Friday, April 24, 2009


I am in Tucson, sitting outside in clear dry air and brilliant sunshine, hearing birds singing in the trees.  In a few hours there's a plane to catch back to Toronto (via a stop in Denver's surprisingly dreary airport, alas!) but for now I'm loving the feeling of warmth (even in the early morning it's soft and warm here) and the unfamiliar southwestern scents in the air.

Last night we gave a talk and slide-show at the Center for Creative Photography.  It was fun and very engaging, because the audience and the venue were terrific.  We love being invited to university events; the people who come are generally very curious and interested in wide-ranging discussion.  And so it was last night.  (We also had the deep pleasure of seeing old friends again: John and Tilly Warnock, whom we know from Laramie, now live here and came to the talk.  Fabulous to reconnect with them.)  

Thank-you Tucson, and Arizona U, and in particular, thank-you to Cass Fey, who has taken great care of us throughout the planning and our time here,  and to Britt, whose idea it was to invite us in the first place.  

We had the usual messing around with projectors, of course.  Cass kept her cool, and finally the third projector, not without some last-minute hiccups, did a wonderful job (though needing the occasional manual adjustment to the auto-focus, thanks to a patient student intern!). 

Now that projectors are not being made any more, we know that our days of showing slides are numbered.  And we know, too, that for people in charge of these events, the end of slide- shows will be a relief.  Digital projection is now the standard and feels less tricky to everyone but us! 

BUT:  I love the way light passes through film and arrives on the screen.  I love the idea that the film, that actual piece of film, was exposed to the light in, say, a village in India, and has travelled all the way to, say, an auditorium in Tucson, so that light can pass through it onto a screen and project an image of that woman's face, or hand, or...  It's magical.  And somehow I can't get as entranced by the idea of an electronic image being brought back, tidied up, and re-projected.  It's perhaps a childish attachment, my love of the concrete thing-itself?? Nonetheless real for all that!

I am sitting outside here in Tucson, using my laptop, thanks to a cafe with wi-fi.  Lovely and lucky to have technology, that makes communication portable, and the whole world accessible. I am grateful, truly.  But I can't help mourning the passage of older technologies, like slide projectors...  Life being made easier, in other words, isn't always life being made better, right?  

Perhaps the important thing to remember is that we do have choices.  For example, I can choose to write with pen on paper; I don't have to be typing and looking at a screen.  I don't have to feel enslaved by the computer.  If I do, it's up to me to shift the way I relate to it.  
Similarly, if I am prepared to travel with my own slide projector, I can go on giving slide shows. And on the other hand, if projecting slides places too huge a burden on others, I can scan the slides and show them digitally.  The trade-offs are there, each time, to be weighed.  

The main thing I try to remember about this tech change, (and other changes and challenges too, of course) is the old rule: no complaining!  no self-pity!  Figure it out for yourself, I say to myself (frequently, these days).  Change the way you do things, if you can; roll with it when you can't; and try to do it all with grace...

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