YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by severian, Jan 18, 2007.

  1. severian

    severian Member

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    You are just returning home from a very nice night out. Good food, good company. A little vino. It's all good. It is 2AM and you are ready to hit the sack. As you turn the corner and see your house you can't believe your eyes. YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!. You run up to the front door and look in. Smoke, flames, in the distance you hear the wail of a fire engine. What can you do? Cry? Curse the heavens? Not you. You barge through the door meaning to save something of your life, and of course this means something photographic (no people or animals are ever in danger in any of my short fiction). A quick perusal through the blackening mess shows that your cameras are toast. Your negatives have all been thoroughly carmelized. Your prints. Perhaps you can save your prints. There is little time left. The fire, the smoke the horror of it all. Out of the corner of your eye you see where your prints were kept. Unbelievably the only box left is marked MY VERY BEST PHOTOGRAPHS. You quickly put it under your arm and bolt for the door. But being the clumsy bastard that you are you stumble and all your photographs go flying around the room. You must make a quick, instinctive decision. You only have time to scoop up one print. You pick up this print and make it to the safety of the outdoors. A quick look around shows that it really wasn't such a catastrophy
    after all. The brave firemen and women saved your house. Except for the room where you stored everything photographic. Standing in the light of the street lamp you look down at the print that you chose to save. This is the best of the best. You smile and nod and think to youreself," I made the right choice".
    Well, which photograph did you instinctively save? Yes, you have to pretend it is you in this drama. Describe the photograph. I double dog dare you to show it to us.

    Severian, Autarch of Urth, Journeyman in the Society of the Seekers of Truth and Penitence. Jack B
     
  2. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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  3. jolefler

    jolefler Member

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    I'll bite

    A thirty-three year old B/W 8X10 glamour/lingerie shot of my stunningly beautiful wife at age 22. Ektalure paper diffused with white mesh while printed. Don't peek often, but still takes my breath away...the photo & the Lady.

    Post it!?! I'd like to see tommorrow, thanks anyway. :D
     
  4. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Photos are not one of the first things I worry about but if it's feasible, I grab the negative files.
     
  5. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    If you are extraordinarily fortunate, you didn't inhale a lungful of searingly hot fire gas while you were in the house, and you are actually able to show us anything...

    ...but never mind my photograph, I want to see jolefler's!!!
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    (A) No, my house isn't on fire

    (B) There's enough stress in real life without inventing this sort of stuff.

    When your wife has had cancer, and has survived (7 years this year), but is currently suffering from PPR* which means she has to rest a lot and can't even spend as much time in the darkroom as she'd like, you stop worrying about an awful lot of nasty things that MIGHT happen, and creating hypothetical adrenaline rushes, and you settle down to enjoying things, not drawing doomsday scenarios.

    You also stop worrying about anything as trivial as photographs.

    To quote Churchill (from memory), "I have had a lot of trouble in my life, most of which never happened."

    Cheers,

    R.

    *Pseudopolyarthrite rhizomelique in French; in English, I think it's polymyalgia. It goes away, but this can take months or years. As the name suggests, it mimics (pseudo) arthritis (arthrite) and wanders from joint to joint (hence poly). The aches, Frances reckons, are like the worst 'flu she's ever had -- and although some days are better than others, with no pain at all, some days and even weeks are pretty bad.
     
  7. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    I have to agree with Roger's comments above. I hope Frances feels better soon.

    Diane
     
  8. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I'll be a spoilsport and say that my best photograph is the one I'll take tomorrow -- it is not worth risking my life for any I have already made...I want to be around to help my boys grow up. Besides, I already have my "best" photos at a couple of galleries.

    But to play your game, I would probably fry in the fire if I had to choose the "best of the best" from 30 years of photography...but the image I would save would be a carbon print of an oak tree along the Merced River. After I made the print I found out that AA had photographed and printed an image of the same tree (what hasn't he photographed in Yosemite?!).

    It is a vertical 8x10, the roots take up the bottom 3/4s of the image with just some of the lower trunk of the tree showing, with the river behind it, showing just a little of the opposite bank. I'll post an image of it later.

    Funny thing is, there is a copy at it at the AA Gallery -- so why save a photo I know exists safely somewhere else? And I do not keep my negatives at home, so the negative was in no danger. Well, my early carbon printing often damaged my negatives, so I will not be able make more of this particular image anyway. This image was one of the first very successful prints I made with a raised relief -- in particularthe pine needles amongst the roots "stand out" on the print. So the print carries some emotional value besides being the "best of the best".

    Vaughn
     
  9. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    I'd take my camera. With that I can always make more pics.

    Regards, Art.
     
  10. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    :smile:
     
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Art,

    Absolutely. Frances and I were discussing this over dinner.

