This is going to be one hell of a long rambling post. I started it a few days ago and have been coming back to it sporadically. It’s now as disjointed as I am. Consider yourself warned.
Let’s start with the most important thing – COVID. We all have different ways of following this awful situation. Documentary photography is very important to me right now, and there are amazing photographers out there making images that will help us sort through what it means to be caught up in a global pandemic. The images aren’t for everyone, though. I know some people are better off not following the news and imagery too closely. I need to step away from the computer more, that’s for sure. But if you are following it, I recommend looking for the imagery section(s) in The New York Times, LA Times, etc. A lot of times it’s easy to miss that that single image is actually a gateway to a slideshow.
I wanted to list the names of some the photographers I follow. They are in the hospitals, outside the hospitals, at the morgues, in the grocery stores, on the streets, and at testing sites. I saw a John Moore photo of a tired health worker in Yonkers at the wheel of her EMS vehicle. Was she heading in or leaving? If she was leaving, was her decon process complete, or would she have another stressful few decon steps to do before she could enter her home? We’re all living through frightening, uncertain times. These photographers are no different than the ones who covered D-Day, Vietnam, and Civil Rights. In 15-20 years your teenage kids/grandchildren will be taking their kids to COVID exhibits at galleries or flipping through photo books with them. Ahh, yes, that’s early March. The virus was wreaking havoc in China and Europe, but Americans were still in denial. (I’m not pointing fingers; I know I thought we had a little more time to see if we’d dodge a bullet.)
I’m including that John Moore photo here. In normal times, I’d say it’s bad form, but my heart’s in the right place – I want people to see what he and others are doing. What we should all be doing, if it’s not too much to handle. (Note – I’m not saying you should walk into a hospital with your camera.)
I live in Capitol Hill, Seattle, and I have been torn between staying home and taking very socially-distanced documentary photographs. On a scale of known stringer/freelancer and dude with a camera, I land squarely on the dude with a camera side of things. I think we all need to be able to answer (to ourselves) why we’re out and about these days when it benefits everyone to stay home, and right now I don’t have clear project ideas that warrant going out. I have some rough ideas, though.
The story I’m most interested in is the people who are keeping the wheels from falling off. Health workers, food supply, waste management, etc. I have been social distancing since early to mid-March, staying home for the most part. If you can stay home, it’s clearly the responsible thing to do. But there are a lot of people who would love to stay home but can’t. There are people who are staying home who are terrified about their financial situation.
Here’s a little audio clip 8pm in the neighborhood. I’ve got a lot to learn with audio. Damn Adobe Audition is confusing. If you listen – well, I should have cut a minute or two off at the start.
I made a rare grocery store trip on Sunday. It was a mistake. It was packed. The Safeway I went to made each aisle one way, with signs asking people to maintain a distance of two carts. I felt some pressure to keep moving (self-inflicted), so I had to make a couple of fly-bys on some aisles. I bought things that I have no plan for using. I’m not great in the kitchen, but I try to adhere to waste not want not. I need to look up what to do with fingerling potatoes. And I apologize to the people who saw me being petty. They were going the wrong way in a crowded aisle, and I was, in that instant, the “get off my lawn” cranky bastard. I’m sure I was “guilty” of the same thing. My COVID karma took a well-deserved hit. I’ll atone.
The check-out process was quicker than I thought. I apologized for having so many things, explaining that yada yada yada. The young woman across from me, separated by a plastic barrier of questionable effectiveness in a crowded grocery store, understandably wasn’t interested. Her mind was either tallying or denying the number of people she’d come into contact with that day. Does he have it? Does she? One silver lining is that I suspect Seattle is statistically much safer now than it was a few weeks ago. I’m sure that’s a small consolation. I wish the grocery stores had been able to adjust operations sooner. For example, I think most of us could get by with a box of items – 1 person, 1 week, $X. Anything to reduce the in-store foot traffic.
