What’s The Hurry?

They are the three words kids most hate to hear in the first week of August—BACK TO SCHOOL. Like, who cares about #2 yellow pencils or white lined index cards then? How can you even think about school supplies when last winter’s snows are still melting?

But we have to face it—the summer of 2011 is over. Conversations include “Labor Day” now and the irresistible slide into September has begun. Add this: my granddaughter works in a chain department store and she’s told me they have Halloween stock crammed into the supply rooms, waiting—as soon as the last 50%-to-75% OFF/FINAL REDUCTION sales clear the shelves of flip-flops and sunglasses, ghosts and goblins will sweep in.

And we know where that leads.

I recall a story, some years ago, about a man who pulled the emergency stop on a high-speed train (this was in Sweden, I believe) and then began handing out flyers to his fellow passengers warning of the inherent dangers of speed—not only in train travel but as it manifested itself across many aspects of modern life. (He couldn’t stop the police from quickly arresting him, for example.) The questions remain, without apparent answers: why are we in a hurry so much of the time, and what are the consequences?

I have no remedy for our condition, unfortunately, at least nothing that would seem workable in today’s bustling environments, but I will suggest an antidote for photographers who can never quite catch up to their lives—find a project that moves like molasses and claim it as your own.

I’ve taken this advice lately, volunteering at a state historic site (a water-powered flouring mill) where I have free rein to shoot anything I like—without stipulations, deadlines, nothing except a friendly, open-ended agreement to share what I photograph. The possibilities are endless (I know I can’t discover them all) so there’s no need to hurry. A tripod on every shot. LiveView to focus and compose. Moving slowly, randomly, from room to room, the only goal being a few keepers on each visit.

Fittingly, an old clock on a first-floor wall no longer keeps time, locked forever a few minutes short of 9:00. Perfect timing?

You don’t need an EASY button to figure that out.

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