Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sketch me if you can

Does a photograph contain anything of the subject, or is it just light frozen by chemicals or electronics? What can you tell about a person just by looking at their picture? Can you tell if they are kind? Evil? Cold? Compassionate? In that split second they posed for the camera, what is going through their mind?

Obviously I am fascinated by photographs. I grew up in a time where a box camera was pulled out of a drawer for birthdays, holidays and visits by relatives. My past is captured in blurry black and white.

The portrait above is of my great, great grandfather George D. Knox. He was born in Ohio in 1830 and died in Boise, Idaho in 1911. Obviously I never knew him. All I have are three photos of him including the one above. I know he served in the 19th Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. He was a farmer after the war. He married Amanda Knotts in 1870. She was 20 years younger than him. They had six children. One was my great grandmother. She died when she was 19 years old and my grandmother was raised by George and Amanda.

That's it. Whatever else I know about him has to come from looking at his photographs. But who was he? I stare into his face and wonder if I am like him. Part of his DNA is mine. Whatever legacy of his personality that he infused into my grandmother and was passed onto my mother is also mine.

I wonder if a hundred years from now, someone will look at a photograph of me and wonder similar things. It goes back to a post I wrote some time ago about wishing there was a way that we could preserve who we are for future generations. Even if it was just a permanent storage medium that kep all of our personal, writing, recordings...whatever. Maybe blogging is part of that. It's our way to shape the image the future will stare back at and wonder...

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