Fragility of our existence

I am working on the photographs from my Roadside Remembrance Memorials series and I find myself thinking about the essence of these various sites. The way things are progressing I have completed a major redo of a half dozen images from the series and I will probably also re-publish my Blurb book-dummy as well.

That being the case, I will probably update my thoughts about this series. I don’t know if that means just tweaking the Introduction or adding a new Forward for the second book-dummy edition. Right now, I just don’t know. I find myself re-examining why I started and eventually think I have finished photographing this series.

Having read again the Szarkowski book Windows and Mirrors, I think that this project started off as a Window, a direct observation of what I saw. Then part way through it as I reflected on what I photographed, I realized that there was a big component of my dealing with my own mortality, thus it was becoming more of a Mirror project; very introspective. So that realization effected what I subsequently photographed and how I developed the final photographs.

Now I find that I am moving back to a stronger Window presentation of the photographs. Thinking that the series is more about the fragility of our existence and the rawness of sudden tragic events which can alter us forever more. A cemetery usually represents a peaceful final resting place. A roadside memorial grounds you to the actual, brutal event. Sometimes you can see the obvious traces. Sometimes not.

And increasingly, I am finding the roadside remembrance memorials that I photographed are no longer present. The traces of the events are rapidly changing and fading similar to most memories. The only thing remaining is my record.

I find that after writing my book review of Joel Sternfeld’s book American Prospects, that in fact I have incorporated some of his methodology as my project had progressed, moving the subject further away and to the edges of the photograph. I had not realized I was creating my photographs in this manner, but there was the sudden recognition of familiarity of what I photographed and the Sternfeld photographs. Subtle influences that get incorporated.

Best regards,



4 thoughts on “Fragility of our existence

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  1. Doug, as you know, I have been affected by your In Passing series. Now, I cannot drive or walk past a roadside marker without thinking about this series and the fragility of live, in general. It’s kind of a wake up call to appreciate the moment and not take things, or especially people, for granted. I still even write posts about it:

    I’m inspired by your dedication to the project. You’ve been published, made a book, etc. yet, you still keep on working it. It must be quite a fire that burns within you.

  2. Paul, thanks, and now finding myself re-examing this series, both in content and photographic presentation, I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.

    But nevertheless, I am making some changes that I think are for the better, so maybe the third time is the charm, eh? THEN I can leave this alone…;- )

  3. I wonder if you’ll ever really be finished with it. I will probably take on a life of its own.

    I am currently listening to an audio book that was 40 years in the making. Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth. It is a good book, but I was simply amazed that the author worked on the book for most of his life. It was only released after his death, and then by his wife. He was still working on it, constantly revising it. A true life’s work.

  4. Which takes me back to a question that Brooks Jensen had asked me during my interview, “When is a project complete?”

    I am not sure….

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