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The Hidden Life of Photographs
The first photograph dates from 1982, when the five teenagers decided to pose on a fence, showing off "dark and mysterious faces," shirtless torsos, and a pet cockroach in a jar. Though the friends went their separate ways, they regrouped for a reunion vacation five years later. Someone had the idea to recreate the photo and a tradition was born. According to CNN, "The guys all agree that this trip has been the glue that has allowed them to maintain their friendships." "I look at the photos and think of the relationships I went through. Wedding rings come and go, if you look closely," one of the men told CNN. "We plan on doing this for the rest of our lives, no matter what. Up until there's one guy just sitting in the same pose! Even then, maybe someone will take a picture of an empty bench for us."
That mental image of the empty bench gives me shivers. Think of the empty jar, sitting there, containing all of eternity instead of a cockroach! For as much as we love our photographs nowadays, as much as we all love to immediately gaze at our digital memories of a moment ago, a photograph becomes all the more eloquent when telling a story that's over, documenting a life that's changed, or gone. And the almost-extinct posed photograph has a certain evocative nature all its own. The curator of Who Were They? knows this: the blog is a moving tribute to the stories photographs tell. These pictures are kind of the negative image (to use photographic terms) of the Five Year Photo guys. Here we have the image only, and as Who Were They? blogger does we must imagine or hunt down the life story it tells. "Mrs. Marvel" writes of a grand old dame, "She has the hard face of a woman who has lived a lot of years and the sad expression of a war widow." Or sometimes Mrs. Marvel's photo collection helps to fill in a family's genealogy: "I got goose bumps when I read that Clifford had been searching for a photo of his great-great-great-aunt for 30 years. And I had one. Wow." As she writes on her blog's "About" page, Mrs. Marvel is looking for "a glimpse of those who came before us." Strange to think that some day, we will be someone else's photographic mystery.
When we capture every moment of every day, we think we're seeing more. But are we? What stories do your photos tell -- intentionally or accidentally -- about your life?
Wet Grass Photographs Prompt Thoughts on Life
How Everyone Can Be a Great Photographer
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