Every year right around Christmas, Photo Friday posts a “Best of” photo challenge. This challenge gives faithful photo-bloggers an excuse to recycle old content…and it also affords a “blast from the past” as you dip into your own photo archive.
I posted the above image of some funky dinnerware shot through a kaleidoscopic lens in the gift-shop of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art in May, right before my old blog died and this new WordPress site was born. (You can see a photo-set of other kaleidoscopic images here.) I then re-blogged this image when I landed on WordPress, before I migrated my old posts. Impermanence surrounds us, but it’s nice to think as a writer-who-snaps-photos that my work is floating out there somewhere, available to friends, family, and random Googlers to peruse when the spirit moves. If nothing else, once a year I dip into my own archives to select my own “Best of.”
This year, I’m allowing myself the luxury of posting several “Best of 2007″ images rather than picking just one. Besides relocating my old blog to WordPress, this year I started using Flickr to host my photos, so most (but not all) of this past year’s images are marked with a handy “2007” tag. It’s easy enough to click through my monthly blog archive to re-visit posts from 2007, but it’s even easier to browse through Flickr. Next year, finding my own “Best of” will be that much easier. In the meantime, I didn’t have to click very far into 2007 to reacquaint myself with the above image of a smashed pane of glass leaning against an emergency fire alarm, which I posted on January 31.
Perhaps because I don’t consider myself a “real” photographer, I find that most of my favorite photos happen by accident. A “real” photographer would know what the various settings on her camera meant; a “real” photographer would actually fiddle with those settings rather than merely pointing and shooting. When you merely point and shoot, you end up deleting lots of images…but through the mere law of averages, you end up with some surprisingly decent shots. If you take enough pictures and post only the ones that don’t completely suck, you can surprise yourself and others with the apparent artistry of your eye. Who would have thought, for instance, that a routine dog-walk on a gray and yucky February day would yield another 2007 favorite?
In looking back on these several images that I’ve tagged my “Best of 2007,” I realize each one involves me looking at an ordinary object in a new or unusual way. I’ve passed the shop window for Miller Bros. men’s clothing countless times during dog-walks in Keene, but only on a particular March day did I snap an image of passersby reflected therein. Nothing about this shop window was different on that particular March day, but something about the image is unrepeatable.
I suppose the moral of any “Best of” post is the sheer unrepeatability of time itself. Can we revisit posts and pictures from the past year? Certainly. Could I find a fashion magazine, douse it with simulated raindrops, and recreate the exact scenario behind this final image? Probably. But would that recreated image recapture the experience of Thanksgiving morning 2007 as I walked the dog through downtown Waban and snapped one last image before powering down for the holiday? Most definitely not.
The best pictures of 2007 linger far longer than their date-stamps, but the best of any year truly can’t be captured. Only in the archive of an acute mind can time be saved and salvaged like so many pictures.