My Favorite Photos (or: Memory, Ruins, etc.)

For many years I took photos almost exclusively with an old Nikon FE that my father bequeathed to me once he had upgraded -- or rather, retro-graded -- to his original love, a Pentax K-1000, which had been a replacement for his first Pentax, stolen several years earlier. I still love my Nikon FE. Manufactured in the late 70's/early80s, it's a sturdy SLR, a camera's camera, with proper metal parts and a nice, but not unmanageable, heft. Some of my best photos were taken with that camera, including the one above, of Jimmy and Ian, cousins (to each other -- not me!) who live on the tiny island of Islay, off the western coast of Scotland and home to the best scotch on the planet. One rainy morning, while waiting for the bus in tiny Port Ellen to take me to the island's wee capital, Bowmore, Ian (the bespectacled one) and I struck up a conversation: Ian: What are you waiting for? Me: The bus to Bowmore. Ian. Ah. Me: What are you waiting for? Ian: Eleven o'clock. Me: What happens at eleven? Ian: [points down the street] Pub opens. The next thing I knew, Ian had convinced me to take the 12:30 bus and in the meanwhile join him and his cousin Jimmy at the local pub. There, at eleven in the morning, about a dozen men were already sitting at little tables drinking wee glasses of vodka+lemonade. Ian ordered me a whisky. I protested, pointing out that it was, well, before noon. Ian's response: Ah, it'll set you straight for the day! I haven't been the same person since. In late November 2005, I received a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX9 as a dissertation-completion gift from NM and AFN. The gift came as a wonderful surprise, as did its digital-ness -- I had been cautiously avoiding entering into the world of digital photography, partly out of "real film" loyalty, and partly because I honestly had no idea which camera to buy. But, presented with the lovely Lumix -- with a Leica lens, no less -- well, there I suddenly was: nearly technologically at pace with the rest of the world. Finally. I celebrated by sleeping with an ex who was visiting from out of town, and then accompanying him the next day to Fort Totten, an old, Civil War-era military installation near Bayside, Queens that's still occasionally used by the Army and Coast Guard for training drills. [There's a Fort Totten park that's open to the public, but the base itself is fenced off -- email me if you want info on how to get in.] 18 hours after receiving my first (and only) digital camera, and some 8 hours after rolling out of bed with an ex, I took this photograph: It's probably the best photo I've taken with my Lumix (click on image to enlarge). I'll leave it up to you to make some quip about exes and decay. It is perhaps no surprise that my favorite two photographs involve whisky and ruins. But in thinking about Photo Week, I realized that what I loved about taking those photos was not simply in the capturing, but also in the possibility of sharing them. I'm trying to avoid some hokey conclusion about photography and community, but I will say that as we seem to get inundated with more -- and faster -- means of collecting and processing information, it's nice to sometimes slow down and just kind of ... stare ... at the image you might have in front of you. The best photographs require you to take them in a bit -- so we here at probably awkward hope that you'll join us in slowing down, sitting back, and taking some time away (er... for the most part) from our usual pomp and snark. Back to our regularly-scheduled ironic vs. irate cagematch as soon as this heat wave is over.

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