A Pact With the Devil

imgres.jpgThe world has signed a pact with the devil; it had to. It is a covenant to which every thing, even every hydrogen atom, is bound. The terms are clear: if you want to live, you have to die; you cannot have mountains and creeks without space, and space is a beauty married to a blind man. The blind man is Freedom, or Time, and he does not go anywhere without his great dog Death. The world came into being with the signing of the contract. A scientist calls it the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  A poet says, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/Drives my green age.” This is what we know. The rest is gravy.

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek

Subway Shadows and Tinker Creek

20140523-01-LearnPhotoFifty years ago I became hypnotized by the world of photography. My then wife was taking a photography course at the university and since we were an impoverished student couple, we saved our pennies, denied ourselves garlic bread at Mario’s, wore out-of-date clothes because they still fit, and still couldn’t afford a decent camera.

Ten years later, on the other side of the country, I loaded a camera bag with all the goodies I could buy, including a modern SLR camera, and surprised my new girlfriend while celebrating her birthday at the local drive-in theater. She loved it; I used it.

What I found myself doing was lugging a heavy bag of extra lenses, beaucoup de film, tripod, filters, flash, and handy instructional pamphlets around New York City in search of the perfect shot. What I got in the end was a sore shoulder and a few pictures of the shadows on a subway grating. Being a self-appointed purist, I used only Black and White film. I also scanned the magazine advertisements constantly for the ideal enlarger and the tools and chemicals I would need to convert my single-purpose bathroom into a state-of-the-art darkroom with a red warning light outside the door.

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