I have a confession to make, and this has nothing to do with sex or sexuality. It has to do with another obsession, one that started in my childhood. You might not know it to look at me, but I seem to be a hoarder of a sort. I first began to realize this when I was preparing and cleaning up the trailer for a visit from my daughter a couple of months ago. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know I used to write for Harbor Style magazine, a local “slick” (so called because they are printed on coated paper for the best image reproduction). Like any good writer, proud of his or her work, I kept copies of my articles both to show off my abilities as a writer and for future reference. The articles were clipped from the magazine and filed by general subject. At some point, I got behind on keeping up with this (procrastination), and the magazines began to accumulate in cardboard boxes, three or four scattered around the trailer.
I kept telling myself to sit down in front of the TV, turn on something mildly interesting and clip the rest of the goddamn articles, but it never got done. Then, three years ago, the magazine dropped me due to advertisers’ protests, because I did an interview on “Bubba the Love Sponge” that was apparently heard by millions, if not zillions of people. After that, I not only lost an income stream (one I could desperately use right now), but also any incentive to keep filing the articles that had accumulated. They just sat in their cardboard boxes, cluttering up my trailer a little.
All that changed with my daughter’s impending visit. I wish I could say I sprang into action and got the trailer spick and span, but I don’t seem to work that way any more. I got it a little cleaned-up, removed the worst of the mess, and took the junk boxes of old magazines and threw them in the recycling. I think I’d already gotten most of the articles out of them anyway, although perhaps not the multiple copies I’d like to have.
That was when I noticed the photographs.
I’ve been trying to make a living off my photographs for decades. For a long while I aspired to be a “stock photographer,” that is, a freelance photographer who makes his or her living shooting pictures for stock agencies. A stock agency is a repository for high-quality photographs that can be used commercially or editorially. These can be photos of anything, but usually the subject is people doing something – playing tennis, counting money, driving a car, etc. Since I seem to have innate problems dealing with people, or them with me, I have a deficit of people photos, and the ones I do have are usually casual snapshots of my family and friends, un-model-released, which do not qualify qualitatively or legally as stock photos. (If you want to see some of the photos I have managed to place with a stock agency, you can do so here.) Trying, I should add, unsuccessfully. A few of my photos have sold through stock agencies, but most of them have sold through personal connections. Just like in any other business, it’s not what you know, it’s who. Or, as they say, who knows you.
When I had cleared out the boxes of magazines, I noticed the piles of photos, negatives and old 8mm. videotapes cluttering the trailer. Some of my photos, particularly the slides (color transparencies), which were intended for stock, are filed by subject in hanging files. The negatives, however, are a mess, and many of the prints have never been put in albums. I literally had piles of negatives in plastic pages that were several inches high. I could have sold them by the pound, had I wanted to.
As a result, at 63, I have a gross mess on my hands, one I don’t want to pass on to my daughter when I die. I am trying to pair up the photos with the appropriate “proof sheets” (a proof sheet, for the uninitiated or young, being the negatives printed directly in strips onto a sheet of photo paper, without enlargement) so I can catalogue them in 3-ring notebooks. At one time, it seems, I had them in notebooks, but I don’t know what became of them.
The impetus for this is a filmmaker, Kareem Tabsch, who wants to make a documentary about my experience with Dolly the dolphin. He wants to be able to use some of the photos I shot, and used in the book, as visuals in his film, so I decided I needed to get them together for him. The files, needless to say, are a mess. At one point, all the photos I had scanned and used in the book were in a single, over-long envelope, to accommodate the 9″ strips of 35mm negatives, but a couple of months ago I scrapped my oldest filing system, because the glassine pages were falling apart, and replaced the files with modern, plastic pages. At some point in that process, I believe I moved all the “Wet Goddess” negatives out of the long envelope and back into plastic pages. But which pages? I am trying to correlate the filed negative pages with the proof sheets so Tabsch’s editor can see what he’s got to work with. I THINK I’ve got all the negatives together, but I’m not altogether sure. If not, where are they hiding? I am working my way through a pile of old negatives to see if I can find any that might have been misplaced. Needless to say this sloppiness on my part troubles me, and I hope my efforts pay off. I’ll be filing these old negatives in another three-ring binder… as soon as I can afford to buy one. That would be Wednesday, when my next SS check comes in, but it’s going to be stretched very thin by the necessity of publishing Orgone Box, which will take up about half my payment, if not a little more. I am probably looking at another usurious loan from Check-&-Go to make it through the month, but without credit, what other options do I have?
BTW, is anybody reading this blog? My e-mail showed recently that about 100 new people had signed up for it, but I have no idea who any of them are. Do search engines just go out and sweep up people on the Internet at random, or did a couple of classes of English majors just sign up? If so, I’m honored. Please drop me a line or make a comment. Right now, I have no idea if anybody is reading these words or not.