Sixty-Nine Cents

/ Wednesday, August 31, 2011 /
I used to go to a thrift store in Brooklyn. Within their extensive inventory was cheap, worn-out furniture and second-hand clothing. And next to the coats and shirts that just weren't vintage enough to make it into a hipster's closet, there was a big cabinet with drawers full of buttons, keys and beads. I loved going through all the useless little things, wondering where it all came from. Week after week I'd see the same old clothes not even the coolest of Williamsburg wanted to buy.

Naturally what I was most drawn to was a big wooden bin filled to the brim with negatives and photos. I remember the feeling of sheer bliss upon spotting it, and my excitement when I came home with a selected few. My roommates didn't exactly seem to understand what the fuss was all about but I loved going through this big pile of memories. So many thrown away little suggestions of a life someone once had. I would look at the pictures and wonder where they all came from.

I'd imagine someone holding a shoe box filled with photographs, taking it with them on the subway or in the backs of their cars. Maybe they took them out of useless old family albums and never thought twice about who these framed people were. I find it a little sad, these photos with no origin. Given no more worth than sixty-nine cents. But how I loved to rummage through, move aside and lift up piles of photos to find the ones that most fascinated me. Especially the ones that had dates or descriptions written on them, ones that tell me I bought a portrait of Jay Habbart.

Why anyone would want to get rid of a gem like this is beyond me. It looks like it was taken at the back of the house, and Jay here was stuck in his Sunday clothes. I imagine his mother, urging him to stand up straight and smile at the camera. Or maybe it would have been his dad, someone enchanted by photography. Someone who might have understood the power of photography. Someone who chose to write down a date and a name. So as not to forget.


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