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March '79 to October '97: One Mans Polaroid Collection
May 21, 2008 4:23 PM   Subscribe

What does a man do during the last 20 years of his life? We learn what every day was like for this unnamed soul who lived through the death of John Lennon, was there for the biggest television experience ever and who saw many presidents inaugurated and witnessed some of them shot.
It might have been because of the holidays or just to fit in but sometime around the early 80's he began smoking. Throught the 90's his health declined and eventually the illness took over.
What must we think about the Star Trek fan with a surreal taste for art and who loved pasta? I'm not sure, but I am certainly thankful for the images.
posted by MikeonTV (68 comments total) 102 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus christ, the tail end of that is amazing and brutal.
posted by cortex at 4:31 PM on May 21, 2008


The links from Lennon to shot have no relation to the linked photos... or is it just the dates? I'm not getting something here. Interesting stuff though - how did you find this? There's absolutely no text and there's no default home page for the domain.
posted by GuyZero at 4:32 PM on May 21, 2008


haunting.
posted by ambulance blues at 4:33 PM on May 21, 2008


i meant this one.
posted by ambulance blues at 4:34 PM on May 21, 2008


Whoa.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:37 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


More info about the photographer (a guy named Jamie Livingston, it turns out) over here. Guy named Hugh Crawford is responsible for the photos being up like they are, it sounds like.
posted by cortex at 4:40 PM on May 21, 2008


Looks like the "experience" link is referring to the last episode of M*A*S*H, so yeah, it's just the dates and the photos have no direct link to the events.

The shots from the last month gave me a lump in my throat, as they could almost be photos of my uncle, who slowly died of cancer last summer (although I suppose anyone who has had a relative pass away in the hospital could say the same thing). Thanks for posting this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:43 PM on May 21, 2008


Ho lee shit.
posted by dirtdirt at 4:46 PM on May 21, 2008


Yes I just included the images of important dates during that era. It is truly interesting. I am having a dilemma about this because I doubt I would care for one minute about this person had he not consistently take daily pictures.
The end is very hard to view.
posted by MikeonTV at 4:46 PM on May 21, 2008


Hugh on how Jamie shot.
posted by cortex at 4:47 PM on May 21, 2008


More than I will be remembered for.
posted by Senator at 4:48 PM on May 21, 2008


For some reason I find this unspeakably depressing.
posted by aramaic at 4:52 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Two days between the thrill of the Superbowl Shuffle and the agony of the space shuttle disaster.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


> For some reason I find this unspeakably depressing.

Heck, we're all gonna die. Looks like this guy made quite a bit of the time he had, which is about the best any of us can do.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2008


Man, when I croak, you guys are gonna see one heck of a photo album!

:-D

Though the last shot was sad.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:59 PM on May 21, 2008


For some reason I find this unspeakably depressing.

Conversely, I find it extremely inspiring. What a character!
posted by ...possums at 4:59 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


So who is he?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:00 PM on May 21, 2008


I do find it inspiring.

Coincidentally, as this is going on I'm hearing some of Derek Jacobi's last words on my itunes.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:01 PM on May 21, 2008


I think this may be the most compelling thing I've ever seen posted on Metafilter.

--

I wonder how many dying people marry? And what are their feelings and motivations for it? I know someone who did it, but I never got a chance to ask him about it.

--

This site would not be the same had it been shot on anything but Polaroid. I hope that somehow Polaroid film will continue to be made as long as there are working cameras to shoot it. Sure you can fake almost anything with Photoshop, but nothing you could shoot with a digicam would ever approach the rawness, the moodiness of these pictures.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by loiseau at 5:02 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is really amazingly neato. I am a shallow and weak soul, and appreciate the warning: I will stay away from the end for a while, thanks.
posted by freebird at 5:07 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


fantastic. moving.

.
posted by dabitch at 5:08 PM on May 21, 2008


Heck, we're all gonna die

Without getting into pointless specifics, I'll just say that I'm pretty sure the death aspect isn't what I find depressing here.

...there's just something about this that really bothers me, and I have no idea what it is.

Maybe it's the "polaroid quality" loiseau mentions. I dunno.
posted by aramaic at 5:16 PM on May 21, 2008


This is...

Wow.

This is just... wow.

This honestly might be one of the best things I've seen on the internet.

That last picture.

The last one.

My goodness.
posted by dersins at 5:17 PM on May 21, 2008


> Without getting into pointless specifics, I'll just say that I'm pretty sure the death aspect isn't what I find depressing here.

