Thursday, December 13, 2007

Time #1 or #2

"Curtains Once"
Abandoned house
Enochs, Texas

"TV Once"
Abandoned house
Enochs, Texas

I've been trying to decide if I should post this pair of This or That.

When Donna and I went to the refuge last weekend, we passed through Enochs again. You might remember the Old Barn picture from there and that it is a town of 80, and at its peak in 1940s had a population of 250.

This time we had more time to stop and look around. And since then I can't get that place out of my head. What on earth happened there? Why would people just leave their things like they did? I took quite a few pictures while there and think they are intriguing. While they aren't traditionally beautiful, there is something powerful about them. They pose the double-edged power of curiosity. Like, How did this happen? And, Could it happen to me?

The first picture is of living room curtains. Well, curtains once. It's amazing they are still hanging, ripped to shreds by the wind, floating through the glassless window, just as they did on that day I was there, over my head, whispering something I couldn't quite make out.

The second picture of course is a TV. It's impossible for me to imagine the wallpaper still new, the TV in use, and a family gathered around watching. Watching what, I wonder? Gun Smoke? The Carol Burnett Show? The campy acting of William Shatner in Star Trek? Or earlier programs even? Whenever it was, 13 channels was enough.

And not to browbeat this idea of the passing of time and questions, but I'm re-reading a book, The Puzzle of God by Peter Vardy, and came across this passage yesterday that made me ponder Enochs yet again:
Think of someone sitting on top of a mountain and looking down on the road that leads past it. On the road are various people. To those on the road, some people will appear to be in front of them and others will appear to be behind, but to the observer on the mountain all appear simultaneously. So it is with timeless God looking down on the road of time. We are in time, so to us some things are in the past and others are in the future. But to timeless God all times are equally present.
So maybe it isn't all so tragic. In God's eye, the TV is still blaring, supper is just now cooking, and whatever hope lived there is still undashed.

Which photo do you prefer?

ADDENDUM 2007.12.14, evening
So, I'm here still standing in Enochs somehow. Still thinking about the questions the place raised for me. And the questions I felt in the strong reactions in the comments.

"Haunting" "Disturbing" "Raw" "Food for thought" "Jarring" "A bad feeling" "Overwhelmed" "Sadness" "Anxiety"

If these were reviews of a horror movie I had directed, they would ensure blockbuster sales. Even Donna, my dear friend who was with me at the time, who I trust to speak her mind even if sparingly, made note that my photos were "harder" than hers.

I wonder why? Did I tell something on myself? I think I did. The place was haunting, disturbing, jarring, and full of sadness and anxiety for me. It's not out of the realm of possibility -- little is -- that I could also simply disappear with no tell-tale signs of why I was here and why I was gone. I worry all my loved things (and not just things) need a protection I can't give. I'm not being reasonable here. Nor, realistically, am I being unreasonable. We all have fears that we seldom talk about, but haunt us nonetheless. And yes, the worst things that can happen to us, can. Maybe already have once.

I'm not trying to redeem these photos to you. I don't even really expect that anyone is reading this addendum. I am trying to understand, to learn, to find the redemption for myself.

My philosophy is art isn't just about good feelings, it's about feelings, about the whole range of human emotion. Documenting it, probing it, trusting it is valuable so long as there is redemption, or at least the hope of redemption. Did the photos yesterday depict a lack of redemption?

My worry about my own personal view is about my propensity to see beauty almost exclusively. I worry that beauty I see so easily will blind me. Or more likely, blind-side me.

So, I looked Enochs square in the face. And dared it. For all its mean tragedy, it seems to me, it simply only wanted to weep, and its hard tale be heard. You listened, I listened, painful as it was. It's been with us a long time this idea that listening is a kindness for that which needs redemption.


d.c. confidential said...

I have to say, this set actually turned my stomach just a little. Particularly the photo of the curtains. They're haunting and disturbing on so many levels. They seem to speak of lives laid to waste.

Once again, excellent pictures!

Bobbie said...

From a feeling standpoint I love the image of the curtains blowing in the wind, but from a thinking standpoint the tv appeals. So as an emotional being I'll vote for number 1.

nelda said...

This is sort of like choosing the "lesser of", I think. Not a lot of beauty in these great photos. I would have to go with #1this time. The TV set was obviously vandalized at some point in time. The curtains worn from blowing in the wind. That is my perception, anyway.

