greater degree, all of us occasionally turn our gaze on the failures of the human animal as well, with raw physical destruction, intended or not, as a huge pictorial draw. When people (or their dreams) fail, there is often a spectacular visual result. Smashed walls. Craters. Wanton destruction. In such pictures we catch ourself in the act of discarding or destroying things that, in some way, represent dreams that have ground to a halt.
All across the world, the willing disassembly of our various infrastructures, such as this image of an old mall being wiped out of memory, is something of a cultural apology, an admission that, sorry, this just doesn’t work for us any longer. The amateur in us would gladly have snapped this place forty years ago, say, at its grand opening. The pros among us, or at least the growing number of us that are thinking more and more like citizen journalists, want to document the moment the vision perishes of old age, or just plain irrelevance. In the case of this particular place, the ground is merely being cleared for what will be a bigger, newer version of the same fake-community concept that gave rise to what’s being torn down, so, lesson not learned.
We always are interested in the ribbon cuttings, the alphas of things: however, in creating a record of the omega phase, of the end of the trail of those things, we are doing more than just making “sad” pictures. We are making a document of hope and loss, and all the temporary realities sequenced between those two historical brackets.