The most jarring, beautiful thing about these old photographs and videos is not the images they offer of an unfamiliar Los Angeles monochromatic vision of antiquity, but the sense of harsh, frightful mortality they present.
As one watches these videos and studies the photos dating back 40 or 70 years, the one overarching realization is that most of the people in the visible frame are dead. Old photos and old videos make real the incessant march of life and death, which we, ourselves, are part of. The old images taunt us with our own fatalism. We will go the way of discarded images, too, and in decades we will be fodder of the deceased past.
But for now, these few delicious moments, we are alive and we can realize this consciously.
This is why I love the old images.
Of course, it is interesting to see Los Angeles as it pulsed languidly in the 1940′s or 1960′s, but the deathly bleakness that the photos remind me of is what draws me, mesmerizes me. There is no shortage of old stock footage and photography of the City of Angels.
This old noir-style filmed footage of Los Angeles from the 40′s has been digitized and posted over at the Internet Archive project. Apparently, this particular footage was intended as stock footage for potential use in a theatrical production as automobile “rear window” scenery.
This classic footage originates from a drive along the Sunset Strip in 1964. Many of the landmarks are gone, some have generally remained the same, but the ghosts of time’s passage hover over this 4-minute cruise.
And on Facebook, there is a wonderful “Vintage Los Angeles” page in which users are welcome to donate/upload their own museum remembrances of Los Angeles past which has proven to be a great source of historical photography.
Looking southbound on Vine. Ansel Adams, 1945.
Folklore in Los Angeles, The Witch’s House. 1920′s.
Venice Beach, 1970s. No further explanation required…
It all looks vague, indecipherable, oblique, foreign. Mysterious.
I can’t touch feel these photos thoroughly because they are so old and unidentifiable.
At best, we’re lucky to know the approximate year the film or photo was taken. But I’m a precisionist documentarian.
I just made this up. But I am.
I absolutely enjoy old visions, but I want to know when and where they occurred. Landmarks help, and second-hand accounts of approximately “when” but they were snapped, but those who left us posterity didn’t consider this important. Rather, it was not emblematic of the time of be this precise.
Precision is the curse of our age.
Everything we do must be data compressed and data confined. Our mind is now shaped thus.
In 1940, they weren’t concerned with the unique geospacial/universal identifier that would place the coordinate of the photo within an infinite particulate of space time for us to consider. This is fine. I’m still delighted that they bothered to leave us something.
Even the antique “dash cam” footage was sorely lacking in metadata.
Those of us familiar with Los Angeles might be able to piece together the geographical location based on familiar recognition, but it is never a sure thing.
In fact, as I studied the old black and white 35mm dash cam action and the Mad Men-era color Sunset Strip footage, it occurred to me that we have always been intrigued by the “dash cam” concept. A car moves and covers so much more territory than a person on foot can. Doesn’t it follow that we should film our travels through the windshield?
I bought my dashcam in October, 2012, following a small fender bender with a driving skills-deprived Sino Californian. I’ve periodically transferred most of my driving footage to a hard drive. I have hours of driving footage archived. It’s all marked with GPS tags of time, speed, geographical coordinates…all the juicy data I love.
It would be interesting to pore through this digital footage museum of mine and pull out snippets of random footage and still shots and paste them in the netherworld of blogdom.
Since Social Extinction is self-hosted and I’m hardly a master of code, and I really hate battling with the incessant speed drains I’ve been experiencing here, I’m going to start a “sister” blog devoted to snapshots and footage from my dash cam history.
Since it will be based on a dash cam, it will be stamped with all the pertinent meta data. Plus, I don’t really give a crap if someone spends useless time and effort dox-ing a no-name blogger like me. I won’t hold back.
Here is an example of screenshot I might use:
In 75 years, someone might be looking at this putrid East LA alley and awe at the exotic spectacle.
Time rewards, and time kills.
One of the greatest gifts we can leave our progeny, our future generations, is the gift of our moment, uncapturable and never liveable, but frozen and molded in visual memory to sustain the decades of time’s passage.
In leaving my dash cam photos and video clips, I will cement a past that will hark back to my perished soul for those who might stumble upon remnants in 50 or 100 or 200 years.
The internet is the largest archive in the history of man. Everything we say, write, present, will be engraved in a non-physical medium for eternity. Once the digitized traces of our humanity seep into the atmosphere and have left our Earthly boundaries for good, they will linger in an ethereal disembodiment that other sentient beings can capture until the ends of time.
So when I post photos of innocuous automobile footage, I will capture much of this life that I cannot capture in my living room. A broad horizon of civilization through a motor vehicle.
And why do I write all this?
I will be embarking on a new blog soon devoted to nothing but dash cam video- and still-footage (as in the example above).
I will occasionally link or cite the new site from here, but I will not cite or link Social Extinction from there. It will be a one way street.
It will be a wonderful, strange project. More to come.