Fair enough. Hell, I find It's A Wonderful Life unspeakably depressing.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:18 PM on May 21, 2008


Just the fact that he (or someone he knew) dressed up as a member of The Residents for Halloween one year is enough to make me like him. Stuff like this redeems the Internet from MySpace vapidity and 2G1C vileness. I never knew this guy existed until this minute, but being able to see these photos documenting his life, I identify with him and even think we could have been friends. It's kind of a weird feeling.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:21 PM on May 21, 2008


[this is fucking great]
posted by psmealey at 5:22 PM on May 21, 2008


I can't stop looking.

I'm with dersins... I think this is seriously the best thing I have ever seen on the internet. By quite a lot.
posted by psmealey at 5:25 PM on May 21, 2008


Tremendous stuff. And I was glad to see he also loved baseball; I went to October 1986 and was gratified by the mass of Mets-related shots. I have a photo almost identical to this but with me waving goofily in the foreground.

Thanks for the post, MikeonTV.
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on May 21, 2008


Wow. Looking at history through the eyes of your average everyday joe is much more effective than stock photography in magazines and history books.

Depressing; hopeful; inspiring; nostalgic.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:30 PM on May 21, 2008


This guy must be exactly of my generation and would likely be, now, pretty much exactly my age. This alone is making it difficult for me to look at.

I'll go back, I will, but right now... it's a little intense on first sight.
posted by jokeefe at 5:32 PM on May 21, 2008


Yeah, this is truly amazing. What a great collection!
posted by vorfeed at 5:35 PM on May 21, 2008


If you go back a few months in 1997, he has brain surgery. I am guessing he had brain cancer, not lung cancer.
posted by parmanparman at 5:41 PM on May 21, 2008


Incredible--thanks for posting this.
posted by jefftrexler at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2008


Dash Snow with some actual soul.

Absolutely amazing.
posted by Benway at 5:59 PM on May 21, 2008


I found that the final illness was melonoma here.

Died at the age of 41.
posted by tachikaze at 6:00 PM on May 21, 2008


OK, I'll be the inartistic heathen here.

I enjoyed looking through the photos, and the last few weeks are moving. But I found it frustrating that there weren't captions. I wanted to know who people were, where they were, what was going on.

If I had more time and a better memory, I suppose I could've pieced more of the stories together -- but as it was, it's just left me wanting context.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:16 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


i like this one.
posted by snofoam at 6:24 PM on May 21, 2008


Wow - as with JoKeefe, I am of the same generation. The polariod and the early 80's are just.......wow.
I will com eback to this often
posted by readery at 6:25 PM on May 21, 2008


I started from the end and moved backwards. I saw him and all that he loved, mundane and otherwise, become younger and keep their kindnesses. There my friends, is the best complement to the momento mori. I find it soothing that there are no captions beyond dates because it makes me interact with the photos with my curiosity and wonder.
posted by jadepearl at 6:29 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Most of these are personal and a bit private, but there's at least one I'm sure he brought to the bar with him to show off.
posted by suckerpunch at 6:34 PM on May 21, 2008


Damn. Damn. Damn. Thank you.
posted by Kinbote at 6:35 PM on May 21, 2008


This was really interesting, one of the most thought-provoking things I have seen on MeFi. The last part was wrenching.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 PM on May 21, 2008


Amazing find. Has anyone come across the Keith Richards and Lionel Richie shots yet?
posted by tellurian at 6:47 PM on May 21, 2008


i like this one.

really great stuff, thanks.
posted by nitsuj at 7:02 PM on May 21, 2008


I like how artless and uncomposed many of the photos are. It feel less like a photo-diary, and more like once a day, for just a blink, I'm actually looking through his eyes and seeing whatever his gaze happens to fall upon at that moment.

It's also a much different experience to see these now that he's dead, and to think, "I wish I had known more about him" rather than, "This guy is really cool. I wonder what he'll do next."


posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:04 PM on May 21, 2008


Wow. This is really extraordinary.
posted by OmieWise at 7:06 PM on May 21, 2008


I have to agree that this is one of the more interesting sites I've seen in a while. The material ranges from amazingly artist, to documenting the simple pleasures, to showing the highs, and showing the lows.

Baseball games. Hospital visits. Random day to day stuff. He documents the overall aspects of his life well, with writing very few words.
posted by kaszeta at 7:09 PM on May 21, 2008


.
posted by mecran01 at 7:16 PM on May 21, 2008


This picture is so.....interesting. His family/friends seem so out of it yet....peace.

I wish I could remember to take a picture everyday, maybe I'll try for one picture a week.
posted by lilkeith07 at 7:24 PM on May 21, 2008


was there for the biggest television experience ever

"Dad stuffs son into hot oven"?!??

Is this something I'd need to have lived in NY circa 1983 to understand? Or did it somehow coincide with the moon landing, Charles & Diana's wedding, Diana's death, or September 11?

