Pictures of Dead Things

Early on in the blog I had mentioned that I wished I had a camera on me at all times so I could take pictures of all the dead things I see.
This already brings me to a tangential point.

I never went to sleepaway camp. I don’t really know why. I don’t see how it wouldn’t have benefitted my mom to have me out of her hair all the time. Maybe it was money. I went to a shitty YMCA summer day camp for a few summers, and then to the Overlook summer camp for a few years, where there was a roller rink and a swimming pool. I ate seltzer bologna sandwiches that had the mustard put on in star or heart patterns. I one time fell into line with a group of amoral 10 year olds and tricked the change machine in the arcade with a fake dollar. Once caught, we had to apologize to the owner of Overlook and each pay our quarter back. Maybe there was a time-out in order to pay back the time spent playing video games.
One of these summers, however, the YMCA was offering a special trip to sleepaway camp for the day campers. It was like a preview, or a marketing ploy to show the day campers’ parents how great, and full of partying their summers could be, too.
I was permitted to go.
I slept on the top bunk in a cabin, curled up in the 90 degree, Pennsylvania forest summer at the bottom of my sleeping bag for fear of a spider letting itself down from the dark rafters directly onto my face, and up my nose, or into my mouth, or down my shirt, or fortheloveofallthingsholy into my underpants.
I learned how to play pool, how to do a line dance to Run Around Sue, and that if you put your elbows on the table at sleepaway camp someone would point it out loudly, and everyone would sing a song while you had to march around the table, a mealtime outcast.
Above all, I learned what the inside of a frog looked like.
It was common to catch small animals down at the creek (or, crick depending on where you come from), and bring them back to main camp. We would catch salamanders, little minnows, tadpoles, and tiny tiny tiny frogs, bring them back to camp in a plastic cup terrarium and then let them go the next day.
A kid, some kid, Marcus maybe? once brought to main camp the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen, held in his hands by the hollow globe of his two hands curled delicately together, to show it off as being the tiniest frog anyone had caught that year at sleepaway camp. Because Marcus was small himself, like the frog, he could jump higher than anyone I had ever met, and used this skill to further make a scene out of his frog discovery by putting on a jumping show when he’d let his audience hold the tiny frog himself.
I don’t remember who did it, but one member of Marcus’ audience was holding the teeny frog, and Marcus was putting on his jumping show, and someone pushed him while he was in the air. At the same time the tiny frog got loose, and Marcus landed on the ground, on top of the frog.
It was awful, and disgusting, and Marcus cried, and I saw the inside of a frog.

I see a lot of dead things in general, not because I’m looking for them, but because I notice a lot of small details in the open world (never at work, or while reading) and spend a lot of time looking around at every part of outside, when I am outside.
There are dead things everywhere. Especially bees. Almost always bees. I hear news stories about all the honeybees dying, and I swear I see more dead bees all over the ground than anything else.

A few days ago I noticed a dead bird, likely the victim of a cat attack, lying on top of the snow. It wasn’t until yesterday that I got over to take a photo of it. I was pretty surprised that it was still there. Maybe I was expecting the homeowner to edit nature, as it’s pretty gruesome looking, but who wants to pick up a dead bird?

So, back to my big talk early in the blog about posting pictures of dead things:
Bob and I had a pretty heated talk about the place of photography in the world. He brought up some good points about how even with out a documentarian photographer the object in the world would still be there. I felt that the role of the photographer in bringing images to the public of things that are existing out side of the viewers immediate world is still an artful one…but now I am not so sure.
You can be guaranteed that at any given time there is something dead somewhere. If you’ve seen roadkill, you’ve seen something dead. That memory can serve as a place holder, as a stand-in for the thoughtless imagination that happens while hearing a story of something dying. (It doesn’t have to be something dying. It could be anything. If I hear a story about a beautiful girl who I don’t know, while my mind is setting about imagining the story I am hearing, I will automatically think of the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, and she will stand-in for the girl in the story who I have never seen.)
I guess, then, that it is my hope that although this photo is gruesome, and in no way artful
(after I took the photo I was rather disenchanted with the whole idea of taking pictures of dead things, as it felt exploitative, and not as amazing in documentation as it was to just stumble upon accidentally) you will use this photo in your memory as a stand in for all things dead when you hear about them in stories.
When you hear about blood on snow, when you hear even the term “ruffled feathers,” when you imagine broken bones, or loss of life, this will be your imagination.
Late caveat: I’m not an artist.


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