Jim Natale was formerly a news writer, college instructor, and college administrator. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where he watches TCM (particularly film noir) and ponders the fate of the Chicago Cubs. Retired from full-time, gainful employment, he is now CEO, creative consultant, and maintenance supervisor at Past & Present Photographs, an enterprise with no employees and even less leadership. (Photo by Chuck King.)
A note about these pages and photographs...
In many ways, we return again and again to our starting points. The earliest photographs in my family's albums were black and white. Contemporary when they were made, they gradually became representations of another, almost ancient, world. Shadows and light locked away in a monochrome past.
Of course, our world presents itself to us in color. While we might crave simplicity, simply removing the color from photographs will not necessarily make life sharper or better, make our vision clearer, or allow us to slow the world so that we can grasp it. Inevitably we are swept forward and become the future. Lives accelerate, become increasingly concentrated, and are saturated with complexity. Instead of photo albums, today the textures of our daily life are recorded as magnetic arrays of data on spinning disks, on solid state devices, or aloft in electronic clouds. These new technologies, we assume, will preserve the arc of past and present.
Yet somehow the old aesthetic retains importance. The technology of monochromatic black and white film images (with myriad shades of gray), printed on photographic paper, fostered a way of seeing and a way of appreciation. It showed us tone, contrast, detail, texture, line, form, and--in some mysterious way--atmosphere. No matter what the format or color scheme, those elements will also be a part of viewing in the future. Photography, in many ways, is a trust, a continuing belief that the elements of a rich visual world are always waiting to be revealed and recorded, everywhere and in every time.
"Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long."
-- Walker Evans