Old Box #6: Operating in the Impossible Comparative to Purposely Fail

Give or take a few of the sentences that include nothing but dialogue, the “he say she say” that frequently displaces imagery preventing a writer from inserting a picture into the menagerie of words, the telepathy that becomes a telephoto lens not just a telephone or a cell of word stuff. Give or take a few minor steps, prose landfill, Calvino’s “The Adventure of a Photographer” contains (roughly) 54 paragraphs. The prefix para means “next to” or “side by side.” Graph means written down, printed, root. Thus, next to the writing is the grid, the city block that contains the grind. For the sake of framing an adventure, a paragraph (in the hands of the photographer) is the equivalent of a city block. Given where there could have been layering of better planning between the community of content, there is nothing but silence, a mixture of local geography. The photographer who knows what he is doing is but a traffic cop near a gas station on a low-numbered street being overlooked by a huge red cross.

A roll of film contains 36 exposures, 36 city blocks. As an exercise one might take one photograph per block until the roll is done in which case there would be eighteen paragraphs of reading left before the end of Calvino’s story. If one reloads the same road one begins (as Antonino did) taking pictures of pictures. Things built up from the ground, destroyed, rebuilt. In this way, a city is like a print––flat and spiky behind plexiglass, a glorious suffocation. The number of times the roll is pulled through the camera, the busier the exposure the more evidence there is of a civilization on top of another civilization. Thus a mayor, thus a council. Pictures that depend on other pictures. Poor Antonino, stubborn dactyl, a finger that cannot stop clicking the pursuit of every possibility. For him, impoverished by being page-stuck where no image ever becomes flesh (just flash), I would pull the whole unused roll of municipal time from the canister and use it as a jump rope in the park.

Yellow Taxi Broke Down on Beach Drive / St. Petersburg, Florida / TSE / 2023

Like what followers do, they like. Like an attempt to make every urban map divine, 12 city blocks are a mile. Three miles per roll of film with nothing left over for a blank photograph of the sky, the heavens with nothing in it––the largest truth of photography no matter the length of the lens, the iris that live in the ground. Ngth like a lane to infinity, the night of sight. When we were kids and before we were governed by the math of meaning, the word “adventure,” like Summer (with a capital S for shutter) used to last longer than a thousand cross country family vacations. Then the math caught up with us––the memories, the storage like a vault of feelings, birthday photos, wedding photos and funeral programs, whizzing by in things with engines as too many of us put our reflexes down, our calm eras. That’s when, during the shoot, the pages became pavement and our ability to focus took drying lessons from concrete. After when stopped walking, lost the ability to blossom the floral f-stops, and lit ourselves just to turn up.

The Last Two Pure Patriots in Pinellas County / St. Petersburg, Florida / TSE / 2023

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