Hannah's Mom said...

#2, the T.V..... In fact I wish my TV looked like right now. :) The curtains, I love that each of us will see something different in those curtains. The quote you left about the way God sees vs the way people will see, perfect. Thanks for sharing!!

Andi said...

I like #1 the best out of the two. It seems very natural, like it happened over the course of a very long time.

Bev said...

For one moment I thought the curtains were some sort of exotic hanging plant, as you do photo plants and wildlife quite a lot!

I think them being old gives them this quite organic quality. Even the TV (smashed through, what happened there? Was it in the house when it was lived in, or later?)looks a little like the ice of a puddle that somebody has stood in. Now they are old and weathered they are perhaps more at one with the environment. The wind, the rain and lichens have done their work, and softened the perhaps ugly artifical bright colours and angularity of many of the things people have in their homes. And the passage of time! As you are getting philosopical (with the lovely quote)it happens to us all and sometimes improves people, as well as things.

I do like both of them, but I like the No 2 because of the ice crystal effect (it's cold here) and that very nice blue colour on the TV and wall behind. If it is paint, it makes for a good effect.

Bev said...

Actually, coming back to this during an ideal moment when Mark is watching the boring Bourne Inquiry, I think I have got a little carried way in my previous comment! Sometimes when you are writing comments you don't have the photos in front of you, just an image in your head. Looking at the photos again I think they are quite raw and disturbing, but I like the way you tied everything together positively in your closing paragraphs, but they are still great photos.

Neda said...

I prefer....Vardy? I really can't make a choice now that I got to the end of your post and ideas are swirling in my head about time concepts. Sorry, can I opt out of this one for now and come back and vote (since "being in time" is what there is no "late" comment, is there now??)

Sweet Irene said...

That's quite an impressive post and gives me much food for thought.

I like the torn curtains blowing in the wind. I like the composition. It is also so sad to think that one day some housewife proudly hung them up there and was very satisfied with them probably.

God with his timeless view of us is very much on my mind now.

Fawzan Barrage said...

Jarring. Both pictures gave me a bad feeling even before I read your post and then after reading it turned into a sad feeling.

I don't mind the toll of time on things. I for one am feeling it and it has a beauty to it even as it distorts what once was beautiful. What I can't handle is violence. I will have to go with the curtains for that reason.

Give us something uplifting tomorrow PLEEEAAASSSEEE! :-)

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Very moving photos! and great post too. I too want to know what happened, to sift through the rubble and re-assure myself somehow it's not really as sad as it looks. Maybe it is a beautiful story. Maybe the woman who once lived here found true love? meaning in life? maybe she left in the middle of the night these, her heart joyus- material things unimportant at that pivotal moment in time....sigh. Maybe, just maybe this was a begining not an end..
Ok, so now to the voting!
NUMBER 1! the curtains seem to sum up the whole family feel better than the TV for me and I love the creativity of this shot. The angle you took it from, the lighting, the clarity. Looking forward to seeing what you treat us with tomorrow!

Rima said...

I didn't want to leave a comment yesterday because these pictures really struck a nerve with me. I was overwhelmed with sadness and anxiety (I think you may know why). They are powerful. Even though the emotion I felt was raw, both images are the opposite of that.

So, yadayadayada - vote already, you're saying. Well, sorry, this time I have to abstain!

Rima said...

oooh - funny - i always read the others' comments after i post mine so as not to be influenced. And I just noticed how these images have impacted each and every one. Food for thought indeed.

Debi said...

Thank you all for voting.

It seems these pictures created strength of emotion. I will spend today letting my mind wander and search for understanding of what those pictures did to me, to us. You don't have to. But as the photographer, I must.

In any case, thank you all for commenting, even though in some cases it was difficult for you to do so. I sincerely appreciate your honesty and your commitment to my little This or That experiment (why am I thinking of Dr. Frankenstein at this moment!).

The "winner" is #1. And as Nelda said, it was probably a choice of the "lesser of."

John - Copyright JMM 2007 said...

Too late to vote - but the TV, for me. That is a great image and love the way blue is picked up on set an din the back ground.

Great job here. I wonder what the last show seen on that TV was...Bonanza? Johnny Carson? Local farmer's report.

dianeclancy said...

