I just started reading the most amazing book about photographs not taken. The Photographs Not Taken is a collection of photographer’s essays edited by Will Steacy and published by Daylight. I just received it in the mail yesterday and haven’t been able to put it down. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything so enticing.
The first moment I had it in my hand, I opened up to a random page in the middle and was immediately enthralled. I was drawn in to a mysterious and magical place and a flood of emotions came rushing in that reminded me why I was so drawn to photography in the first place: a reminder and proof that other worlds not in our daily treks from the house to work to school to home do exist. Other lives, other people who we don’t associate with on a daily basis are living a life too. People who aren’t what we are used to; people not as boring and staid as those around us. People who have stories to tell and be photographed. This is what has always drawn me to photography.
The adventure of life.
Real gritty life.
A life I am not leading but am so fascinated with that I want to photograph it.
But this book is about photographs that weren’t taken and in all the photographs I have taken I do have photographs in my mind that weren’t taken for one reason or another. One of these photographs is the every day life of the Greek people traveling by train from Athens to Corinth. I was taking the train to meet up with my travel friends who I hadn’t seen for awhile. I had gone off to explore Europe on my own and to just photograph. I took plenty of photographs but the photographs on that train that are etched in my mind were never captured on film. I can’t remember if it was because I didn’t have my camera or if it was because I just missed the shot I wanted to make.
I remember looking back down the aisle from my seat in a hot and dusty over-filled passenger car with wide open windows and seeing a cargo or box car behind us. The box car also held people and the doors between my car and the boxcar were wide open. I could see the light streaming in from another open door on the side of the boxcar. A family with an infant was in the boxcar with their crates of chickens. The man was standing and the woman was seated with her baby. The light was stunning and I wanted to know their story. Why were they going to Corinth? Where had they come from? Did they have anything else with them besides their crates of chickens?
I remember right before this a large group of individual travelers had entered and filled all my car’s seats. One man moved to the front of the car and set down a large box in the aisle before moving to the front of the car to remain standing as there were no seats left. The train lurched on the track and out of the crack between the top of the box’s flaps scattered a large handful of small empty snail shells. I gasped as I realized the entire box was full of snail shells presumably for eating!?
Most of my travels in Europe was linked by familiarity to back home in the states. Roads, cars, trains, restaurants and shops all had people, food and clothes, art and a sense of order just like here only it all looked a little bit different. But this particular trip on the train removed me from the familiar somehow and took me away to a magical place. If only I could have photographed those little pieces of life that had me in awe and made my heart smile.
I do remember one other remarkable image that I don’t think I took. I would have to go back through all of my slides from that trip (yes I still have them) to see if I did photograph as the train crossed a narrow but extremely deep crevice in the earth. I looked down as we crossed the rickety bridge from the mainland Greece to the island where Corinth is and saw a teeny tiny ship sailing on the deep blue ocean at the bottom of this crevice. Really, really stunning images remain deep inside my mind that will be photographs I’ve never taken.