Tuesday, March 28, 2017


In photography it is important to shift perspective. If you shoot a picture from above you diminish the power of the subject. If you shoot a photo from below you give the subject power. Shooting from an angle gives a subject energy.

Distance in time changes your perspective. I spent the last two days in my home town looking at it from the perspective of a visitor. My youngest and I went to the library. The library was my favorite location in town. It is a Carnegie library, and they just finished a year long renovation, so of course the inside is different. But the steps leading up to it seemed different as well. They looked the same but I remember the climb being taller. Somehow they've shrunk over the years.

We drove around trying to find locations of old relatives gleamed from census records and photos. I was trying to find connections to photos where people are posing outside houses but I don't know for sure where they are. I wanted to connect locations to people and to their place in time. In the process of looking for the houses, we drove the path I used to walk to get to my elementary school.

Back then, I had to cross 3 highways to get there. One had a stop light. One wasn't that busy. And one had a crossing guard. And the streets around the school were manned by 6th grade crossing guards with orange vests. (Those interested took turns).  I swear I didn't use to be able to see all the way to that 3rd highway from the stoplight at the first. And I swear it was a much longer walk than just 6 blocks. The parking lot at the Catholic church along the way had at snow hills at least a mile long in the winter all on it's own, so there is no way I only had a measly 6 block walk.

And driving around I noticed the homes in town are much shabbier and smaller than I remember. My yard growing up was a huge oasis of dandelions and the bees who liked to rest on them while I ran barefoot from the back door to the alley. Why did the new owners move the alley closer to the back door?

Perspective also changes dependent on how close you are to events. I was trying to locate houses and taking pictures -- freaking out youngest because I had off handedly mentioned I hoped I wouldn't get picked up for terrorist activity because I was taking pictures of random buildings. One home was only a block from my house and across the street and down three houses from one belonging to my mom's maiden aunts. I knew about the maiden aunts house, but the other one belonged to my mom's great aunt and her husband. Did mom know about that? It was a house I always liked and it still has charm.

We went to a cemetery to find the graves of distant relatives I've grown attached to. I've looked for them before, but without luck. Today we found them. This family, in early November of 1879 had 10 members including 8 children. At the end of December 1879, 5 of those children had died of diptheria. I can not imagine the pain of losing a child, 5 Is beyond comprehension. Apparently Diptheria is a virus of sorts where your lungs fill with fluid and you essentially drown. There was no antibiotic at that time to cure the disease and the tracheotomy that could have enabled breathing to occur until the symptoms passed, had not yet been tried. Finding them today and seeing that all their names were on the big tombstone was satisfying. Seeing they each had a little headstone with their initials carved on top gave me peace. Two stones had fallen over. Little Anna's had been lying down so long it was starting to sink into the earth. I picked them both up and tried to smooth the dirt around them. I brushed the moss off of the big tombstone where it was starting to eat away the etchings. I imagined a moment how it must have felt to bury your children one by one. Impossible.

We went to the museum, because my mother-in-law knows someone who said they might be able to answer my questions about some of the photos I had. I barely had the words, "I was wondering..." as I started to pull out a photo, before the woman taking my money quickly informed me she had no idea about anything,  because she had only lived there for a couple of years. She then added the other person in the windowed office hadn't lived there long either. AND she further injected that the nearly 90 year old resident historian was in, but that she researched for money. She then walked me back to the research room and asked what files I was interested in. She brought the files out and deposited them on the table. She showed the photos I had of an old school, to the historian who said (from her office) the newer version of the  school had been built on the location of the one in my photos. They asked if they could make a copy. They never asked the name of who was in the photos.

And that is when I started to think of the subject of this post. How can you work in a museum that is all about town history and not know anything about the town? There were 4 (probably volunteer) workers sitting and talking as we left. If you know nothing about the very thing you are representing, wouldn't you use your time to find out? No one checked on us in the research room. No one asked if we needed anything else. And we'd had to pay to get in. Very different from the Museum in Warsaw. They only ask for donations and are very friendly and helpful.

So, my thinking is that perspective is a complex issue.

When photographing, I think about what I want to convey with the image I am composing. Looking at the cliches that "time heals all wounds" and "distance makes the heart grow fonder" I take them to simply mean that opinions and memories are shaped by the significance certain events held in your life. Maybe La Porte was always a teeny, tiny, shabby, little place and I just didn't know it because at the time it was THE big wide world? Maybe it isn't the town that has changed. Maybe I am the one who changed; physically and emotionally

And maybe those people at the museum don't care about the history of La Porte because it was never their world. Maybe the people who care for the cemetery didn't notice Anna's stone had fallen over because she doesn't belong to them. There isn't anyone around she belongs to, or who know she belongs to them.

In the broader scheme of things perspective is everything. We can't truly fight for what we believe until we know what we believe and why. People who fight for one current event or another based on how they think-- the people they think  will be affected--  will actually be affected... Unless you can speak from personal experience --either yourself or someone you actually know-- then you don't know. We shouldn't jump on bandwagons just because we like the conductor or the song being played.

We need to look at issues from all angles. If we look up at issues, they will seem more powerful and problematic than if we stand over them. Looking at issues square stagnates them and freezes us to inaction. Where as looking at issues from all angles can give them movement and energy.

Perspective {changes} everything.

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