The Destruction of Our Vanities

Last night I began reading Thoreau’s Walden, which has understandably left me in a minor philosophical quandary: what is the point of modern existence? Certainly this is just a petite question that can easily be answered over the next few days without too much serious thought – ha ha ha. Sigh. I knew that Thoreau would be that type of read so I have been waiting until I finished Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to begin. Hemingway is the focus on a curriculum project I am working on this summer. His life and writing have been foundational in my own belief systems and what I teach: write forcefully, live deeply and accept the road for what it is.

Taken in Munich, a beautiful Mary feels the pain of her son's death.

While some feminist criticism in the 1980s has demonized Hemingway for writing about women in a negative way, I assert that Hemingway writes about men without women. Women are not his prime focus, but rather what it means to be a man is his focus. Thoreau also focuses on what it means to be a man in a world where we complain about work, not having enough and wherein we spend most of our lives working meaningless jobs to acquire property in a city.

In the Berlin Tiergarten, we loved the realism of a man with his hounds killing a fox. Nothing else we saw depicted Germany so honestly.

Like Tyler Durdun of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, Hemingway and Thoreau ask their reader to question the constructed world around them and to possibly find new meaning in life experiences versus possessions. Admittedly, Hemingway’s Santiago would like to have more possessions than the secondhand newspapers and broken fishing gear he owns, but truly he finds (and loses) himself in the battle against the sea.

The leather shop - a local told me it was impossible to handhold a Hasselblad in this light: one for Chandler.

These ponderings have nothing and everything to do with my photography. As V. mentioned last night, photography is what I do. It is what interests people, frustrates my friends, drives me to get up every morning and it means more to me than a house, a car or the money in my bank account. However, I do not let taking photos consume me so that I forget my relationships or financial obligations to a reasonable future. In other words…I have no intention of buying a $45,000 camera and hitting the road until my creditors find me, nor am I about to forget the people in my life who I want to share my experiences with. Perhaps that is what Hemingway or Thoreau or Kerouac would suggest, but I am not them.

I like cake. I enjoy cake that was baked by little old ladies who give a damn about the quality of what they present to people, and nowhere did I find such cakes as in Munich. Unfortunately, with the intense heat wave, cake was the last thing I wanted to eat. I did manage to enter one old-style patisserie and order a luscious berry cake and a coffee. As I have joked before, my German is rudimentary at best, however, I was able to through a series of gestures and usage of the word “rot” (which means red) to get the exact cake I wanted from the counter.

Alleyways were a constant source of interest throughout the entire trip. I secretly hoped to discover an old world unseen by any tourists, and, in my fashion, I did. If this had been a baby blue Vespa closer in the foreground then I would be talking to more travel magazines about publishing my photos.

Porter would kill me, but I can only guess that this is the back end of the Duomo and where Ghiberti’s doors were. It is definitely Florence, and I am pretty certain that I had consumed a limone gelato just moments before. Everything ends with a fire hydrant. The only fire hydrant I found was in Munich, and had we not been killing time, then we never would have even found this example because of the way that they hide the system within the striped barrel. This particular one was being used to water plants, and I drew more than one bewildered glance as I carefully tried to find the perfect angle from which to shoot.

My scanning has come to an end until I develop the last few frames from the rolls in my camera, and my eyes are relieved to be done of it. Given the number of photos that I took on this trip, I am shocked at how many have turned out to be keepers. Previously, I might should 400 images and keep 10-15, but this time I shot 100 and kept about 45, which is encouraging to say the least. Shooting with the Hasselblad and film left me feeling like not a single frame would turn out, but using the Sekonic meter made certain that the exposures were perfect. The new scanning software and Photoshop CS5 made a clear quality difference, too.

I am back to Prince Edward Island next week, but have no real agenda there…yet. Apparently, there is a cookbook floating around with the work I did in June for Courtney Hogan, so I will have to try to grab a copy when I am home. Havana is the ender. I still haven’t decided if I will take the Hasselblad or the Canon. I still have film to use, and it is hard to justify not taking the 501 C/M. I think that I will be taking the 80mm f2.8 this time though, as the 50mm might be too wide and I am not sure I can shoot the 120mm handheld. The extra f~stop will help in the evening, too.  Since V. has a cool Diana camera waiting here for her birthday present, I imagine that she might shoot film, too, in Havana. I have a feeling that she will produce some pretty cool images with the plastic fantastic – apparently, it can use both 35mm and 120 films. Lomography looks tricky, but I am sure that V. will really enjoy the freedom and artistic creativity it offers. I am excited to see how it all works out.

The past few days have been record breakers for the blog, which is always fascinating and encouraging from a writer’s point of view.


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