    She reminded me that when she was 10 years old, and she was on her own, her house DID catch fire.

    As she said, "I thought first about lives. Dog, three cats, and a parakeet. Then I tried to put the fire out. [She succeeded]. At no point did I think about any material goods. Nor did my father, who was a very keen photographer, ever mention my failure to save photographs. Today, if I had the choice and if I could reach the Alpa, I'd grab that. Photographs I've already printed? Negatives? Even my father's pictures? Who cares?"

    To quote Bob Dylan (imperfectly, from memory), "You know she's an artist/she don't look back..." (Someone gave me the exact quote last time I said this, and I'm grateful, but it doesn't affect the sentiment).

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  12. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    She's got everything she needs. She's an artist, she don't look back...
     
  13. thebanana

    thebanana Subscriber

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    Nearly 4 years ago my house was on fire. Trust me, the last thing you think about is saving photos.

    ps. Stuff can be replaced. Make sure you have a good insurance policy, it will save you many headaches.
     
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  15. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    You know, friends and I had the very same question in college. "If your apartment caught fire, what would you try to save?" We all came to the same conclusion... the computer. Everything else was ephemeral, but my thesis, music, and four years of bad essays was irreplacable. :0)
     
  16. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    A bit of a different scenario in my case, but the results are similar:

    I have lost all of my early negatives, prints and equipment three times in three different locations to floods. My first thoughts were save the pets and any one else alive, that done. I was however able to save a few of my favorite books then suddenly it was all gone.

    It took awhile, but today I still have the memory of the images those old negatives and prints contained, so in reality I lost some material things, but never the memories.


    Charlie...................................................
     
  17. vanspaendonck

    vanspaendonck Member

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    My house isn't on fire either, but it's wooden house, build around 1605. Because it is wood, the thought of a fire has crossed my mind more than once.
    I agree with Roger Hicks that good health (and friends) are more important than worldly posessions. I guess that I could live with losing my cameras, negatives and prints. Sometimes I even think that getting writ of all the rubbish accumulated over time could be a bonus and would allow one to make a fresh start, provided that you are well insured.
     
  18. DeBone 75

    DeBone 75 Member

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    Although not many people here seem to be interested in playing along, I will. I have a picture of my Son and my Mom that was taken the day he was dedicated at our church. He was 1 month old at the time. He is now 19 years. I don't remember if I took it or not. But it is very special to me.
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I live in Japan, which is a country where major catastrophes could occur in any moment of life. I'm talking about the possible big earthquakes, one of which destroyed the entire city of Kobe just about 12 years ago with big fire, which went on days. I heard the horror stories from the suviviors and the rescuers about how they lost their loved ones and colleagues in the fire in front their eyes. So, I'm not really in any thoughts of "what if" to me or to my house, etc, but I always tend to think about it in a much bigger picture. If in that kind situation I find myself physically okay, I will go out and help others. That's about all I hope to do.
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Maybe it's a good idea to save your photos electronically somewhere else other than your own house, but if the output is only 72dpi, well...
     
  21. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    For many years I only shot trannies so I don't have many prints at all. Even now, although I shoot a lot of print film - so far I only scan it (thus building up an enormous work backlog the day I decide to pick the few good ones from the pileup and dig up the negatives for printing!)

    However, I do have one print (actually two mounted in a frame one above and one below another item) that are very special. I took them last year when my wife and I were able to attend a special piano solo recital by Andre Watts - one of her favorites for many years. Afterwards we attended a reception for him and I took a couple of shots of the two of them - one posed the other "in conversation".

    I gave them to her for her birthday last year and she was "thrilled". Her happiness far surpassed the quality of my shots - but those are what I'd save.

    Unfortunately, I have to 'fess on this one. Because I didn't want to carry a flash on my F5, I used my D-70 with its built-in flash, so these are digi prints. :sad:

    * BTW: the other item was the program she had saved from the first live performance of his that she attended at Lincoln Center some thirty years earlier. He autographed it for her.
     
  22. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Like many people, you confuse output with display. Your monitor may display 72 or 96 dpi, but all displays map one "dot" per pixel. DPI is not a relevent metric for output, it's a relevant metric for input only. If you scan at 9600 dpi and your display is 96 dpi, an inch of your scan will take 100 inches to display. If you want to make an image that you can see all of on a monitor, you will have to downsample it. But your archives scan can be of a very high resolution, far higher than is practical for display on a monitor.
     
  23. Jonathan Brewer

    Jonathan Brewer Member

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    Years ago, after quite a bit of photography, just before I made twenty, my girlfriend expressed interest in my work, I got everything together, all of my work, took it over to her apartment, she loved the stuff and asked if she could keep it for while to go over it. We fell out bigtime, and before I could get my prints and negatives, she left town, with my all of my work, all of it.

