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what remains.

20 Aug 2010

About three years ago, I was living in a spacious, but a wee bit lonely, apartment in Queens.  It was just far out enough that no one ever visited, and going into the city always took a bit of time.  So I stayed home a lot, developed a taste for French cider, and worked on a blog that provided me with a platform to discuss my ongoing dislike of what I called, simply, The Quirk.  I hadn’t done that much thinking since I finished my phD and left graduate school, and what I lacked in company I had in ideas.  Lots of them.

Not all of those ideas were particularly well thought out.  I hadn’t been using my film cameras in a while — the Nikon had been broken, and unfixed, for several years — and my little digital point and shoot was suiting me just fine.  And it seemed like I had an awful lot of clutter.  Why not scale back a bit, live a bit more like an ascetic?  Faciliate ideas-mongering by creating a more efficient, minimalist living space? 

So I did what now causes me to look back in utter horror: I threw away what I believed were all non-essential photographs and negatives.  Yup.  The negatives too.  To be sure, I kept a lot of my old black and white negatives, which were stored in a special archival portfolio.  But anything that had been shot and developed in a one-hour-photo lab — I sorted through the photos and kept only the ones that I had any clear sense of fondness for, throwing away the negatives in the process.  Yes, the negatives.  

Long story short: for someone who thinks a lot about ruins, and nostalgia for misremembered histories, and how we construct individual, communal, and national narratives from the detritus of all that has happened before — well, my detritus is probably in some landfill on Staten Island.  The memories are still here, but without the photos, they seem incomplete, imprecise. 

So the photos above: they’re actually fuzzy scans from a contact sheet of photos taken during the first few days of a roadtrip I took in 2000 with my pals A and Rosten.  They’re lovely images, if I do say so myself.  I have the contact sheet, but the negatives — no idea.  I wish the moral of the story could be: Don’t live alone in an apartment off the M train in Queens.  Or: French cider makes you crazy!  Sadly, I think the takeaway really is just that I’m an idiot.

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