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Today's quote:

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Remember those old photo albums with those old black-and-white photos with those serrated edges?

A selection of Auggie Wren’s pictures from "Smoke"


Years ago, on one of our occasional trips down the South Coast, I discovered an old photo album in a small charity-run op-shop at Narooma. It was one of those old photo albums with black cardboard pages interleaved with onion paper to prevent the glossy photos from sticking together face-to-face.

The photos themselves, all black-and-white, had those old-fashioned serrated edges and were held in place by those adhesive photo corners you could buy on rolls like sticky-tape back in the 50s and 60s. Under each photo, in old-fashioned copperplate handwriting in white ink on black cardboard, were the descriptions: "Sailing through the Red Sea", "Entering the Suez Canal", "At Port Said", "The Great Pyramid of Giza".

The whole thing was someone's treasured trip of a lifetime to Europe, preserved until it ended up in a dusty corner of that dusty old op-shop. It screamed out to me about the impermanence of life; it screamed out to be given back its former importance and a new lease of life in some-one else's home. I almost bought it for a dollar but then thought of all the other stuff I already had, which one day would go the same way.

I was reminded of that old photo album again as I watched that moving and powerful scene in "Smoke" where Wren shows his album of photographs to one of his regular customers, a writer called Paul Benjamin (played by William Hurt), and tries to explain his project:

"They’re all the same, but each one is different from every other one. You’ve got your bright mornings; your fog mornings; you’ve got your summer light and your autumn light; you’ve got your weekdays and your weekends; you’ve got your people in overcoats and galoshes and you’ve got your people in t-shirts and shorts. Sometimes same people, sometimes different ones. Sometimes different ones become the same, and the same ones disappear. The earth revolves around the sun and every day the light from the sun hits the earth from a different angle."


Benjamin: (leafing through the album) "They’re all the same."
Wren: "That’s right. More than four-thousand pictures of the same place, the corner of Third Street and Seventh Avenue at eight o’clock in the morning, four-thousand straight days in all kinds of weather. That’s why I can never take a vacation. I got to be in my spot every morning at the same time ... every morning in the same spot at the same time."


We are all in the process of dying, whatever journey we choose to take through life, or whatever course is determined for us, each of us is marching forward towards our inevitable demise. And so it is with cities. Instinctively, perhaps, Auggie realises this and so presses ahead with his photographic project with no specific aim or intended destination. It will only be brought to a conclusion when his own life reaches the end.

Perhaps I ought to have bought that old photo album after all!

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