Not being snarky here; just confused.

Oh, got it now. The final episode of MASH. Hm, never liked that show. Carry on.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:32 PM on May 21, 2008


Great find, btw. I look forward to many hours spent on this one...
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 PM on May 21, 2008


I had to think a little bit about why this is so stirring. This is not a technical achievement, nor an endeavor that requires an inaccessible skill set. This is one thing, done once a day. Something so spare and ordinary, just taken to extraordinary lengths. A simple thing: whatever struck his fancy on a given day - just capture one thing on film. Simple.

I know a lot of people try to do this on Flickr, but this is strikingly different in many respects. This isn't a collection of forced poses or composed shots or juxtapositions, he isn't looking for something funny, weird, or ironic. I find myself thinking I should try this, but give up within days because I'd try to wait until something interesting happened. That's me not appreciating the ordinary, or trying to force it, and not having the discipline to just do something on principle. These photos are as simple as memories. They don't always make sense, they don't always fit into some grand theme or design. Here is a memory. Here is another. All you need to know is: this was then, on this date. This happened, I was there. Do you remember?

Nothing seems framed here. You don't feel as if he is trying to sell you anything about himself. I like to think that the people in his life probably questioned this hobby or wondered what purpose it could ever serve - especially in those days before such a scheme could bring you internet glory. There was no market for this kind of thing. Who would care? Why keep at it? No one will see it. That camera isn't even portable. The resolution is terrible. Why bother?

I think we react to this because it is so rare. A refreshingly simple thing, devoid of polish or fanfare, suddenly set in front of us by chance. It doesn't ask anything of you. You take what you will.
posted by krippledkonscious at 7:47 PM on May 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think that's David Byrne on 06-22-95.
posted by subgear at 8:34 PM on May 21, 2008


More write-up of the artist Jamie Livingston's story and lots of links from Laughing Squid.
posted by nanojath at 8:49 PM on May 21, 2008


krippledkonscious said I know a lot of people try to do this on Flickr, but this is strikingly different in many respects. This isn't a collection of forced poses or composed shots or juxtapositions, he isn't looking for something funny, weird, or ironic.

I sort of think that now that things like digital cameras and Flickr exist, purity and simplicity like this has become extinct. Contrivance taints the personal Internet. Rough gems like this site stand out because they lack the guile, dishonest "honesty" and faux-humility I'm so accustomed to with people who document their lives with public consumption as both a means and its ends. Somehow, its everydayness and honesty positively transcends -- something that, in my heart, all the blogs in the world fail to accomplish.
posted by loiseau at 8:51 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


After reading all of these great comments, I'm really bummed to find the site is down.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:46 PM on May 21, 2008


What happened to the site?
posted by tzikeh at 9:53 PM on May 21, 2008


fuck, did we kill it?
posted by tristeza at 9:59 PM on May 21, 2008


Doh, you guys are killing me! WANT TO SEE.
posted by peep at 10:25 PM on May 21, 2008


After hitting the Digg homepage, the original site has been taken down by the host.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2008


I like how artless and uncomposed many of the photos are.

some day, maybe not in our lifetimes, we'll have the technology to transparently record the moments of our lives like this (like perhaps what a bluetooth earbud looks like today, but taking video and audio and pushing it up onto the network).

hmm, USPTO, here I come!
note to self: buy Duracell stock

posted by tachikaze at 10:51 PM on May 21, 2008


OK, I'll be the inartistic heathen here.

It looks like the site wasn't "public" (as in, they didn't expect anyone to look at it -- yet) and therefor there were "no names on it, no credits. No contact information. Nothing."
posted by nitsuj at 3:37 AM on May 22, 2008


Argh. Forgot the link.
posted by nitsuj at 3:38 AM on May 22, 2008


> After hitting the Digg homepage, the original site has been taken down by the host.

No, not really. They're just trying to digg-proof it, and are very gratified and happy that so many people are touched. Blog entry regarding same.
posted by WCityMike at 11:23 AM on May 22, 2008


The site seems to be up again.
posted by jayder at 4:53 PM on May 22, 2008


I got to see this in person when it was up at Bard College. It was just along one of the main hallways of the campus center, and its size was amazing. I would often see something interesting out of the corner of my eye and never be able to find it again.
posted by Wen at 5:40 PM on May 22, 2008


Ho lee shit.
posted by dirtdirt

Hehe! 14 years to go.
posted by tellurian at 10:42 PM on May 22, 2008


Like many others, this really touched me. There is a sense of knowing Jamie as you look through the collection. So much so that his death is felt as a personal loss. Thank you, Jamie, for this gift.
posted by Merik at 11:22 PM on May 22, 2008


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