THE FACTUAL / ACTUAL FAULTLINE
Back When The Browns Lived On Main, 2022
By MICHAEL PERKINS
I RECALL A 1972 INTERVIEW WITH A PROMINENT ROCK CRITIC in which he confessed that, three years into the new decade, he was just getting used to the idea that the 1960’s were “going to end”. Not the idea that they were already over. No, he was even wrestling with the concept that they would ever be so. Such is the plastic quality of our sense of time. In some moments, it seems like the things we’re living through will continue forever, while, at other times, it seems like everything, everywhere, is already past. This yo-yo-ing sensation plays hell with our emotions, and, in turn, with the pictures we attempt to create with transient subjects. At least, that’s what happens with mine.
One situation which gets my own internal yo-yo spinning involves making images of small-towns life, which always sets me careening between the sensation that I’m both experiencing something that’s truly eternal and, simultaneously, something that’s as gone as the dodo. Standing on the simple main streets and leafy, sleepy lanes of the villages and burgs that have so far outlasted the twentieth century, it’s easy to be assimilated into the place’s slower rhythms, to briefly be lulled into thinking that it’s really the rest of the world that is imaginary. But then there is the rude shock of walking past a 1940’s drug store, complete with lunch counter and soda fountain, and bumping into a place that repairs iPhones. For a second, nothing makes sense. The two “realities” do, of course, co-exist; however, we are aware that the relics of the earlier era have essentially overstayed their welcome. They are living on borrowed time, the same borrowed time we, as photographers must now use wisely before….before…..
The surreality of shooting in small towns dictates the look of my pictures of them. I tend to use exaggerated tonal ranges, soft, painterly looks and dreamy art lenses on them, rather than merely recording them with the sharpness and balanced exposure of mere documents. As their very actualness is now so fluid in my mind, I prefer to see them as in a dim vision or imperfect remembrance. They seem more poignant for being less fixed in our regular way of seeing.
Like the 70’s reporter that couldn’t imagine his “time” ever coming to a close, I wrestle with the task of depicting worlds that are rapidly receding into the realm of memory. Oddly, making them look less literal bolsters their reality to me. For, like that reporter, I can’t imagine that they are ever going to end, and that dictates how I tell my camera to see. At that point, the machine, the instrument, is as unreliable a narrator as my own memory, just as it’s also made more reliable to my heart.
April 30, 2023 at 2:35 PM