Time Travel Through Photography

June 14th, 2008 by Editor B

I was sorting through some old photos the other day, and I came across a set taken on October 16, 1999. As I looked at them I was overwhelmed by a sense of bittersweet melancholy. (Is there any other kind of melancholy?)

This was the first coherent group of digital pictures I ever took. I published the set on the web, the first of several such sets, generally presenting a “day in the life” or similar. Dammit, it was so complicated back then. I was pretty proud of myself for cooking up the automated Photoshop scripts to generate the thumbnails and so forth, and of course I hand-coded all the HTML.

991016 Index

Looks kind of like a Flickr set, huh? But with Flickr and other such tools, it’s all so much easier. I do like the sparse simplicity of my original interface better, but of course there’s no facility for comments or any of the other features that make a system like Flickr so compelling.

But moreover, looking at these old pix, there are the memories of that day nine years ago. Nothing special about the day itself. Just a random Saturday. Just some fragments, a few scraps snatched from the clutches of time. We had just moved to New Orleans a few months earlier. We didn’t know how this city would get in our blood, how this city would break our hearts.

Lazy Cat

We’d adopted a couple cats, Lucy and Bilal. In the captions I note that “we don’t know too many people here, and we’re not planning to have kids, so the cats keep us company.” Sadly enough Bilal died in a tragic fall three years later. Lucy stayed with us through our Katrina evacuation and our return to the city, but she disappeared mysteriously two summers ago and we never saw her again.

As for the neighbors shown in the set, the renovation of their Uptown home came out beautifully, but they sold it just before Katrina and bought a house in Lakeview. They lost everything. But they’re still here. We run into them around town from time to time. Those little girls are in college now.

3 Girls

But mostly I’m so glad I took these pictures, otherwise I would have just my vague recollections. That impetus to document and preserve quotidian details is the same one that has driven me to keep journals off and on since I was ten years old, the same one that drives me to keep this blog. I’m glad I this “day in the life” photo set, and it reminds me I need to do another one soon.

I highly recommend it.

I’ve posted the whole set to Flickr. Check it out or see the original incarnation.

7 Responses to “Time Travel Through Photography”

  1. Brooks Says:

    “Nothing special about the day itself.” I’m prone to bittersweet melancholy myself these days. Loved this post, and your pictures.

    From Paul Klee’s diary, 1905:

    “Imagine you are dead; after many years of exile you are permitted to cast a single glance earthward. You see a lamppost and an old dog lifting his leg against it. You are so moved that you cannot help sobbing.”

  2. David Says:

    Yeah, it’s bittersweet. That Rue is no longer there; it’s across the street. And that was my neighborhood.

  3. rickngentilly Says:

    thank you for the pic of the old mac camera.

    i remember thinking that thing was bad ass ten years ago.

    now it looks like a fischer price toy.

    what a hoot how fast time goes by.

  4. Lee Says:

    I was browsing flickr when I saw the pic of “your car” and went, WTF? B doesn’t have a car……Then I came across the index and realized that these pictures were not recent.

  5. Jon Nelson Says:

    The 16th is my birthday. I was 46. It was an eventful year.

  6. Julie Says:

    B,

    Hope you are enjoying your first Father’s Day. Looking forward to the photos.

  7. Tony Says:

    Bittersweet indeed. Missed the old Rue. I was in New York that same year. I guess as fate would have it, I’d meet you five years later.

Leave a Reply