After returning from a visit to my old hometown, I was telling my neighbor how much things had changed there and that I sure would not want to move back to that area. Three seconds after I finished my statement, I heard the words, you know, that same old worn out phrase that you are bound to hear anytime you talk about the past. “You know, they say you can never go back.” Who came up with that and while we are on the subject, who are “they”? I just went back, the town was still there and so were some of my childhood friends. You can go back. Just do not expect a time warp, do not expect everything to be just as you left it…ain’t gonna happen!
The following day, I was rummaging through my picture archives. Not my favorite thing to do because of the dust. You know, that gray stuff that seems to cover everything and inevitably winds up in your nose making you sneeze all over your clean shirt.
I was searching for an image disk. Not just any old image disk, but a special one. The disk that held my prized photograph, the one that started it all. It was the very first one of my pictures published for the whole world to see. Well, maybe not the whole world, more like just a few local counties.
Having well over four hundred thousand images in my archives, I was muttering “not nice” words since I still had not cataloged all the boxes and their contents. Finally, by dumb luck, I found the right one when in mid sneeze I banged my head on a single archive box. As I wiped the dust off my forehead and focused on the label, I was amazed to find the box actually contained the special disk, the target of my search. As I came out of the closet smiling, my wife took one look at me and asked, “What happened to your shirt?” I was going to explain, but since we were just getting ready to sit down to lunch, I decided right now probably was not the best time. I just mumbled something incoherent and headed off to change my slimy, green stained, shirt.
The problem with viewing a photograph from the past is you immediately notice everything you did wrong. All the things you would have done differently had you been taking the picture today. Suddenly a strange feeling came over me. The more I stared at the image in front of me, the more I understood. I realized for the first time that I was wrong. I know it is really hard to believe, but I was actually wrong. What “they” say is really true, “You can’t go back.” Yesterday is history and the subject of the picture I was staring at does not exist in today’s world.
That set my mind spinning. Just think about it, whenever you press a camera’s shutter button it captures a unique moment in time. A segment of time that can never be replicated, it is gone forever. Sure, if the subject is available you can try to retake a picture, but you still cannot match the original moment in time. Whoa, deep, I am impressed.
The photograph below is the one that started it all…it was the first one of my images to appear in a publication.
Captured in 2004, the image depicts one of the many picturesque locations in and around the small, artsy town of Matlacha, Florida. Sadly, the two sailboats and much of the vegetation were damaged when several hurricanes passed through the area.
Therefore, looking at “today’s” image below, one would quickly conclude that the only thing that remains from “yesterday’s” image is, well, “yesterday’s” image.
After mulling over all my ramblings thus far, I managed to come up with yet another theory. Pressing the shutter button of a camera appears to produce more than a picture for everyone to enjoy. Well some pictures are enjoyable, but others can be downright embarrassing. The captured image is basically a historical document, a moment in time preserved for future generations to see…whoa, heavy. Maybe I need to change my business cards to read “Photographer / Historian”.
You’re laughing at my theory, I know you are, but think about this one simple situation. The boat lift and dam pictured below were removed to prevent the potential destruction of acres of protected mangroves. If we did not have pictures or at least drawings of the structure, how would future generations know what it actually looked like, how it affected the ecology, and how the site had changed? Not laughing now are you…I accept your apology. I guess I can change my business cards now.
Once the lift and dam were removed, very little is left to give any indication how it functioned and how it affected the ecology.
Okay, now I will leave you with something to think about. Below are “today” pictures of just four of the many native wildlife species that are in trouble. They are having problems surviving, producing offspring, and continuing the species. Thanks to the foresight of some groups and individuals, there are reasonable laws in place that will help the survival rate of these species and many others, but more needs to be done. What do you want “tomorrow’s” pictures to look like?
American Bald Eagle – Threatened Species
Florida Scrub Jay – Threatened Species
Wood Stork – Endangered Species
Florida Gopher Tortoise – Threatened Species
Another great adventure comes to an end. It doesn’t get any better than this…well, unless you’re talking about sneaking down early Christmas morning and catching Santa Claus putting gifts under the tree. That might just be a step up from this story.
I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for certain though, when you're digging through dusty archive boxes wear an old shirt and carry a big handkerchief.
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