The Future of my Past

Pictures, photographs, images—words describing a dimensionally-limited medium, one that constrains our senses and reduces our world to a flat, motionless image. Yet, given the right tools, an artist can weave emotion and imagination into her work, an artist can replace time and distance with depth. With proper framing and lighting a frozen image can become timeless. A captured moment can reach deep into our past or stretch a fraction of a second into eternity.

Pictures can be powerful. Sitting on Mount Suribachi, a photographer witnessed battle-worn Marines raising the American Flag over the yet-to-be-won fight for Iwo Jima. He snapped his shutter and, in that instant, immortalized everything America wanted to believe about their fighting forces. In less than one second, Joe Rosenthal captured an image, motivated a nation, recorded his name in history and created an icon that would forever symbolize the United States Marines Corps.

Pictures can push the horror of war into the face of a nation or capture the beauty of a small blue dot floating in a limitless expanse and reveal the loneliness, the uniqueness, the fragility of our planet. A camera can squeeze the emotion of a mountain, or the excitement of a moment, into the confining borders of a picture frame.

Placed in my hands a camera becomes personal, a bridge, a means of preserving my past and handing it to the aging man I expect to find in my future. Some of my pictures simply touch an event, a reminder that I was there. Many contain emotion that might otherwise fade. Combined with words, I place them in an open time capsule, a blog, a place where I can sit in the present, randomly wander my past, and contemplate all that lies in my future.

The image I have tied to this piece represents just such a moment. It represents a moment found in every morning—that time when the sun has not yet crested the horizon, but light begins to preview the mood of the coming day. It was taken about two miles down the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail. Like the trail, the photograph reaches deep, reaches into depths of geological time. It encompasses a lost life, revealing the beauty created by that life in the intricate branches of an ancient tree. It reaches into my past, my decades of Canyon hiking, and, with the soft light of a new day tracing color on the horizon, it brings me forward, following the trails of my past into an unknown future.

Mike Bennett

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