Monday, May 23, 2016

People and Buildings, Faces and Places: Why I'm Failing at Telling Their Stories

Some people may see a photo; this was a great opportunity to speak with this fire chief and his father, both of the Hurlock Fire Company in Dorchester County, MD

A few months ago I was driving down Old Ocean City Road in Wicomico County, Maryland when I passed the Parsonsburg fire department. It was a pretty day to take a few shots and of course, once I got involved looking at the building and researching their history, I wanted to know more. And that's where I run into trouble; I love these local sources of history and stories and legends of unselfishness. I want to find out the details behind the bricks and the logos of our local fire companies, and yet I'm struggling to find even one that genuinely has an interest in saving their memories - and hiring me. There's a post here, written a few months ago where I attempt to describe of a new beginning of sorts, a baby bird which didn't quite get off the ground, and it mirrors my worry that our society might be too willing to let go of our past. Where did I go wrong?

It's not that taking these photos of local buildings in itself isn't meaningful, because it does matter to me enough that I'm stopping to record even just a few exterior snapshots of a fire station, for example. But then upon returning home and looking them up online, so many websites offer only a brief history of their decades of service, sometimes just a few sentences. Many of the people I've spoken with tell me they had, at one time collected that information and interviewed charter members and written down and preserved their stories - but almost all agree that was a while ago and it's not been kept up to date. I'm desperate to know more but unfortunately can't dedicate my time to doing work A, for free and B), that isn't valued. While often the photos I take are "liked" and shared, there is no next step or second chapter, and that's where I feel I've failed; is it me, not closing a deal to do a project such as what I'm proposing or is it that my images are worthless or could it be that society doesn't value their past anymore?

Photographs are something that many people take, both casually and professionally. We have a number of terrific artists in our area which do just that, and they are who you call for your wedding, family portraits on the beach, large community events and banquets - because they are the pros at what they do. I'm not in that category because what calls to me are the words of the owner of a classic car who cares more about "the story" than the monetary value of the vehicle. The times I've been in the presence of people who loved an automobile or building or place so much that the emotions and details and background just came flowing out of them.....those are the moments I live for. They are what I've been lucky enough to experience a few times - and those experiences which are the true heart and soul that paint a portrait of life, are few and far between.

I'm not sure I'm going to get the kind of gig I'm hoping for - and that's starting to make me question if my images are perhaps, nothing of consequence. While the the concept of merging words and photographs into something which to me, seems so very important, it's possible that I am the only one. Maybe what I crave isn't something that people really want or place a value on and yet, the chance to speak with an old fireman; a former chief; a lifetime member who would share tales of the past with me while sitting on the side of a fire truck; those are the people who make up our communities.

Sure, I can post just a photo of a building - I don't need the story, or the background, or the legacy that has been unfolding since a cornerstone was dedicated or the words "Established in 1929" were inscribed upon a sign. But maybe this is because I'm different, and while I'll readily admit that my images ARE different (and that isn't always a good thing), perhaps the reality is that it's not quite as important to tell these stories as I believe.

Local fire engine at an escort for wounded warriors in Delaware....the trucks make up such a big part of these welcome parades for our heroes

Years, decades and generations of service in Dorchester County, MD

There was a story behind why this vehicle is parked outside and not inside the station in Pocomoke, MD

A glimpse of an engine in Princess Anne, MD responding to a call - and my friend excited to say "that's my truck!"

Steps of the Berlin fire house in Worcester County, MD

There's a story behind this truck from the Salisbury Fire Department and why it's parked at the airport....but there is ALWAYS a story.

My local fire company in Roxana, DE responding to an emergency call
The Pocomoke Volunteer Fire Department in Worcester County, MD

Seeing members of the Delaware City Fire Company again, at a time when they had given so much assistance, caring and help to their community

"Life on Delmarva" • #delmarvausa