Monday, December 3, 2012

The Plan

The passage of time has a funny way of making you see your life in perspective. I'm sure mine is no more special than most people. But many of us have something in common besides an obvious realization of our mortality. We have had or may still have dreams. Goals...things we want to do. For some a trip to Europe or to parachute out of a perfectly good airplane. Mine? Mine is a bit more simplistic than that. I love history. Always have. We are all the sum of our history. But history is always better with a visual perspective.

Did you ever look at old photographs of your Grandmother when she was a girl? Your dad's first car? Your prom date? All of them were a microcosm of time. A mere moment. An image captured in less than a second and yet a permanent record. You think about that time. Who your friends were and what song would have played on the radio. The memories. The emotions.

On a personal level pictures create so much for me. I look back at old pictures of my friends and me. Old girlfriends. Various and sundry random photos of things that made sense when you took them but now seem odd. At times random and others timely. But these all have something in common. They're all a visual record of history.

To give y'all some background, I have been in TV news since 1984. My skill was videography although at the time I started we were just known as photographers or photogs. I shot stories on video tape for the news. I used to say I was recording history and I did, at times, capture some historic pictures. Nothing of the scale of the Hindenburg exploding mind you. But every image I shot. Every interview I taped. All of it was capturing a very small piece of history. As I progressed in my job I moved to other stations doing essentially the same thing in other places. When I finally settled in at my last station I was, once again, shooting video for the news. Eventually I was asked if I would move to the Assignment Desk which meant I sent other videographers to do the same thing I had done. Life on the Desk was, well, interesting. And quite thankless. I had producers expecting me to get stories covered. I had photographers doing their best to avoid going anywhere. A demanding News Director who would let me know he was not pleased with me if we missed something the other stations had. Suffice it to say that's two and a half years of my life I'll never get back.

But then my dream job got dropped in my lap so to speak. You see, we covered news pretty much anywhere if there was a connection to our market. Sometimes we would go out of our market if it was a big story. And we needed to go live from wherever the story was. That was made possible by a satellite truck. This truck that would find a satellite in geosynchronous orbit over the Equator and allow us to go live pretty much anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. And we needed an operator. And, seeing as how I was anxious to get off the desk for pretty much any reason, I jumped at the chance. My first attempt at a live satellite shot was Valentine's Day 2000. I failed miserably. I was given a 15 minute crash course on what to do. And I did mange to find the satellite...well...a satellite. Turns out it wasn't the right satellite. I did get better so you know. And for the next nine years that was my job at that station. I loved what I did. I got to see my beloved Alabama in a way I never thought possible. Eventually I managed to log close to a quarter million miles plowing the back roads of Alabama. It was a great job and a great life.
I'm sure by now you are wondering where I'm going with all this. Well, as I said, I logged a lot of miles and saw a lot of things. But there was one that caught my eye. I had seen it dozens of times on my way to Auburn to cover games or other news. It was a junkyard. But not like any other junkyard I had ever seen. It was if time had stopped in 1965. Nothing in this junkyard was older than the mid 1960's. Nothing. It was acres of old Chevies and Plymouths, Studebakers and Nashes, Fords, Chryslers, Reos, Hudsons...all as if they had been placed there in a time capsule. Well, being a car guy I stopped and asked if I could take some pictures. They were a bit reluctant at first but eventually agreed. It was amazing walking around this museum of rust. To be locked in time almost 50 years earlier. I shot all I could in my limited time as I was on a deadline. But it set off a spark in me. I saw many old things on the side of the road. An old sign for a motel long since demolished. A football field and scoreboard from an old school. Cars and trucks. Tractors. Old stores that time left behind. And yet all of these things remain. Reminders of our past slowly disappearing with the ravages of time. I became fascinated with them. I wanted to document the things others have long since forgotten while they still existed. And so my quest began. I managed a few pictures here and there but it was harder than I had anticipated due to time constraints and deadlines. And I needed it to be Winter. Winter was the perfect setting. I wanted my images to be stark and desolate. Warm Summer days and bright skies just would not work.

Which brings me to the present. Why I'm here and you are reading this. I'm at a place in my life that with a little effort I can make this work. Winter is mere weeks away. It's been very mild and gives me cause for concern that the weather may not cooperate. But it will be Winter either way and I need to do this while the opportunity presents itself. So here's my plan. I am going to throw some stuff in my truck, a camera, a few other odds and ends and Cato my cat and we're going to go see what there is to see. Capture what I can while it's still there. As I go I will post some of my work here and write about what I saw. Maybe get Cato's point of view. What I would like from you is just to enjoy what I say here. Talk about the pictures I share with you. Offer suggestions or places you know of. I have a plan if just going and hoping I see something good is a plan. There are 67 counties in Alabama and I know I can't get to them all. Not in a short two months. But I can get a good start.