Saturday, February 7, 2015

Rejected Submission To Romka Magazine

This is the oldest photograph of mine that I own. I was 17 when I took it in 1986. I'd just returned to California from a summer on the East Coast where among other misadventures I'd connected with some very strong acid. I'd tried a dose while back there —my first trip ever— and it had scared the crap out of me. I'd slipped it under my tongue late one night alone. Bad idea. It took a few days to completely resettle, and even then I still wasn't sure what the fuck had happened or how to process it. I wanted to try again.

Once back home I called up my friend Geoff and we arranged a day hike to the ocean. At the trailhead we each put a tab under our tongues. Within an hour the scenery had begun to sway. The trail went in one direction with no forks. Yet somehow we become disoriented. We couldn't remember which way we'd come from or which way was to the beach. The only thing to do was keep walking. We soon came to a small meadow overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It held superior position on a small ridge about 200 feet directly above the sea, offering an unimpeded panorama vista of trees, meadows, fog, sand, ocean, and sky. In the center was tiny little us, the only human element visible as far as we could see in any direction.

We removed our shoes and shirts and lay down in the sun. I don't remember either of us saying much. We were each melting in our own thoughts. I was immensely content, blissful even, and I think so was Geoff. This was a million times better than my bad trip at night. Ahh, this was what it was supposed to be. 

Laying in the meadow I rolled over to see my old dirty basketball shoes nearby. At that moment they looked like the most beautiful shoes in the world. I had to take a photo! I'm not sure where the urge came from. I was not a photographer then and I had no interest in photos. But I'd packed a cheap instamatic camera to remember the day. I fumbled with it, aimed, and dutifully shot the shoes. 

By the time I had the film developed a few weeks later, I'd been back on earth for a while. The photo did what photos do. It presented the scene soberly, recording my sneakers, a bit of Geoff's, and my tie-dye in the grass just beyond. It was a plain snapshot, but it managed to still kindle some swaying spark in my memory. I placed it on the last page of an old family photo album where it remains today, slowly yellowing. The scan shows the photo in its place with a bit of surrounding album for context.

9 comments:

Hernan Zenteno said...

you ended so high that forgot about your sneakers. A colleague told me, never shot photos after smoke or something, you will think that are doing and amazing job but no.

Hernan Zenteno said...

Now I think her we have a particular problem related with personal photos. There are personal photos that are good in spite we don't know the story, and others that don't work. I don't know where is the line that divides them. I don't like particularly the work of Alec Soth but after know about the stories behind the photos and the personal trip I like them more. There are photos that could fit in a familiar or personal album but some can fit outside this limited public. What makes them a winner to be outside the close circle limits, I don't know. Is something that still make me scratching my head. Another example is William Eggleston. Petersen and D'agatha no because they implicate sex and this deal with another issues. I am talking about mundane things, not related with sex and violence.

Blake Andrews said...

Hernan, are you saying my sneaker photo isn't a masterpiece?

Luke Murphy said...

A mundane sexy masterpiece?

Hernan Zenteno said...

I don't know if it is a masterpiece but sure that your photo left me scratching my head. Probably I need some tab under my tongue to find the answers.

Zisis Kardianos said...

I haven't bothered with Romka so much and once that I did it was after reading a praising post from you Blake. The concept behind Romka editing is the personal stories that goes with the photos and not the photos per se. I usually don't have a worthwhile story to share other than whatever story my photos can say on their own and that has put me off from submitting to them. But in your case Blake it's different because you are a slick storyteller, both visually and verbally and I can see your temptation for submitting to Romka. Your particular story is quite interesting and I can see how precious it is for you. The photo is not a mere illustration of the story but mostly of your feelings at that particular moment. However I always felt that photography is not capable of many things outside of whatever effects can impact to the photographer himself. Having strong emotional ties with an image it doesn't necessarilly mean that these emotions can be transmitted to the viewer. For a Romka submission the pair is more than worthy. I guess the rejection came as a big downer to you. Oh well, I'm sure you can live with it.

!G said...

There's a line from that classic film, Summer School, that I think applies. "You know why so many drunk drivers get in wrecks? Because they don't learn how to drive drunk."

I'm not saying you practiced, I'm not saying you didn't. I'm just sayin'....

Pires said...

Really nice submission, I'm sad it didn't make the cut. Something I like about Romka is these insightful pieces of past stories. Well done

Rick Raymond said...

I immediately liked your sneaker picture thinking would I hang it on my wall and responding with a yes. The angle and partial view of other elements make it interesting. I wonder how they got there. While I wanted to know more, I also think a photograph needing an explaination is weak. Mystery is a great motivator/stimulator. A critical factor is whether you as photographer likes the photo. I recently submitted some photos for a Gellert exhibit. The reviewer rejected my photos stating I need to consider whether someone would buy them to "hang on a wall."I liked my photos and still do, whether he would put them on his wall or not..