It seems like forever ago when I posted our latest photo challenge : Nostalgia. It’s been a busy couple of months which accounts for some of the delay, but not all of it. It turns out that when I look closely at my life and attitudes towards nostalgia, I’m not very nostalgic.
I don’t weep over the city I live in that as changed beyond recognition in the last few years because of explosive growth. I don’t reminisce about the past and how much better it was, because I’m sure for someone it wasn’t that great. My distrust of looking backwards even colors how I approach books and movies: once is usually enough. Basically, I like to keep moving forward.
“Its not possible to go forward while looking back.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
When I think about the concept of nostalgia, I think of it terms of a manufactured emotion whipped up by some advertising agency or marketing firm to sell a product. To me the idea of nostalgia is an image bathed in soft focus and golden light that looks back at a time that more than likely never existed. No matter how jaded my attitude, I do feel nostalgic for the innocence of childhood; a past filled with a sense of safety and unlimited promise; a past that either never existed, or at the very least never existed for me. To me this is a fantasy, an unattainable childhood created by the likes of Walt Disney and pretty much every advertising agency.
I’m intrigued by how advertising, the entertainment industry and politicians continually rewrite history to fit a message that somehow we were all better off in the past. They conveniently ignore poverty, lack of education, 80+ hour work weeks, deplorable working conditions, slavery, war, genocide and pretty much everything else that doesn’t fit their convenient story. The past is never as neat and clean as we might like it to be. Life is messy and I’m pretty sure it will always be that way.
The image I wanted to create was a play on this idea that there was some bygone innocent past, a golden age where everything was better than the present. I took the image I had created using the two pandas which was itself a recreation of a scene from Toy Story 3 that was also about the past. With the help of Kristina’s children this photograph was roughed up a bit, stepped on and left in the rain. We then placed Kristina’s much worn teddy bear on the photo to represent a childhood outgrown and ultimately left behind. My goal was to create an image that played on this idea of a manufactured nostalgia; a false past that is invoked as a shorthand representation of innocence, naiveté, youth, and an unspoken promise of better times. It’s a past that I don’t believe exists, except for a few lucky individuals or in the movies and fiction novels.
Was I successful?
PS. During the #seattetoyphotosafari, the idea of “happy accidents” came up a couple of times, both with Krash_override and Kalexanderson. There was a time when film was king and weird things happened during the photographic process: unexpected light leaks, double exposures because the film didn’t advance, color shifts because you developed your film with the wrong chemistry, etc. Sure all of these can be recreated now with an app or clever editing skills, but that really isn’t the point. It was encountering the unexpected that was fun and exhilarating!
On Saturday, after a full morning of shooting toys in the drizzle, my camera lens was starting to feel the damp. The space between the lens and filter began to fog over. It took me a while to figure out what was going on since it was so unexpected and my glasses were messed up too. I ended up taking a few photos anyway and I liked the results. I liked how the condensation created another layer to my nostalgia image. I felt like the image was behind a gauzy screen, a glimpse into a past that is a little hazy and diffused. It’s nice to know that happy accidents, while few and far between, can still happen.