High School – Roll 11

Blog, Photography / Thursday, May 16th, 2024

With these rolls of film from twenty-ish years ago, I try to remember what the assignment was to help understand what and why I captured what I did. Honestly, I think this roll might just have been for fun. I see a trip to Chicago, a snowy sledding day, and some shots from around town. I think that’s all just grand.

There are some photos in this lot that I really, really like. They speak to present day me and what I like to see in my photos. The photos of the water tower are ones to call out. I’m typing in between swooning over the detail I can see in the bark of the tree. Sure, the water tower is old and great and all, but can you see that bark detail!? Since I really do not have any recollection of this photo, I probably thought it was trash when I took it.

There are a couple photos that I remember being disappointed with when I developed this film, and looking at them I think I might be more disappointed today. They’re the interior hallway shots from my school. It bugged me then and it bugs me now that they came out blurry. However, I never tried to get the shots again and that is how I know it bugs me more now. Something about the lighting and the empty/near empty hallways that speaks to me. Given the angle of these shots and my spotty memory of high school, I think these were taken just outside of the art room and in that art room lived our darkroom. I wonder if the darkroom is still there today? Present day me wishes that I had a crisper memory of those halls and I could say for certain where that was taken. Maybe this memory, like many, end up blurry the further you are from them.

The sledding photos bug me too, also because they’re blurry. But also because they seem to have a weird glow to them, almost some halation from the snow. The quality of these photos makes them look older than they are and taken by someone possibly even less skilled than myself. It’s frustrating to have a vague memory of this day but not knowing who was there, why, or even where there was. They’re just kids, enjoying a snowy day. I wonder if this is the day we “borrowed” sheet pans from work to use as sleds. Maybe, but I thought we did that at night.

Finally, the whole group of photos from a trip to Chicago need some attention. My family had an annual tradition of driving down to Chicago before Christmas and going shopping in Marshall Fields (it might have been a Macy’s at this point). This was certainly from one of those trips and I remember being excited to finally have a city to photograph. Being a somewhat non-adventurous kid living in a small town, having a city like Chicago as a canvas had me convinced that these photos would make me a star (in my class). They did no such thing, but I like the photos for what they are. A high school kid trying to find art and capturing what is important to him. They’re mostly mundane but a couple stand out to me.

Two from inside Marshall Fields speak to me. The photo of the escalators and the view from one of the top floors looking down. When I see these, I don’t see a department store but instead I see an annual hour where I gleefully rode escalators up and down for the sheer joy of it while my parents shopped. That is a memory that I cherish to this day and, at this rate, will until I die.

The outside photos also have merit. Specifically, the photo of the horse-drawn carriage trotting through the Chicago city streets and the fire escapes on the outside of the Walgreens. The latter just works for me. I think I could probably frame the photo better today but I’m impressed with my 18-year-old self. As for the carriage, I love that I captured the movement, and the lights, but also the person’s head in the foreground. It fits better than if it wasn’t there. To me, this is a first person view of crossing the street and being dazzled by the lights and the sights of the big city.

I could nit-pick on and on, but I wanted to call out what I really liked here as well as what I would have done differently today. As I reflect on these old photos, it gets me thinking about my current approach and how it has evolved over the years. Those things I thought were important or dazzling back then are not today and I’m sure back then me wouldn’t appreciate half of what I photograph today. Such is life and art and everything in between. You grow as a person and your tastes, viewpoint, and world change. Small town Danny was a different person than post-Peace Corps, Dad Danny. I’m glad that I can visit with the younger me and I look forward to showing retired Danny what I think is important today.

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