The Photograph as a Time Machine

Having spent a good portion of my life standing in the dark, dodging, burning, and spotting my prints, I doubt I will ever go back to analog in any meaningful way. I saw this negative and scanned it because these are two people who I was once very close too. I don’t know either of them now. As I was looking at the scan, I remembered that day. I was in love with her and he was my best friend.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to work in room light on an image. I actually spend far longer with my images in the digital realm than I ever did in the dark. There are simply things that I can do now that we’re practically impossible before. As I was spotting this image, I started to think about these two. There was an intimacy with each of them that is not in my life 40 years later.

Of course, now being in the last quarter of my life, there is a longing for those days. If I could tell my young self the things that I have learned… well wouldn’t that be great. I probably would ignore me. As I worked their faces, spotting out little flecks of dust I began to feel close to them again. I remembered caressing her face, and her beautiful dancer’s shape. I remember hugging him and jumping up and down when one of his pictures was accepted for a show. Working this image was comforting. I remembered my flaws from then and there was even comfort there.

Whatever else happened after this image was made so many years ago, I love these people and this moment. Trying to make this image as good as I could, had given that back to me.

Aren’t we who love making images fortunate that we can travel through time? Though it is a static past it’s possible to see and remember in great detail.

And now so many years later we able to understand so much better, ourselves and perhaps them too.

P.S. My Subway book is available through Etsy.

About the author: Since 1975, Gerard Exupery has used photography to document the subways, streets, and people of New York. The opinions in this article are solely those of the author. Exupery studied at The School of Visual Arts and with Lisette Model at the New School. Though Mr. Exupery has been a photographer for more than 40 years, only recently, he has begun to show his work. You can find more of his work on his website. This article was also published at 35mmc.

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