A long time ago. In Blacksburg, Virginia. 1980 to be exact.
I have a lot of thoughts about this picture. First, I took it just as my time in Virginia was coming to an end. Second, everybody in the picture including these boys’ moms who are cropped out in the background, knew I took the picture. Third, rust never sleeps.
It was a little hard to work at this time. New River Newspapers had been sold. The new owners bought our competitor and included that in my responsibilities. They were tight-fisted and didn’t really care about journalistic quality. I was on my way out. I was looking for a new job. In order to find I new job I had to keep producing. So… Wash, rinse and repeat.
I think about the emotional climate in 1980 when I took this picture and that of today, in 2016. When I photographed this scene, I stopped and talked to the mothers, I got their IDs and their children’s IDs. They were excited to be in the newspaper. Today? Not so much. With all the fear in the air, I might likely be stopped. Detained. Questioned by the police. That’s where it might stop, especially since after working 90 hour weeks for two years, I produced a lot of pictures. With credit lines. A lot of people knew my name, if not me. But, the places I worked were small towns.
Finally. Rust never sleeps. Neil Young wrote that line. It’s as right as rain. I took this picture 36 years ago. These little five-year-old boys are now around 41 years old. If you’re not paying attention, time passes in the blink of an eye. I hope they are still friends.
The picture. Nikon FM and a 180mm f2.8 lens. Kodak Tri-X film at ISO 400. Just remember, this picture is 36 years old. It’s not new work. I write this is response to somebody who thought she was paying me a compliment by saying how much my work has improved because she like the black and white work. I can only think one of two things. I’ve actually regressed in almost 40 years of taking pictures, which is certainly possible. Or, she’s convinced herself that black and white work has more gravitas since anybody today can take a color picture. Even my dog.
Do you think that I’m kidding?
I attached a little GoPro video camera to her collar. I hit the start button and let her walk around making a video of her world. I hate to say this, but it looked better than a lot of stuff that I see on YouTube.