Memories Are Made Of This

My friend and fellow walking and biking and Los Angeles history enthusiast Walt has posted on his 90042 Blog the picture at right taken by my friend, awesome photographer and urban cyclist extraordinaire Stephen “Mr. Rollers” Roullier.

Beyond being awesome, it reminds me I don’t do enough to chronicle and document my city. My biggest internal struggle as someone who always has some sort of camera with him when he ventures out and about, is one of apathy and procrastination pitted against a latent desire to document street scenes such as this one.

In the immediate they might be dubbed mundane, worth little more than a glance, but in a city as ever-evolving as Los Angeles, they have value as they age, demanding closer examination of what was and what’s changed.

As a teen, when my friends were blowing their allowances or minimum wage money on video games and cigarettes and clothes and drugs and music, I spent a few months saving up the $120 needed to step me away from the Kodak Instamatic of my childhood and up to my first “real” camera, a simple SLR outfit from Sears, back in 1980-81. Little did I realize that the initial cash outlay for the hardware would be the least of one’s expenses. The package deal even came with a couple 12-exposure rolls of film and I burned through those. Then came the need for money for more film and money for developing. And more film, and more developing. Having so little of the former, subsequently I often went long times without being able to acquire the latter.

And as an obvious result I did a lot more not taking pictures than taking them. I was pretty strict in what I snapped — even as I got older and had more disposable income. It was a simple matter of economics. Of making resources count.

Today, powered by a rechargeable battery, my digital camera can take thousands of pix stored on its memory card. As such, you’d think I’d have pixelized my city like mad, but I have not. One might presume that’s because old habits die hard, but I think it’s primarily laziness coupled with an attitude of “Agh, it’ll be there tomorrow.”

But that’s the point. Just like Chickenboy, and that RTD bus (and the RTD!) and that sapling tree, and Cisco’s in Stephen’s photo: it might not be there tomorrow.

I often wistfully imagine what long lost people, places and things and events of my youth and early adulthood might be contained in my archives had digital cameras been born 20 years earlier than they were, and I’d been able to snap away with a greater degree of reckless abandon.  I envy and respect people like Stephen who’ve done what I couldn’t or wouldn’t, as well as those who’ve grown up with the technology. To them I say don’t under-appreciate it. Exploit it for what it can do to capture the past in the present. For the future.