The fire at Notre Dame in Paris shook the world this week. It amazes me that the structure could stand for nearly 9 centuries and burn in the 21st century with all the fire safety laws and protections we’ve put in place.
We simply can’t take for granted the beauties of our world – even if they’ve stood for generation after generation – it could be our generation that sees the destruction.
Joshua Tree, an icon in California, is gone. I’d been meaning to go there someday. I’ve been go Notre Dame, but a very long time ago and not since I’ve been into photography. My images are few and taken on a grainy film camera before I knew anything about photography. Recently, in St. Louis we had a fire at a small museum. Most people had never heard of the museum, but once it was no longer there, we morned.
It’s time to get out and visit those places that we’ve been meaning to photograph and never got around to it – those places that we think aren’t going any where – those places that we think are going to be there next week or next month or next year – those places that we think we have time for later.
It’s not just the icons, everyday streets and neighborhoods are disappearing or changing. I can do nostalgia with the best of them even if I generally appreciate the comforts of modern living. Our daily world changes, but ever so slowly. Sometimes we don’t realize how much until we look back and see how different the world is.
When I was first into photography, I was exploring different places and types of photography. Just two blocks from my house, I found this interesting wall. It was the start of a love of minimalist, urban lines. Just two weeks after I took this photo – of a scene that had probably been there for years – it was gone. The wall completely reconfigured, doors moved, utilities removed. It’s a completely different scene today.
A group I belong to in St. Louis, St. Louis Photo Flood, chooses a neighborhood each month to document. We meet at a prescribed place at a specified time and then spend two hours walking the neighborhood. The organizer writes up a history of the neighborhood and uses some of the photos we’ve created. The plan is to donate the photos to the history museum. A random street in an unassuming neighborhood might not be of much interest now, but in 100 years maybe the photos will be important and valued just as we value the nature photography of Ansel Adams or the street photography of Vivian Maier.
I was in Chicago recently thinking of all the changes and hoping photographers are documenting their city as it changes. Even my little town that isn’t historically interesting changes seemingly daily. I might look back at that field or building one day after it’s gone and regret not photographing it. When I first arrived in town, there was an enormous T.B. clinic set off in a field. It was long abandoned when I arrived in town and pulled down since I arrived. I regret not noticing the building more at the time and I don’t have one photo of the building.
It’s hard to get motivated to photograph in the place where we live. We have Procrastination Syndrome. The places that are familiar, that have been there our entire lives, we think are always going to be there. There is no urgency to photograph them. When we’re on vacation, we’ve set aside time to be aware of our surroundings, be amazed at the natural world or the expert art, but when we’re home, our daily lives get in the way.
I know that when I started visiting London as a tourist, I was excited to go everywhere. My husband, who had lived there his entire life, followed along, amazed at the places he hadn’t ever been or had only visited on a school field trip. This is LONDON we’re talking about. Millions of tourists flock to the city each year, but the locals – like all locals – get used to their surroundings and can take them for granted.
Where ever you live, however boring you think the place, go out and photograph something – anything – everything.
You never know when it will be gone.