One of the really interesting aspects of photography—and one of the few of aspects of it that hasn't been exploited fully, although Nicholas Nixon's portraits of the Brown Sisters and the famous and excellent Rephotographic Survey Project leap to mind*—is its fascinating ability to compare subjects through time.
"Youngme—Nowme" winning entry by "pebble_it"
It's interesting that in written fiction, especially before the rise of the importance of film rights, it was commonplace for authors to track characters through large chunks of their lifetimes (think Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations), or even chronicle families through several generations. Early films tried to follow that lead, with decidedly mixed results. "Movie time" comes into conflict with novelistic time in various ways. You can apply a heavy armor of old-person makeup to an actor, like Dustin Hoffman playing the superannuated version of Jack Crabbe in the film "Little Big Man," and of course it's a commonplace in movies to have a similar-looking kid play a character-when-young, with the familiar, portentous jump through puberty denoting the shifting of gears from backstory to main story. Recently, the TV show "Cold Case" has had some success (also some lack of success) casting different actors to play the same character at different points in their lives. But for the most part fictive film-making runs into problems with spans of times that are too much longer than, or different than, the time it took to make the film.
Film and television even run into problems the other way too—witness all the sitcoms over the years that expired because the cute kids grew up (and the sitcom families who mysteriously acquired an additional cute kid as the original families aged, e.g., "The Cosby Show"), or the now excessively matured actors in the Harry Potter movies. Part of the genius of animated shows like the long-running "The Simpsons" (my son loves the Simpsons) is that Bart and the others can leap forward or backward in time on occasion but also effortlessly (and apparently eternally) stay the same age; there is even one animated sitcom, called "King of the Hill," where the story lines almost never depart from scenes that could be played by human actors, the advantage of the animated ones presumably being simply that they're more tractable and unchanging (and probably have less onerous salary demands). Honorable mention under this heading goes to all the aging A-list actors who can't seem to wean themselves away from vanity leading man roles despite the fact that they've gotten too old for the parts. Although I guess they play the parts in real life, too, so maybe they think it's normal.
In any event, check out Color Wars' popular "Youngme—Nowme" series…that is if your friend/relative who forwards to you all their favorite wacky internet jetsam hasn't emailed the link to you already. A brilliant, simple idea, obviously fun for some of the participants. I'm not much for the cutesy stuff, generally, but if some of these don't make you smile you've got a hard heart. Don't neglect to click on "View Entire Gallery" at the link. Comparos like these emphasize the ticking of the cosmic clock, but they're charming.
And in a sort of dark-side counterpart to the Youngme—Nowme photo pairs, there are a slew of videos on YouTube chronicling the alarming physical deterioration of meth addicts. The comparisons, sometimes sensationalized and doubtless meant to serve as deterrents, are nevertheless both genuinely frightening and frequently also poignant, reminding us again, if we need to be reminded, that none among us, when we're young and healthy, intends to go on to ruin our own lives, our health, our bodies; yet it happens.
Our old friend John Kennerdell (John wrote one of the original bokeh articles for me at Photo Techniques a decade or so ago) has recently revamped his website entirely. Reserve some quality time for Studio Hatyai—there's some really wonderful stuff in these portfolios. My favorite is probably Mekong Express (shot, by the way, with a Canon 5D and 35mm ƒ/2 EF lens, made to mimic a Minolta Autocord or something similar loaded with Plus-X), but it's not easy to choose.
Working with the light in Newlyn
Hugh Symonds sent me a link to some pictures he took with a Zeiss 25mm ƒ/2.8 lens an a Nikon D3. I couldn't tell much about the equipment, but I liked the pictures quite a lot. It made me wonder why, with all the arty stuff and scenic stuff on the web, more people aren't convinced by the merits of good, solid documentary. Anyway I liked Hugh's pictures and maybe you will too.
Caught in the act
And finally, our own Carl Weese was recently caught in the act by a newspaper photographer while covering a local anti-war demonstration. He says, "...when the presumed Marine One (or a decoy)** flew over the site of the protest I dropped low to shoot the protesters holding their signs up at the aircraft. I saw Jim Shannon of the Waterbury Republican-American aiming right back at me to shoot the protesters from the front." Here's Jim's picture, grabbed from the paper's website:
That's Carl crouching by the road, K20D in the business position. Typically, Oren (T.O.P.'s barely-visible Mandarin Advisor) zeroed right in on the fact that the lady on the right appears to be commemorating the scene with a vintage Pentax Spotmatic. I, for my part, also probably typically, was tickled by the fact that the lady on the front left has made a veritable craft project out of her sign, complete with artfully-arrayed bombs and a peach color scheme to complement the word "IMPEACH." A nice, friendly, color-coordinated sort of anti-war protester—she probably has a hand-knitted "Eat the Rich" tea cozy at home. Funny, and somehow touching.
Mike (Thanks to Albano and many others for the "Youngme" link, Hugh, John K., and, as ever, Oren and Carl)
*I could kick myself for never buying the now rare and prized Second View when it was available—I thought about it enough times—although you can now buy the latest update of the project, Third Views, Second Sights without any trouble.
**The Presidential helicopter, for those of you in other countries.
Featured Comment by Adam Isler: "You should really add Diego Goldberg's "The Arrow of Time" to this compendium—it traces a single family over the course of 31 years (and counting), on the same date each year, starting with the parents and including the three children, all now grown."