boy on threshold...

This image was made twelve years ago.

Somewhere in the world right now there is some young man, having lived through years of childhood and teenage experience, probably not even remembering this brief moment of posing so long ago.

Certainly his head will have grown larger with knowledge and life, and his ears won't seem quite so big anymore.

Yes the main power of a photograph is to help us remember what once was. But at the same time a photograph also holds a secret hope of what could be, for a future to come, no matter the real trajectory of events that follow.

Some people may wonder why I persist in using real film and funny old cameras and strange-smelling chemicals, in these days of digital gizmotry and instant evanescence. Images like this are my answer. Made before the digicam, flickr, facebook, twitter; before the collective mind was blogged and clogged and fogged; before the assault of electrons on enduring consciousness; this tangible image on film represents a simple sweet artifact of life that would otherwise be void: deleted, lost, gone. Without such images, we not only lose a felt sense of past, but an understanding of who we are now and our memory of the hopes of what we would become.

Presently I am living in Albania and learning something about the history of photography in this country. Following the second World War and the onset of the repressive regime of Enver Hoxja in 1946, all formerly independent commercial studio photographers were "collectivized" by the state. It actually became illegal to pratice photography outside of this strictly sanctioned context. Entire archives of photographic work were subsequently confiscated and classified as Top Secret by the state:

What is the subject of these images, judged suspicious by Enver Hoxja's regime? The answer is: marriage ceremonies, burials, family portraits, and other altogether ordinary scenes of a bygone era. And therein lies the full scope of the wrongdoing, for it was everyday life in the years before the regime that the regime sought to conceal![*]

And so a reminder that there are still and always those forces at work, both natural and authoritarian, that will seek to obliterate memory and reinvent history. Such few bits of silver-impregnated acetate that we may retain, cached away carefully in albums and binders and boxes, pushes back against those dark forces with just a few glimpses of light.

[*] Quoted from Albania a photographic journey 1858-1945, edited by Loic Chauvin and Christian Raby, 2011.

Pyrohiv, Ukraine, September 1999.

Hasselblad, 60mm Distagon, Ilford XP2.