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  • Writer's picturercburton2

such was Life

I got the hand-me-down copies of Life magazine from my grandfather. I was in high school and I loved the pictures. There were a lot of news magazines but Life was all about the pictorial.

I tore pictures out of the magazines and put them on the wall. They were an odd collection but the overriding thing they had in common was that the subject matter was presented in a way that made you pause and wonder: sometimes about the subject matter; sometimes about the photographers' purpose as well as its execution. Many of the photos were in black and white.

I had been given an old Argus C3 by my brother. It had been my father's and was circa 1945. I used it for snapshots of high school activities; I recorded family gatherings. But during Christmas break my junior year I went to Eckerd Drugs and got a roll of 12 exposure black and white film. I was inspired to capture some of the thoughtful type of pictures I had seen in Life magazine. I loaded the film and left the house.

The first picture was of the street light in the vacant lot across the street from my house. The shot was appropriate . . . I used to shoot it with my BB gun (only to make it ping, not to break it). I still live across the street from the street light and I have come back to it many times since. With crescent moon. With storm clouds gathering. The trees died, frozen, in 1985.

On to the overpass of what was then Bermuda (grudgingly renamed John Young Parkway). Looking up to the heights of the only hill in town. I had climbed it as a challenge and had slid down it on old cardboard.

Harrelson's Junkyard. Over the fence. I did not yet know to press the camera to my forehead to keep the image from blurring. I could claim that I was trying to achieve a special effect. Wrecked cars were parked out front of Harrelson's for the curious to see and to serve as warnings to the young.

On the other side of the overpass was a house as abandoned as Harrelson's -- the screened door torn like the pages from my magazines. It was a blatant attempt to mimic. It was also my start.

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