Thursday, March 13, 2008


What is the antonym of regret? Relief? Gratitude? I don't know. But I do know that whatever is the opposite of regret (anti-regret? regretless?) is what I'm feeling today.

Last June I started a photography project. This is a project that isn't for anyone but me. I don't even know if I'll ever post the photographs from it here. It's on-going, although to be honest I haven't worked on it for months. I think most long-term art projects are like that, though. I read in LensWork about people taking years to complete a portfolio, when they've gone to far-off distant lands to make images. "Wow," I used to think, "That's dedication."

Nope. It's called having a life outside of photography. You can't just do one thing all the time, unfortunately, no matter how much you like it. You work on it a bit, then do all the other things that make up your life, then you get back to it when you can (whether it's waiting for time or get back to it when you can).

So I worked on my project a few times, and have taken a break (i.e. gotten busy with other things), and I'm thinking it might be time to dig back into it. Especially now that we're going into spring and the weather will cooperate a bit more. It's a pain in the ass to lug around all your gear on top of a coat, gloves, hat, etc.

Every day on the way to work I pass by the site of my first shoot for my project. It's a small business in a little building, owned by the same man for many, many years, and by his father before him. It has intrigued me since I started driving on Manchester regularly, which was when we moved about, what, six years ago now, I guess.

Last June, after five years of driving by and wistfully thinking, "I'd love to make images there," I screwed up my courage, readied my gear, and introduced myself to the man. I asked him if I could make some images. Thankfully, he was very kind and agreed. And while I worked we talked. Or rather, he talked. And I listened. I am so, so grateful for his time and his willingness to let me work. He's the cutest little old man, just adorable.

I went back once more to make some more images, and listen to him again. Then things got busy and I haven't been back. I really need to return and give him some prints of what I shot.

A couple of months ago, driving to work, I noticed that the little building had plywood covering its windows. I was immediately alarmed. Had something happened to the man? From my car stopped at a red light, I frantically searched the building with my eyes. I saw his car parked there, and finally caught a glimpse of him, and then my light turned green and I drove on. Still wondering what was going on, but at least knowing he was okay. I called M when I got to work and told him what I saw. M knows everything about my project, after all. He reassured me that since I had seen the man, everything was probably okay. M is good at reassuring me, which is why I call him with all my goofball concerns.

The plywood has stayed up all this time, and I've seen him, and the man who works for him, on and off. They closed early the day we got all the snow, which wasn't suprising. I check every time I go by, just to make sure they're okay. Not that I could do anything if one day they weren't there, but still. I keep an eye out for them. (I could do something, I suppose...I know where the man lives - he told me during one of our long talks. He lives close by, between his business and my home.)

So today I drove past the business and the plywood was down. Or, rather, it had moved several feet inside the big glass windows on the front of the building. The windows are new, and there is a new door. It's the kind of door you get from Home Depot, from a big stack of doors that are all made of plastic and all look exactly the same. The windows are clean and shiny, and don't have the hand-painted letters spelling the name of the business. I can tell by where the plywood is positioned that much of the interior has been cleaned out. I saw the man working inside, moving the plywood around.

My heart broke, because the character of the little building, what made it stand out, what made it special and drew me to it to begin with, is gone.

And then I realized that it's not really gone, for it will always be in the photographs I made of the little building and the man. And I'm so, so glad I screwed up my courage last June and asked a total stranger if I could take pictures of him and his business.

So that's what I'm feeling this morning. Anti-regret. The whole notion of, "Whew! Glad you shot that so you're not kicking your own ass right now!" And awe, once again, at the power of photography to catch things that don't last forever.


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