On the Nature of Photography - Grande Praire
Something went wrong with our cameras. Lots of shadows appeared again and again on every photo we tried to take since we left our last town, as if scattered pieces of visual impressions were insisting on hit the road with us. The effect produced by some of it was certainly beautiful, something between the microscopical and the ghostly. What it seems to be an empty street through the eye of the camera, suddenly appeared crowded with anonymous spirits whispering haunting stories about people gone, about lifes passing by through the Highway II. The first aproach we got from Grande Prairie was an encounter of the physical and the metaphysical realms –or at least that was the scope we prefered to deploy at the sight of the weird photographic results–.
Everything reinforced the ominous impressions. It was Wednesday, at noon, and every store on the main street was closed. Nobody walking the weaving of asphalt, allies and buildings. The only human presence we found was a young boy –wearing glasses devoided of lenses– that asked us for change and pronounced a kind of damnation on account of our lack of it: ‘you will be in this situation; I know it for sure’. At that hour of the day we just tried to found traces of human life: huge trucks parked near void restaurants –still warm, as when anybody leave a seat and you can feel the remnant of his presence in the moment you try to sit–, an abandoned box of matches promising a comfortable night on a motel whose name was blurry as a rupestrian painting, tattoo parlours of dark cristal doors, denture houses with depictions of sinister smiles on the windows and the sound of the automatic door on a department store.
Intrigued by the loneliness of the scenario we made up our minds and decided to enter the store and see if the sound of the door responded to human activity. Nobody on the allies, except for a red haired girl that seems like some kind of godess while standing there in the middle of the place, shining as a burning coal under the white-neon lights. It was an epiphany, a supernatural revelation on the very grottoes of our modern world. She looked at us with disdain –as corresponded with her otherwordly nature– and a minute later we just hear the effect of her leaving on the striking door.
The presence of the red haired girl was, nevertheless, prelude and announce of other human presences that we saluted gladly at the very moment we see them. They were a couple of women, standing behind the photography counter and talking seriously about a bill or somethin
g like that. We got to the counter, and as way of greet the first no-olympic people we found in town, we just smiled like a pair of plain idiots. Glenda –the manager of the section and a very kind mature woman– responded to our puerile gesture with a sincere smile of welcoming and, without saying a word, she just waited for us to say something. ‘We have ghosts on our lenses’, I said, still dazed by the atmosphere of the town and the apparition of the girl who heralded the powers of fire on an age of supermarkets and cigarette igniters.
From the optical phantoms found by poor-skilled photopraphers the conversation turned gradually to the Grande Prairie´s memories held by Glenda, who told us that the town was always a transitional place for people traveling north, and that loneliness was a paradoxical effect of moving people on the town –an effect that you get accustomed to–. People come and go, and while crossing the streets dreaming with other places, they leave particles of their beings in the air, though. You can feel it. You c
an smell it. That´s why -filled with tiny parts of people gone- the town gets from time to time its melancholic atmosphere.
Kennedy, the companion of Glenda on the trade of selling hunting-memory artifacts, told us that never in her eighteen years of life leaved Grande Prairie. But she did not look sad saying this words. ‘Here in Grande Prairie, on autumn and winter, you could see big horned-owls. That´s a kind of reward’, she said, ‘I have seen one of those recently, standing on the fence of my backyard like a familiar neighbor. I have made some photos of him’. She was capturing ghosts with her camera, too.
Juan Carlos Montero Vallejo