Hi Debi,

I am going for the curtains ... I like the idea of kicking the tv but the curtains have more mystery and beauty to me.

~ Diane Clancy

Rima said...

I read the addendum. It hit me square between the eyes again, just like the original post. I scurried past the photos again, and found that you had added more (supremely elegant) words. I kept nodding, and thinking, yes, she's so good... and then you wrote "did the photos... depict a lack of redemption", and I thouhgt, yes, that's exactly it: a bottomless pit of hopelessness. That pit that we all try to avert our eyes from, you went and emprisoned in these two pictures.

What a true artist you are, Debi - what a soul.

Bev said...

Where's the rule that photographers only have to photograph beauty? I don't know the history behind the place, but I quite liked them aesthetically at first purely as interesting weathered objects. Probably people bring different associations to photos, and I didn't have any particularly bad ones about these.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Debi, Debi, should be celebrating the fact that your photos touched raw feelings in others! That is better a 'that's nice' reaction any day! I went to the world media press exhibition in October. It was RAW. Photo's of dead babies, photo's of people fleeing from their homes as they went up in battle smoke behind them, photo's of people's reactions to the gut-wrenching loss and horror that un-relentingly unfolded around them. There would be no redemption from these things. Somethings can't be redeemed. I left the exhibition quiet. Sad. Confused. Was our world REALLY that ugly? Or is it a beautiful world with ugly things in it? Was I so sheltered and blinded by optimisim and (like you) an ability to find beauty in even the weeds that I could not see what the world really was? I didn't actually answer those questions but I know that those photo's won the awards they did because the had A VOICE they touched people. Like yours. Maybe the growth was supposed to be emotionally speaking not photographicaly speaking?
FEEL the fear and do it anyway!!

I've written more of a novel than a comment here Debi..I do hope you had your cuppa coffee in hand!

Neda said...

I read and re-read the addendum. You raise a lot of deep questions there and this, for me, is as powerful as your pictures. I did not vote because the pictures had a depth that could not be deciphered easily. Aesthetically, the curtains speak to me in whispers, as if they are still holding secrets which cannot be revealed. The angle of the photography makes a dramatic statement. The broken tv, still visually speaking, is well photographed, with the blasting hole to the lower side, an uncommon placement for the central theme of a photo.

Although, I had time to come back to this post and study the pictures again, I feel that -- contrary to most of the above lovely readers -- the 2 pictures "betray" a maturity and steadfastness on your part. I don't understand the redemption because I do not see the "sin." For me, these photos are more "real," they scream at me from the depths of those inanimate objects. Go ahead, Debi, explore, plunge, tear things apart. I see you moving in unchartered territory and I like it. Like your comment on my blog, we are bound to break the mold. I don't think there are ugly or pretty pictures (or art), only the artist's vision is what is important.

To me, there is beauty in these imperfections. Very wabi-sabi.

Sorry about my long rambling post but I thnk we need to carry on this conversation sometime, if you'd like, and explore the relationship between the "author" and the "object," how much each feeds off the other.

I love you, Debi. You are THE REAL THING!

Fawzan Barrage said...

I don't know if this is going to make sense, but here it goes anyway. The deep jarring feeling about these shot is precisely the fact that they show no redemption. No way for hope to sneak in to the story being told. If these were moving pictures, and a soft gust of wind were to move the curtain shreds or light to touch the broken screen, there would be a chance for hope, but the moment captured here was one of utter stillness. And so what hope is there?

That in no way means that the photos fail. On the contrary. They are very powerful. But on a personal level, I just don't want to face the meaning in them. It is too tough.

Debi said...

Thank you every one for your addendum comments. I was truly surprised that you read it. It seems this pair of pictures really got us all thinking -- you all have so many interesting thoughts on the matter!

I am thrilled to have such a great bunch of readers of my blog (and bloggers to read). I am also honored that these pictures could make for such an interesting experience. (The old Chinese curse, isn't it?)

Thank you. Really.

Bobbie said...

Follow your heart, dear daughter.

Frances said...

Sorry my comment didn't appear - I wrote a long thing about these disturbing images - came back to add something, but no comment and the moment has passed. Basically I wanted to say that my response to the images is as if they are photo-journalism. They remind me of images from horrible atrocities - particularly attacks on Palestinian homes and the sectarian nasties in Ireland.