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Photos Around the World

May 26, 2003

I believe I now own more photos of my grandaughter than of the rest of my life.

I haven’t yet regretted the loss of such a chronicle, since there are apparently even more photographers than genealogists on this earth. I find there is sufficient record of my stay.

During my recent vacation, I spent a weekend with old college friends and their families at a gracious home in Newberry, South Carolina. I wish I had pictures to show you.

You wouldn’t know anyone, of course, but after that weekend with old friends, and with familiar faces from the many photo albums that were shared, I was a little confused myself about what names and faces I remembered from what part of my life.

But the photographs proved a few parts of it, moments in time between 1974 to 1978. There were a few mysteries, of course. In one photo, Louis looked slim and suave with a cigarette as he talked with a beautiful woman … but who was that gal? We stared; shook our heads.

One pleasant surprise was to find everyone so trim and fit. Our weekend collection of fifty or sixty people spread over several generations defied the American demographic of obesity.

The color in the photos held up well, too. I don’t know what I was expecting to happen in less than 30 years, but generally, color fades. The snapshot technology of the day didn’t handle indoor light very well, though, so the dim and yellowed indoor shots gave the albums enough of an historical air.

The albums made a chronicle, and for some perhaps even a memorial, of a particular time, of particular people, or of themselves.

At the time, the photos were just a recreation, along with horseshoes, a roasted pig, etc. But they primed me for my return …

I walked into the library to a delightful surprise — lines of photographs all over the library walls. We had been uncomfortably bare after the children’s art from Longfellow school was taken down.

Now we’re packed full with a very professional display of photographs by Dan Downing. The sheer bounty was enticing, and the fact that they were Dan’s was promising. I made a quick scan of them to see the nature of the exhibit and to plan my approach to a more leisurely visit with each.

Dan’s exhibit also complements our theme for the children’s Summer Reading Program, which starts tomorrow. The theme is world travel, and Dan’s photographs include China, Peru, Spain, Scotland, Turkey, France, and Alaska.

Needless to say, Dan Downing’s photographs surpass the memory album pictures in various ways. The one-handed snapshot taken at a beer fest records a few faces to jog someone’s memory, but Dan’s portraits of people in Peru strike me more as memorials not just of individuals but of a time and a way of life.

Along with the portraits of people are portraits of places, of things. The group of pictures of France are all places. Among those from Turkey and Spain are portraits of architectural features.

One very fine picture shows the back of a multi-decked boat in China pulling away from the photographer. It is a fascinating picture that invites inspection, introspection, fantasy. You can’t help but look at it and imagine yourself on this boat heading up a wide, faraway river.

Even if you’re staying in Salida this summer, come take a few trips via your library.

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