Imagine an archive of your hometown in photos from 1859--all of them from 1859, showing the town and its people, its businesses and homes. Imagine a gallery with large, fine prints of street scenes and parlors, shops and festivals, thoroughly capturing one time. One place.
My hometown, Columbia, IL, has a lot of great photos in its many archives...but only a few from any given year. We can see Mainstreet as a dirt road...but not the other streets, or where the city limits began and ended. A few of the same historic buildings appear in photos from random times...but it's hard to trace one building, one street, one festival or style through the ages.
So I spoke with the Sesquicentennial Committee about creating just such an archive--"Columbia at 150." This extensive project includes aerial photography, business and personal subjects, new construction in old buildings and old land put to new use, the public servants and the spaces our town is expanding into...and much more.
Our generation is obsessed with documentation--from constant updates on social networking websites, to low-resolution cameras in telephones, "reality TV" and putting everything on the internet...but how much of that haphazard documentation is saved? What file formats will computers support in 100 years? I don't have a record player...will my grandchildren have to borrow a DVD player from the St. Louis History Museum?
As papers yellow and disintegrate, as CDs de-laminate, as file formats change and are forgotten, there's one documentary medium that's as relevant and beautiful today as it was when our town was founded...and all it needs to display our images in 150 years, is light.
I print only on archival paper, and mount only on acid-free, archive-quality materials like Gatorboard®. Slide my photographs out of their envelope, and behold Columbia in 2009.
Which isn't too exciting right now--we see the community around us every day. It's easy to take it for granted. But how have things changed in your town, just in your lifetime?
And what do those changes suggest about the direction the town is going? Its values, its image? Plot a few changes, and you begin to see how places and populations evolve. More than nostalgia, it's that very ability to see where we're going in context of where we've come that makes documentary photography so important.
Especially to future generations.
This project runs through the end of 2009, and will yield (among other products) two identical, extensive photographic archives, an art gallery show, and other documents as yet undisclosed.
The photo archives will endure long after we're gone--the paper is good for at least 150 years on display, and if properly cared for, much longer.
The gallery show brings huge pictures almost to life for our next generations, so they can virtually walk down Main Street...and almost touch their great grandparents' faces.
There will be a public showing of the archives in early 2010, along with the gallery show included in the project. By special arrangement with the end recipients of the archive materials, they will be available for public access forever.
Commission Your Own History
This is one form of documentary photography I perform. From small towns to big cities, large companies to small families, I can capture your world as it is--today--for the education and fascination of future generations.
Since we can't go back in time, we can only record the present and wait as it slowly becomes history. An investment in this sort of contemporary biography is an investment for our children, grand children, and beyond. It's not terribly exciting for us...but unparalleled for those who carry on.
These projects are elegant. They're clever.
And there will be nothing like them, if we don't do it now.
I report on sports, travel, and local news. I'll cover anything, anytime, anywhere. Let me know how I can serve your publication.
My fine art photography is on permenant display at Cuban Pete's in Montclair, NJ, and is represented in numerous private collections. I do commercial, documentary, fine art, and other photography by commission.
I write commissioned biographies and other works of any length (from short narratives to full length books), and have several book-length manuscripts currently under consideration.