Listening to Danh describe his process it struck me that you could do the same thing with human skin. By attaching negatives to your arms or legs over the course of many days you could maybe generate an imprint. I tried this with some Diana negatives but the whole thing was problematic. The negatives wouldn't stay in place. They looked funny. Even if I'd succeeded I'd have no way of preserving the images. I gave up.
Then I realized that I didn't need any negative. Every summer I naturally generate records of the objects covering my skin. Here's where my watch sits.
From about May to October, the only shoes I wear are a pair of Chaco sandals. By late summer my feet look something like this:
These marks are fun but fleeting. There is no way to fix them and by December they're gone. But I think they hint at the essential power of photographs. A photograph is an impression of one thing upon another which then becomes a relic of the original thing. Sometimes it is light impressing on film, or it can be a leaf or skin. It's the interaction that later fascinates, the realization that something happened.
My friend Faulkner has this great old couch passed down from his grandmother. The other day I set my camera down on it without thinking. When I picked it up less than an hour later, there was a perfect imprint which we then both scrambled to photograph.
As with the tan-lines this impression was shortlived, gone within a half hour. To make an imprint that will last for ages requires more investment. Take Winogrand's last M4 for example:
The pressure plate shows sprocket marks which were slowly imprinted over the course of thousands of rolls of film. Looking at this image you can't deny something happened! Hundreds of thousands of tiny somethings happened, leaving a visual record more archival than any photograph.
The urge to leave some imprint is a major motivator for many photographers, or for ambitious people in general. We all want to leave some mark behind. We want to fix it as permanently as possible. So we create prints that last 100 or 200 or 300 years or whatever the standard is now. In the end I'm not sure there's much difference between those artifacts and a couch imprint gone in a half hour.
Perhaps the best way to measure the mark of a life is by examining one's tan-lines. If you don't have them you might want to reconsider how alive you are.