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  • William Hunton

I Went for a Walk in 2020

Many people get all sentimental with the passing of the year. This year, 2020, has been more like daily indigestion. Some may be sad to see 2020 go, and certainly there is a lot of sadness to go around this year, but my casual observation is that most people are just happy to see this year be gone. However, one of my friends darkly queried, “What if 2020 is just boot camp?” I do not want to go there.

Looking back before I look forward, and before I consign 2020 to an auxiliary storage device, I have gone through all my folders of images and some things stood out.

Photography to many is a form of expression, something like, “I would like to share with you my personal observations.” Now sharing personal observations may be profitable, except that most of us, if we are honest, are more interested in people liking us and agreeing with us than we ever are about learning about their ideas or about their observations. It takes a great deal of effort to come out of our personal orbits to listen to someone else. I’ve determined it is worth the time.

In this case, I am looking back, and I am wondering if I learned anything worthwhile in the pursuit of this art I’ve assumed. Couple things in 2020. First, I didn’t so much learn this as become more comfortable in it, that after those early years of picking up a camera and trying to photograph like an Adams, or a Bresson, or someone else, that I’ve got my own view of this whacky world and I better show it off, or it’ll be gone. It boils down to this minor epiphany I had: Photography no longer just a representation of the world, or even much of a reflection of it, but what’s my oddball view of it.

Photography is representational, and you definitely want it to be close to real if you are ordering off Amazon. But I’ve learned that photography is much about memories. No one looks at photographs and says, “Oh that’s real.” People will stare at a photograph sometimes for a long time perhaps remembering someone or something. Some things I want to remember with great clarity, while others are more like a dream. Paul Simon’s song/poem Bookends comes to mind. He also wrote Kodachrome, so he understands the power of the photograph to emote. The lyrics to Bookends go:

Time it was And what a time it was It was a time of innocence A time of confidences Long ago, it must be I have a photograph Preserve your memories They’re all that’s left you Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Bookends, from the album Bookends, 1968, Columbia Records, Sony Music Entertainment

(By the way, Jamie Windsor has some pretty good Lightroom Kodachrome presets.)

Several of my latest photographs have a decidedly soft look. “Fuzzy wuzzy” I call them. How do you represent a memory? How would a photographer dare try, like in the movie Inception, to plant a memory in the viewer’s mind and have them think, “Yeah, I’ve been there. That’s mine,”? I’m not quite sure myself, but in Lightroom I started playing around with extreme controls; that is, just simply moving the sliders of a control (a control being contrast or clarity, etc.) all the way left or right.

With film, I’m going for grain. Know who does not like film grain at all? Shutterstock! Some things work. Others don’t. Some things sell, others don’t. I don’t much care. I submitted a fair amount of photographs to stock, in 2020. Know what? They hardly mean a thing to me. It’s the photos of friends and family that mean the most. Always have. That’s not a 2020 discovery. Maybe with the virus and lockdowns, just trying to hold onto a real moment has become harder, so my efforts intensified.

Sometimes it was a specific subject that held my attention the entire year. Besides my granddaughter, there are two subjects that I returned to repeatedly in 2020. One is a pear tree in a pasture along the Cheatham Hill trail where I often walk. There used to be house there. The foundation of some building is still there. There are other fruit trees as well, but it’s only deer and raccoons now that enjoy the fruit. I ate one. Not bad. (The pear, not a raccoon!) We had a couple pear trees like it at the house where I grew up as a little kid. Mom would make preserves from the fruit. But I don’t think that is what I am trying to get at.

The other is a stream and a collection of rocks and a tiny gurgling cascade off the same Cheatham Hill trail. During the week it is very quiet. No hikers. The deer show up. I’ll need to be careful soon, because the doe will go into heat and the bucks can be aggressive, even with old human codgers like me. I can pull out the tripod legs and maybe look like a big deer if I hold them over my head.

Why do I keep coming back to those two subjects? Heck if I know.

Other photographs in this odd collection cover the gamut; the pandemic lockdown of things like a playground. Give me a break! Kids need to be outside. We have never in the history of the world treated any virus like we have this one. Politics with a putrid, public safety icing.

I have hundreds of photos I took while going for walks to deal with the lockdowns, plus photos of family, friends, photos experimenting with film and developers again. In my published folder, for 2020, there are 2,055 photographs. The ones here may not even be my best, or your opinion of my best if I allowed you to review them all.

Enough. I’ll just present the photographs of 2020 in summary. These are the ones I selected from the 2,055, that meant something to me at the time.

That’s a wrap, as somebody says.

Have a blessed 2021. We are all hoping for better days ahead.



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