12 Days on the Road

My friend Josh and I took a road trip from Columbus to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, and Baltimore. In each city we took photographs and took in a variety of images, whether they be from sightseeing or a museum.

 

Images are now ubiquitous in our lives, nicely packaged and readily available for consumption. They are finite, in that they capture a finite amount of space at a specific time. This singularity encourages what is within the frame to be of some value. The present ubiquity and value of images was related to my perspective of life as a progression to the next culminating moment with the time between then serving only as an uneventful crescendo. Though there is a charm in the thought that every small moment is beautiful, which is articulated through the pictures of everyday thing being aesthetically pleasing, these pictures are taken to be beautiful. It is not so that randomly moving a camera and pressing the shutter will result in a pleasing frame. And not everything needs to be documented, with every moment in life not needing to be celebrated. In fact, most of life is not a momentous moment, but a quiet. These intermediate times do not even have to be leading up to a moment. For photographs to be good, their merits, and existences, are dependent on the intermediate times between them and specifically the time leading up to the press of the shutter. However, life, once in existence, is not contingent on culminating moments or the time between them, but is the whole comprised of both moments and the times between them. I have neglected these intermediaries, as I thought the focus should be on the moments, now though I hope not the elevate the trivial but to enjoy the quiet and better myself without the preoccupation of the next moment.

By having an obligation to focus conceptually on images and take photographs which was not self-imposed, I was more primed to reach new conclusions. Because I was always looking for a picture to take, my own theoretical framework concerning images was more easily related to the practice of taking a picture and then more generally my life. The act of taking pictures, especially when not on a phone, is a concerted act. And there is pleasure to be had in this act as there is in viewing the resulting photograph. Especially with a film camera where is a period of time in which the film has been exposed and when the photograph is printed. Because of the gap in time, the enjoyment had from the act of taking the photograph is more easily separated from the resulting photograph. Of course, the act of viewing the photograph is wholly dependent on the exposure being made properly. In the same vein, in life, the work towards a goal and the time between big moments can be enjoyed for their own merit rather than their relation to external events.

If on this trip the big moment were to be had in the cities we visited, then the time in between them was the driving, of which there was plenty. Because the visiting the cities was what we were looking forward to and long drives can be frustrating and exhausting, it is easy to conceive of these as simply the times between being in cities. Furthermore, these drives had a clear dependence to the cities, we would not be making these long drives if we were not going to these cities. However, these would be the last time that I would be spending an extensive amount of time with Josh, as he is graduated and moving to Chicago, without the distraction of a city just having conversation and listening to music as we often have in Columbus. These times do not have to be grandiose as most of our friendship is not found in moments of grandeur, but in conversation not unlike the times in the car. Though I have always been person who greatly appreciates moment of simply conversation, as Josh is a closest friend of mine who I will see significantly less now, I appreciate it differently.

While at the MoMA where Josh and I were walking around the museum to find a large group of people expanding beyond the doorway which framed them. I made a remark to Josh commenting that a famous piece must be in front of them, and it was in fact Vincent van Gough’s The Starry Night. Though much of the crowd was simply attempting to tip-toe a better view of the work, a noticeable portion of the group had some camera and was trying to take a picture of it, of course no one getting out of the way for any single person to be able get a good shot. If people simply just wanted to view the work another time, especially one which is so famous works, then it would seem more logical to buy a print of the work or, if they would not want to spend the money, find a digital reproduction of the work which would have been created in more favorable conditions. It is no secret that there are better copies of famous works than the ones museum goers attempt to create from within the mob. Therefore, this impulse to take a picture of works, not with as no one had an opportunity stand next to the piece for a picture, seems to be rooted in a conceptualization of a photograph as an index and the significance of authorship in this process. However, the creation of these images was at the expense of the real-life viewing of the work. Their photographs would imply a view of work, but what is implied is worsened by the existence of the so-called index. That is to say, because these people were so concerned with the way in which their cameras were capturing an image, that the images that their retinas were taking in was worse than is they were to forgo the photograph. The quality of an experience should not be sacrificed for an attempt to poorly index it.

I have been a person who works towards goals which involve external validation of some form. Though I knew the issues with placing so much investment into external validation with respect to myself, I think this trip elucidated way in which to change my perspective. I want to appreciate moments, even small ones, for their own merit. I hope to approach moments with an open mind and act foremost to enjoy the time. Having had a habit of wasting free time when I have it, I now want to use for self-betterment. This trip also taught me how to appreciate a friend whom I will see less then I had in the past two years. Academically, I will read more academic works for personal interest and take guidance from my professors in these interests. In the future I hope that I am leading a life with large goals I am working towards, but also that I am not wholly consumed in their pursuit. I hope to have hobbies in which the primary focus is the enjoyment had from the acts themselves.

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