Days Go By

Days Go By

I used to be a big proponent of pictures as a medium for storytelling. In several of my earlier Weekly Fifty posts from years ago I would often talk about the story behind each picture, as if there had to be more for the viewer to interpret beyond what they simply saw in the photo. And while that is certainly one way to approach photography, I don’t think it has to always be the case. Sometimes an interesting photo is just an interesting photo, and it doesn’t need any type of backstory or apocryphal information in order to be an engaging visual experience for the viewer.

And yet…

Pictures as stories can be a fun and interesting way to approach this type of art, and even if you don’t do it all the time it is a technique that I recommend trying. All that brings me to this week’s image which is…well, what do you think? I would normally use this space to talk about how I created the image, what it means to me, how I shot it, etc. but this time I think I’m going to leave that alone and ask you to interpret the picture in your own mind. Does it mean anything to you? Does the title influence how you see the photo? (or is it merely a reference to a song I used to have on repeat during study sessions in college?)

See, this picture certainly does have a bit of a story to tell in my mind. I shot it specifically in order to tell a story, and composed it in such a way so as to conjure certain emotions or thoughts in the mind of the viewers, and yet I want to keep that information to myself. I did not manipulate anything you see here, and the objects in the frame were not altered by me in any way. I did choose where to place my camera, what exposure settings to use (50mm, f/8, 1/90 second, ISO 3200*), and where to focus on the subject in order to create the shot I was looking for in order that I could tell the story I intended. However, as I post it here I find myself less interested in sharing what it means to me and curious instead about what it means to the viewers. If you’d like to comment, I would enjoy reading what you have to say and I’m sure others would too. If not, that’s just fine too. And if this image means nothing to you, that interpretation is, in my mind, just as valid as anything else.

So to come back full circle, I still believe in the power of pictures as vehicles for telling stories but I think there’s more to this particular visual medium than that. Photography can be what you want it to be, and if it means something to you then it has served its purpose.

*the value selected by my D7100’s Auto ISO feature

Comments

  1. First thing I thought was, “Marshmallows! Two little warped marshmallows, just waiting to be roasted over the fire.”

    Then I thought, “Chalk! Two little well-used pieces of chalk, and who knows how many lessons the teacher wrote in the board with those two little boogers?”

    And so, I carefully read your details on your reason for shooting “whatever” they might be, and I thought, “Yep, Simon is leaving it to everyone’s imagination to figure out what they are. And if they be chalk, what teacher (or music teacher) could not relate to the story those well-used pieces of chalk could tell?”

    • Tom, I like the way your mind works. And I like your interpretations of this picture too. What are those things? Good question…

  2. Morris Stilson says:

    When I saw the two pieces of chalk I thought of my kids drawing with colored chalk on our drive way.
    Also of my childhood when we used chalk to draw hopscotch boards on the roadway of our little used street. Ah, sweet memories!

    • My kids draw with chalk on the driveway too, Morris. It’s one of those iconic things that perfectly encapsulates what being a kid is all about, especially with games of hopscotch :) Thanks for sharing a cool memory!

  3. Deanie Swynnerton says:

    Hi. As soon as I saw it, I thought – end of a long teaching day and the chalk has come to an end too – and been discarded until the next day when it may well be picked up or thrown away! Beautiful photo – thank you.

  4. Janet Richardson says:

    Chalk. Has it gone the way of the rotary phone? Other than sidewalk chalk will children ever experience the thrill of being chosen to clap the erasures clean, generally on Friday afternoons. Or will they remember the first time the teacher hands them the chalk and says write the equation and work on the board? Chalk was so tactile. Yep, it is a great representation of Days Gone By. Well done.

    • Janet, I vividly remember the thrill of pounding erasers on the chalkboard in elementary school and watching a puff of chalk burst forth. Today’s kids live in a much different world, that’s for sure. 20 years from now will they remember..what? Tapping on a Smartboard screen? Playing with apps on an iPad? I do wonder if the tactile interaction with objects in days of yore is something we should try to bring back a bit more…

  5. Kyla Smay says:

    Thank you Tom Frye for giving me the courage to give almost identical feedback! When I woke this morning and my eyes were still a bit fuzzy, I glanced through emails on my iPhone and thought “marshmallows” – the photo has a story about Simon’s children.

    And then when I was a little more awake and took a second look, I thought “chalk” and then I paid attention to the title, “Days Go By”. Hmmm, “Days Go by” not “Days Gone By”. So …I wonder what Simon was thinking?

    Chalk brings to mind the classroom, fall (start of school year), but surely chalk is on the way out for classroom instruction? (Kindergarten teacher where I volunteer uses a dry erase board.) “Days Go By” and new technology replaces old? The song title reference doesn’t help me (and I didn’t have a chance to listen). So I’m left wondering.

    I like the composition and tone of the photo, though it’s not something I’d likely hang on my wall :-) because I don’t have a personal connection to the story.

    I do like it when photographers share the story behind the photo. Even if it’s only how they came to be at the spot where they were able to capture a particular photo. Telling their story of the photo doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t have a different interpretation based on my own personal experiences. Much like a written story being interpreted many different ways by the reader…regardless of the intention of the author.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post!

    • Kyla, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment and all the thoughts that went through your head as you saw the picture and thought about your own experiences in the classroom. I also appreciate you saying “It’s not something I’d likely hang on my wall.” That really speaks volumes about how different people have different taste in photography, and yet even though it’s not frame-able artwork this picture still means something to you or at least made you think about things. To me that’s one of the best things about photography in that it’s all subjective, and no one can say whether one particular photo is quantitatively better than another one. But if a picture can impart a feeling, an emotion, or any sense of meaning, then it has done its job :)

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here on the blog!

  6. My thoughts immediately went to my experiences of grade school. It triggered nostalgia in me for the days of innocence and being carefree.

    A whole thought process and string of memories are stimulated. I compare my memories with the reality of today’s world, and am very thankful that I was born way back when.

    Thanks for the memories, Simon!

    • I know what you mean, CathyAnn. I don’t often see chalkboards around schools these days, and in their place are sterile whiteboards and LCD projectors. I miss not just the touch of chalk and erasers but the smell of those chalkboards and the slightly gritty sensation of actually writing on them too.

  7. My first thought was of blackboards in elementary school. The picture seemed like it was in an outdoor setting, though. Then I remembered getting in trouble for drawing with chalk on the side of the school building at recess. I had to wash it off. The title led me to think that I am not (entirely) a child anymore. Later I thought about how cleaning those blackboard erasers always made me sneeze. Ahchoo!

    • I’m trying to picture you outside a school building washing off chalk marks, and it makes me grin :) And I do remember having to go outside and bash erasers against a brick wall to clear them out! Sometimes I think it’s too bad kids today won’t know what that’s like, but then I remember how much that eraser dust got in my hair and clothes and maybe kids today don’t have it so bad…

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