FEELING ARBUS

Long ago I had done some truth-seeking and read many books from foreign lands. In an effort to get to the source of the knowledge, I would go to the bibliography of each piece of literature to learn the original reference for the wisdom I had just gained. Then I would read that book and its source, and then that book and its source, till I located the first squeeze of great wisdom.

In one of those ancient texts I read a stray quote, “God speaks to us between our thoughts.” It seemed like a simple enough task to slow down my rapid fire mind in order for me to listen between where one thought ended and another began. I enjoyed the process so much that I still practice it frequently and am actually aware what thoughts shoot between my ears, most of the time.

However, when I’m shooting photos, my mind goes blank like silent thunder.  Ironically I’m blinded by the lightning impulse that comes from a glimpse and am compelled to take the shot but have no idea why. It’s only after the frame has been edited and studied that I spend hours wondering about the secret story contained within the frozen composition.

Diane Arbus once said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.”  So with this past weekend’s captures I decided to guess at the confidential story that might be plausible without guarantee.

Somewhere in the back corner behind a rickety shop that sells everything from ancient lawn jockeys to rusty trellises, there was a chair pinned against the wall of a metal shack. It had to lean because it had begun to crumble under its own weight. I wondered who the people were that sat in it long ago when it was a strong, rocking structure.

Who’s front porch did it perch on? Did it secretly go from Black Baptist Church to KKK rally and back again without its secret ever being revealed?

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What were contained in these trunks? Who did they belong to and what separate journey did they go on in order to arrive stacked together so similarly rusted? Did they contain the garments of wealthy travel or did they hide the heinous truth about a silent senior’s past?

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Who knows the toil suffered by those that built our railroads? Who were the miners who pulled the coal out of the earth to feed the furnaces that changed rock solid iron to molten liquid poured into the shape of a virgin rail that would eventually end up rusting to bits at a barely seen museum found in the worst part of town?

The loco motives will never be known by us much less the back story of how it became a pitted bumpy fixture to display the smooth contrast of immaculate custom-made jewels.

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How could we ever fathom the secret story behind the Acai Berries or the precious silver gleaned from the deadly jungles of the Amazon? Perhaps those that picked the berries were distant relatives to those that were once transported by the rail which long ago guided their train. Who lived as a result of picking the berries to trade for food or shelter? Who died from hunger or exposure while laying the tracks?

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How often do we stop to think about why one person grows their hair long or another shaves their head or what possesses a person to get a tattoo of barbed wire on their arm? How many of us have a wardrobe given to us by past or present employers touting a logo or shouting their name or slogan?

Do we ever stop to wonder how we push ourselves and the many miles we’ve walked and where we’ve been, only to arrive a place where we can no longer take another step and need to be pushed by others?

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What about the secret jokes that people play, thinking no one will notice? To the left we have the place where people pee. To the right we have the place where people are just plain p-nuts!

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The day begins like any other. A Ferris Wheel invented a century ago, by a simple engineer in Troy, New York, is mysteriously not working today, as crowds pour into the fair. Secretly the owners of the roller at risk, feverishly attempt to repair the damage. Later that day innocent children will ride round and round on the turning wheel and never know about the bubble gum repair that is holding their life in place.

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Elsewhere at the fair, the secret of the starving piglets and their craving for Oreos is little known. The little babies with organs made of tissue most similar to our own are forced to run in circles after a cookie to entertain and delight the crowd. Where those pink babies came from or how they will end up remains a mystery.

This is something that few think about as we eat like pigs, devouring decadent bacon with a dark chocolate cookie coating; earlier in that bacon’s life it once ran in circles chasing a similar chocolate cookie.

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And as life wears on around the festival, odd couples fall in love without reason or understanding. We may never know how he would love her too much or the secret behind her not being able to love him enough but on this day their impending future is unfelt and all is possible in their bliss.

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A secret about a secret and the more it tells you the less you know. What this guy is doing playing the trumpet on a bicycle in a parking lot I do not know but I was there at that moment and thoughtlessly found it odd and interesting. I can’t even begin to imagine the secret story behind his horn nor the wind he blows out of it.

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“I mean, it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”   Diane Arbus

G'head. Say it.

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