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Sunday, July 26, 2015


I am back and forth on this one.

On the one hand, most contemporary photography is ephemera. Something to post to my social media presence, liked or ignored, and then we're on to the next thing. Photographs persist, but down the timeline, where they might as well not.

On the other hand, perhaps one should aspire to do something else, something not ephemeral. I make prints, and I stick them in to books. That's more permanent, more solid. Wherever the book is, it's a present object that is there, not lost in some digital history, 17 clicks out of sight. It's right there on the shelf. I can see the spine of it.

But still I embrace the ephemeral nature of it. Ultimately, despite the best efforts of Ansel Adams, selenium toning, and archival washing, we're making pictures on paper, a substance not really well known for its properties of longevity. Sure, a couple hundred years or so, if you're careful. But the stuff rips, it burns, it doesn't like getting wet. We're not talking bronze here, it's not marble. It's paper.

Books? Also paper. Also flammable, don't like getting wet, and so on.

I use a lot of machine prints from down the street, 19 cents a copy. The print will look fine, most likely, when the book bites the dust. And if it doesn't? Well, that's OK too. The point is to have made it, not to have it endure forever.

So I continue to waffle, or perhaps to straddle some line. Ephemeral, but solid, physical. Ephemeral, but not too ephemeral.


  1. You're probably still too young for this to work, but now I've turned 60 I've been asking myself: which of this stuff (prints, books, digital files on DVD) will my kids actually want to keep when I die? What else might be gratefully/grudgingly received by an institution (library, college, archive) in my will? Everything else is ephemeral dross. In anticipation of an upcoming house move I've recently dumped tons of work-prints and also-rans -- 20 years' worth... It's a good feeling. Though I do hope and expect to accumulate another 30 years' worth of ephemeral dross, at least!


  2. I'm not all that much younger than you!

    Also, I'm certainly not going to take exception to your plan. It's not my plan, but I think a pretty consistent theme on this blog lately has been "follow your own plan" so, good for you!