I’m listening to 111 Opera Masterpieces. La Rondine Act I is playing. Never heard of it. I like listening to opera, but I don’t know the operas. Earlier I stopped to listen to Norma Act II. Loved it. Have never heard of that one, either. I bought this iTunes…album?…years ago for a few pieces I did know. I like that I am Instagram friends with an actual opera singer, Roxanna Walitzki. I caught her farewell show in Belltown before she and her sister started traveling the world with their music, art, and photography. They were in SE Asia when COVID forced them to return to the States. They were on the road for a year or so. I think they wanted to keep going.
I’ve been jotting down some notes/ideas for photography and posts, but now they’re a jumbled mess of notes in my awful handwriting. I need to reset my thinking. I’m sure I’m not alone, but my mind has been pretty scattered. This is some weird shit. Made weirder still by the timing and weather. People in Seattle live for this time of year. We’ve been socially distancing in coats and black hoodies throughout the winter, and now it’s sunny and gorgeous outside. The sunlight and warmth beckons, but the sirens are singing the COVID chorus. (I love Greek mythology, but that’s probably an early example of the temptress made me do it!)
I did take the camera out on a short walk the other day. Many of the bars and restaurants in the Pike Pine corridor are boarded up. I read a few posts by people who were annoyed by that. I disagree. Those businesses will be lucky to re-open. If someone chucks a brick through a window, their odds decrease even more. They asked artists to make some COVID art. Here’s a slideshow. A few were works in progress. Obviously I couldn’t go up and talk to the artists. I’ll try and get the artists’ names.
I read something the other day, a Twitter post that prompted a grammar debate about none of us has or none of us have. One person referred to the Shakespearian rule – what sounds best to the ear. I’d never heard that. I like it.
Back to opera. Rambling, I warned you. La Traviata, Act III: Addio del Passato. I really liked it. I think there’s a local restaurant with branches in Capitol Hill and Belltown called La Traviata. Or there were. Who knows which restaurants will see the other side of this. (Note: Not even close. It’s Tavolàta.)
My friend Edyn dropped off a no contact meal the other day. It was wonderful. Food. It’s never been a mystery to me why people take meals to grieving families. I’m not grieving, at least not in any sense beyond how we’re all grieving. It just reminded me of the power and connection of food. She made quiche, a wonderful salad, a dressing, and a date cake. I haven’t got a sweet tooth normally, but I ate the hell out of that wonderful cake.
The quiche was incredible, and it was a hoot. I can’t remember the last time I used the/an oven. I long ago gave away my oven-suitable whatchamacallits, so I used a Bialetti pan that my mother got me the last time I was in Phoenix. I didn’t choose it randomly. I made my best guess about what was safe for the oven. I was really good with the first slice – used that oven glove thing for the handle. I was pretty good with the second slice. But not good enough. I almost pulled a Raiders of the Lost Ark move, narrowly avoiding a Bialetti branding. That quiche was so good. The salad was perfect.
I’ll finish with a Quarantine Watch. Killing Them Softly. I think it’s one of Brad Pitt’s best roles. He’s made some duds, but that’s the law of averages with acting. When he gets paired with the right director and the right script, I think he’s a fantastic actor.
I forget when the movie came out. In the backdrop, the Obama McCain campaign is playing out. The movie conveys a healthy dose of cynicism about both. My guess is 2011 or so. There’s a scene where Brad Pitt looks off into the distance and says (paraphrased), “America is fucked. There’s a plague coming.” It felt poignant. I’ve included a copy/paste of the final interaction.
Barack Obama (on TV):
[on TV delivering his election victory speech]… to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one.
You hear that line? Line’s for you.
Don’t make me laugh. We’re one people. It’s a myth created by Thomas Jefferson.
Oh, now you’re gonna have a go at Jefferson, huh?
My friend, Jefferson’s an American saint because he wrote the words, “All men are created equal.” Words he clearly didn’t believe, since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He was a rich wine snob who was sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So yeah, he wrote some lovely words and aroused the rabble, and they went out and died for those words, while he sat back and drank his wine and f***ed his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community. Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business. Now f***ing pay me