Sunday, February 21, 2010

In the Eye of the Beholder

Were my mother still alive, she would not have cared much for this photo. I took it in Panguitch, UT, a tiny hamlet on Highway 89. Mom would have thought it was ridiculous that I'd take a photo of an old, run-down gas station when there were so many other, prettier scenes all around it 

But of the 300-plus photos I shot during my recent travels, this is one of my top favorites. Anybody can shoot red hillsides and blue skies. But this, my friends, is a photographer's photograph. My goal is to take beautiful, interesting pictures that evoke emotions, memories, or any kind of reaction other than just, "My, that's pretty. How nice."

My mom might have been forced to admit that at least the colors are interesting. But why anyone would want a picture of anything that was old, neglected and worn-out was beyond her. I, on the other hand, am drawn to such things. I've been told I have a "romantic attachment to the past." I'd have to agree.

Why? Maybe buried deep in my psyche or cells are vague recollections, missing pieces of an unfinished puzzle. Could it ever be completed, it might provide a retrospective glimpse into a different lifetme lived just prior to this one.

I love to be around old cars, clothes, buildings, furnishings and people. I'm attracted to anything that's vintage 1935-1945. My mother, however, didn't need to ponder possibilites of a past life during that period. She had more real-life memories of the Great Depression and WWII than she cared to recall.

Most of Mom's recollections from those times were sad ones. When questioned, she'd usually flat-out refuse to "go there." I'd hoped that as she grew more elderly, she might relent and tell me more about her life in the years before I was born. But no way, in fact, hell no. 

Pry as cautiously as I might, her irritation would inevitably bring an abrupt halt to such conversations. "I don't remember," she'd snap, then clam up entirely and pout while she turned on the TV to sports. Right up into her final days at 86, Mom watched TV sports avidly. Pro golf, L.A. Lakers basketball games, and Bronco (Boise State University) football games were what she lived for in her old age, and I'm not exaggerating here one bit.

If out there anywhere, there are any baby-boomers who claim they honestly totally understood the attitudes and beliefs of their elderly parents, then I don't think I believe them. If anyone in their 50s or 60s says they always got along great with their folks, then I want to hear from them. I want to find out how that could have happened. Maybe they lived in some other country and their parents liked to smoke pot, too?

My relationship with mine, especially my mother, at times seemed as if we were from different planets. Am I the only one who had a tough time breaching the "generation gap?"

Mom would have snorted her distain for this photo, too, but I like it a lot and hope you will as well. So, over and out for now from this remote North Idaho outpost. It's peacefully cold and clear here tonight. I hope your night sky is full of bright stars wherever you are, too. 


  1. Whether or not the subject of a photograph interests me isn't the point of appreciating the work of a photographer. Certain old and abandoned buildings appeal to me, perhaps because of the stories that are buried behind the neglect and ruin. I'm a fan of story and architecture, and when the two can be woven together, well, my imagination is delighted.

    I DO have a good relationship with my mother, and always have. How did that happen? Haven't a clue, except that perhaps she's such an extraordinary person it couldn't be helped. It may, as well, have something to do with the fact that she is very much a part of the present, busy and active and current with news, politics, and people, though perhaps not popular music. At 82 she maintains the list-serve at her retirement community, a feature that she initiated when she moved in there several years ago.

    I think relationships flourish for different reasons for different people. There is no magic formula or step-by-step process to achieve one that thrives. Just my take on it.

    I'm looking forward to more images. Are you tweaking, or is the sky really that sort of periwinkle blue?

  2. Oh, Donna, I love the capturing of the buildings, your keen eye brings forth ones imagination of 'what' in its time was happening in the structures. You certainly are enjoying your travels.

    My Mother & I got along very well ... we were great friends. She was very vital, up-t0-date in the present times & on the go constantly. I miss her terribly. We had occasional differences of opinions but got past them ...

    Have a beautiful week!
    TTFN, Hugs ~ Marydon

  3. "Are you tweaking, or is the sky really that sort of periwinkle blue?" -- Altar Ego

    I beg your pardon? Would you have asked Van Gogh the same question about his Field of Sunflowers?
    Jes' suis un ART'TEEST! If you want pure realism, then go look out a window!
    Really, madam, you must learn to curb your crude questioning of the gifted elite who fill your otherwise bland world with beauty.
    HOW we do it should be of no consequence to you, and should forever remain a mystery. Z'est maz'jeek, madam! The ends will always justify the means.
    You're welcome. Now go pestaire someone else. Say,isn't that President Obama? Why don't you go ask him if anyone helps him write his speeches! Now, excu'zay mwah! Starry, starry night...
    <:@})) ^~g;>)+++ ~^~g;>)+++ (That's one double-chin big grin with two seemingly innocent little giggles that rapidly escalate into loud nasal snorting brought on by unsuppressed tickling of oneself.)

  4. I, like Anne, often imagine what those old places would say if they could talk. The image of them in that backdrop is just beautiful Donna!

    I get along really well with my mom, who is 72, but probably because we are such kindred spirits. She understands me and where I am in my life like no one else. That's the main reason why I am tickled pink that the two of us will share the trip to Ireland in June. I just know it will be a trip to remember!

  5. I love the view of the old tumbledown gas station.
    Very artistic.

  6. I was a mamas boy. Its that simple. My father well that's another matter. I asked him once about the anti-German hysteria during WWI when he was in elementary school. He categorically refused to talk about it.

  7. I realized, finally, there was no way for me to attain a close relationship with my mom on this side of Heaven. She was so emotionally scarred by the trauma of her early years that it adversely affected her all her life. I came to believe she just didn't know what it felt like to have inner peace. Much of her life-long struggle with depression and anger was the result in her tendency to embrace negativity. Early-on she learned to never hope for happiness and goodness in life. In the end it was all I could do to just endure her abuse, love her anyway, and do whatever I could for her. I say that my mom wasn't prejudiced; she hated everybody equally. She could be humorous sometimes like the mother character in Golden Girls, but it was a stretch. I know she's at peace now, bless her heart, and I'm trying to piece together more details of her childhood from relatives still living. Each sad event I dig up makes me understand and love her more. Every segment of the sorrowful saga can be directly traced back to its origin: World War I. It's like the evil of it continues long after the battles themselves have ended; the dark energy ripples out
    in rings to succeeding generations like waves in a pond around the stop where someone tossed in a rock. War is hell.

  8. You are absolutely right, " War is Hell" and my God we are still doing it!
    The pictures are absolutely beautiful Donna, and when I saw them, I wanted to paint them, every last one of them. I'm like you, I am always drawn to the old and the past,and the rundown, Wouldn"t you like to hear their stories? The one of the truck cabin is wonderful, especially the one with the fence. I bet there is a story there.
    About Mothers, I'll save it for another time, as there is a lot to say on that subject.( My mother hated anything old too), but not my Father.,
    " Follow Your Bliss" Donna, and Thank you for being my cousin, Love, Janet ( my favorite quote from Joseph Campbell)

  9. I adore the ghosts of abandoned old buildings, covered with a nice crusty patina. Wonderful pics, Donna.

  10. Found you through Sixth in Line. My father was in the Army Air Corp in Europe too and did not talk about it. His plane, Flak Bait, was in the Smithsonian for a while. I have a picture of him and the pilots/crew on one of my blog posts.

    Mother's fiance died in that war, before she met my father. Her father died when she was 12. So much sadness there too. I understand where you are coming from. Believe me. I do.


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