    This was very depressing, there was one image that I took in McArthur park, that was very dear to me, everyone who saw that shot loved it. For a long time, I expected/hoped that she would send me those pictures, my first serious work, and over the years I just accecpted it wasn't going to happen.

    The good thing about all of this, is that no matter how bad you got it, there are untold millions in the cemetery that would trade places with you, me, anybody still upright.

    My boy is nine, I've almost lost him three times, when he was born he wasn't breathing, they cleared his windpipe, but I stayed shook for quite a while, the second time, he runs out the house and is almost run over, third time, he almost chokes to death on a piece of hot dog, even after getting the hot dog bits out of his lungs, his windpipe spasms shut and they work on him overnight to get it open so he can breath without a tube.

    I could've lost my boy, but he's nine now, gigantic, and he wants to be a photographer. If my house caught fire, I would save the snaps and candids of my family and kids no matter what, before my cameras, or whatever else valuable I had in the house.

    I agree with most of what's said earilier in this post, if your house is on fire, particularly with me having a family, saving my best print won't be on my mind. If you're my age, then you already know what I'm about to say, and if you're not, I'd just say that life will be a series of tragedies, setbacks, loses, of not just you, but of people around you that you care about.

    Life is precious, the older you get, the more you understand. Some folks need to take risks mountainclimbing or jumping out of a plane to feel a 'rush' or to gamble with their lives, as for me, if you live long enough, you and your loved ones and friends, and even your enemies will have plenty of crisis to deal with over your lifetime, and it won't always be at a moment of your choosing.

    Life is precious.
     
  24. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Thanks for the correction. No, I meant the resolution size of a file that's already saved in a web-friendly manner, like you scan a print or neg by setting your scanner at 100 percent at 72dpi and save it in a size that is 600 or 800 pixels wide on one side and so on. You get this tiny low-res file in the first place in jpg, which is not printable at all. That's all I meant. It's good to protect your work from someone tryng to copy or steal it from you, but it doesn't do any good for the quality in case of emergency when you need to use it as a backup, unless you stick to the view on a computer monitor screen and not print out at all.
     
  25. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    I am in agreement with most here, no need to pick out that one favorite in some silly gameplaying role. Besides, I keep half my equipment in the main house, the other half in the back studio that doubles as my darkroom and woodshop, and my best work printed seems to be camped out in a portfolio under my desk at work. Why? I don't remember.

    tim in san jose
     
  26. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Last summer (6 June 2006, 6/06/06, how's that for numerology??), the appartment that my brother and his gf (now wife) shared caught on fire. There is a picture of it in my gallery, In Memoriam.

    It was gone in an hour, the whole thing burned extremely fast because it was a 19thC house insulated with sawdust. They lost almost everything, saved only what they had on themselves at the moment, but two things miraculously survived. One is my bro's digital camera. Yes, we all mock them, but that one was kept inside a heavy filing cabinet, which saved it. The other thing was the external hard drive containing their backup for their respective in-progress PhD theses. Believe me, you don't like to lose five years worth of work. And a little plastic box containing a photo I made of them on Ilford RC survived as well.

    It never struck me at the moment that everything else was gone. The one thing that mattered was that they were unharmed. It's only during the following weeks that by remembrance I realized the extent of the loss. Old books we had as children that my bro kept: gone. Kitchen tools: gone. And so on. I still sometimes think of something he used to have, and only then do I understand that it's gone forever. The process of memory is what made the fire real, not the actual event.

    When they came at my house to sleep for a few nights, I took a Polaroid of them. It was an eerie feeling for us all to have something so immediate and tangible of their presence, after everything vanished.

    So when I think about what would happen to myself, I would bemoan the loss of my old negatives, my old prints, my books, my computer, and other things that I have around. But I can accept the loss in exchange for my life and that of my girlfriend.

    If anything happened now, and I had a chance, I would perhaps grab the computer and the binder of negs, but I don't even count on it. I'm writing an MA thesis, so losing all my information would be a huge setback; my negs are my most personal work so far, and you can't redo them.

    Sometimes we realize that the things we lost were not important, or that we are stronger than our material possession, though it's a long travail to reconnect with the world when everything is gone. Nevertheless, in the circumstances of a total loss, I know I would not be lost because I have my friends and my family. They have in their hands a part of myself that will never disappear physically. They know me, they will show me who I am again. Some might even have an old print I left them that I will gladly see again. But it's because my being is also spread in theirs that I know I cannot be annihilated in a single physical blow. I don't have a religion to console me, but I have this knowledge instead, and these people.