I’m emotionally exhausted. Probably you are too. In particular, the news overwhelms me. I absorb it all day. There’s so much of it, and “good news is no news,” so there’s “a lot of awful” to go around. It makes me blue.
When I want to remind myself that there’s more to “news” than U.S. news (our navel-gazing national programs barely acknowledge it), I turn to Euronews. One of their regular segments is titled “No Comment,” in which they show a video with no sound other than what might be part of the event shown in the video — no reporter or host interprets what you’re seeing. The viewer makes of it what they will. It can be oddly peaceful.
I was reminded of that segment when I found an album of cyanotypes on a shelf in our department. It was lying on top of a collection that (as far as I can tell) had nothing at all to do with it. I suspect it was inadvertently put there while someone was shelving something else. The album itself has no clues to the collection it belongs to or what it is — who put it together, who the photographer is, or how it came to be here. It has no comment about itself.
I also haven’t found the album digitized anywhere (yet), but the closest thing to it might be the cyanotypes of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge was a photographer who was interested in (among other things) capturing separate instances of motion. He made several studies of motion, including one of wrestlers. Muybridge’s wrestlers, though, are nude and ours are clothed, as I suspect Amherst College administrators would’ve preferred back when these cyanotypes were made. Our cyanotypes have numbers in the original image (suggesting a set of commercial photographs) as well as different numbers penciled in later by someone — maybe Doc Hitchcock? — who rearranged the order of the originals, probably to use it as a teaching tool.
The album has a patent date, “Pat Apr 4 82,” printed in the gutter of some of the pages, so that gives us an approximate date (after April 1882) for the album. Otherwise, the album remains a mystery. It’s likely that one of my colleagues has seen it and knows something about it, but I haven’t asked anyone yet — it would break the spell.
So I looked at it without any information about its provenance or intended use. I looked at it just as it is, and sank into the blue — like the blue of a quiet, late afternoon snow.
No further comment.