Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Survival quotes
 “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope” ~  author unknown, good guess - Hal Lindsey

I have taken my share of disparaging photos. In doing so, I quickly learned how many people lived on hope. Millions of people with little food or shelter, shelter  we would consider cruel for an outside dog, live lives unimaginable to most of us. But hope keeps them going. It puts temporary smiles on their faces, rising laughs in their throats - it is the fuel that sees them into the next sunrise. Sometimes life changes for the better; sometimes for the worse.

The above photo was taken in the "home" of this man. In just one powerful photo, I captured his bath, bedroom, living room, kitchen, floor, roof, and walls. Photos have the ability to make us think beyond the subject.

I was recently talking to a writer friend of mine about Ham radios. The talked turned to how I, as a photographer, would document the end of the world. Naturally, writers will have a much easier time. He joked that when his ink ran out there would be plenty of charcoal.

I have always been envious of writers. They don't have to lug around a ton of equipment. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few well-chosen words by the right writer can paint a lovely photo (Jack Kerouac comes to mind).

While looking at this photo, recently re-created from one of my sheets of negatives developed over the years, my mind went back to the conversation with my friend. What might the end of world look like? Did I have a preview in my hands? Would I one day be brushing my teeth in a similar manner, among rubble? Digging deeper into my massive collection of Third-World negatives, I realized the "end" could look pretty much like this.

I am optimistic by nature, but in this day and age, being optimistic won't save your life. Being prepared will give you a better chance at survival in the worst of times. We are prepared, and in fact, have a safe house far from Crisfield. Also, having worked in surroundings like the one shown in the photograph, I have learned a few things about survival.

Our safe-house has pretty much everything we would need to survive whatever may come our way, but as I was looking at the above photo, I realized that, as a news photographer, I would feel compelled to risk life and limb to document. That may counteract my thoughts of survival, but if a news photographer can't document, what else is there?

With zombie shows, the 2012 end-of-time date nearing, talk of Rapture, nuclear warfare, dirty bombs, EMPs, pandemics, faulty nuclear reactors, financial collapse, and government-this and government-that talk, along with Internet sites and TV shows preaching a hoard of other evils creeping our way, I realized I had forgotten an important aspect of surviving a world collapse. If the collapse lasted long enough, I would not be able to document.

New beginnings will call for old testaments. If the worst comes, hope, like food and shelter, will be one of my mainstays. Hope not for "hopes" sake, but  hope for a brighter, more peaceful world that will surely follow chaos.

Documenting would be easy in the "plentiful" days of stored fuel, but what if the "fall" outlasted the fuel? Digital cameras require power.

Lucky for me, I am old-school. I still have an old Nikon that I can manually shutter, and I'm sure I could rig my digital to take photos without batteries, if need be, or at least break it up into parts. I know how to make a make-shift camera, and with the proper chemicals and supplies, I could create a type of film or coated glass to create images. So preparations are under way to stock up on supplies needed for creating, developing, and printing photos, all without electricity. The list is extensive, so I won't elaborate. Many common household items can also be used in helping to create photos. Beware, mixing the wrong chemicals without adequate ventilation can kill you faster than the fall you may be trying to document.

In this day and age, we take too much for granted. The roof over our heads, our clothes, our cars, our pantries stuffed with food, fresh water, our computers, our Direct-TVs (my choice), cell phones, iPads, Xboxes,  electricity - they will always be there for us. Forever. Or will they?

Though I am prepared to bug-out, so to speak, in the event of a disaster on a mass scale, and to stay safe, warm, fed, and watered, I took for granted my cameras. It took a conversation with a friend, and this photo, to make me realize I was not as prepared as I thought I was.

I feel for many of the electronic-age photographers who would not know a tray of fixer from a tray of developer, much less be able to mix them. I know some pretty good photographers who have never rolled a roll of film or mixed chemicals. On the flip side, a lot of creative photography students enjoy experimenting in the "old-style." Unfortunately, many students of modern-photography come away with only digital knowledge. If they can throw up some umbrella lights and a screen, they're done.

The only things many people with the pretty cameras know is how to work the bells and whistles on their cameras and how to throw a photo into Adobe Photo. Unplug this new breed of photographer from their power source, and they become stilled robots who can neither speak nor move. 

Funny how powerful a photo can be. I have looked at the one in this post, and others like it, many times, each time with thoughts of what happened to the person or people in the photos, and always with thoughts of the millions who go to sleep each night with no food in their stomachs, the only roof over their heads, made with what they could gather. I think about our individual selfishness, and how, if we all gave up just a little, tried a little harder, or cared a little more for each other, I would not even be thinking about how to document the end-of-time.

John Bradford, sometimes during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, 1553-1555 (Mary Tudor reign),  said of a group of prisoners who were on their way to execution, "There, but for the grace of God goes John Bradford."  His words, if they were his words, and not written into the record after his death,  are always in my thoughts whenever I look at similar photos or slides and negatives taken on assignments.  Indeed, John Bradford. Indeed.

Many people use Bradford's phrase with the "I" attached to it when seeing someone less fortunate.  I am among them, but I never forget that, though Bradford spent 2 years in the tower and had a momentary stay of execution, he was eventually burned at the stake. 

That is where my optimism mixes with caution. I enjoy what I have, I give what I can, but I never forget that Bradford, in his early years enjoying a fellowship at Pembroke Hall, and looking forward to a life of serving people, never saw "Bloody Mary" Tudor coming. And so it is with life. Being prepared, but not obsessive, is a good motto.

I have created quite a recipe in this post: A little history, a pinch of personal info, a  photography lesson, a small amount of take-the-viewer-out-of-their-comfort-zone talk, some philosophical thoughts thrown in, a little doom, a dash of gloom, mixed with a  hint of gourmet food-for-thought, and stirred with hope. Always hope. Ah, yes, and the power of a photograph - the icing on the cake.


Footnote: We have been "preppers" for some time, more on the scale of surviving a total collapse, with the end results of helping to rebuild a better country. We are not in the "crazy" category that you sometimes see portrayed on TV.  Our "prepping" is certainly not a daily lifestylejust a lifestyle that we can fall back on in the event of any type of emergency, be it a hurricane that washes Crisfield away or...pick any doomsday scenario. 

Unlike us, in the case of a disaster, most people will not have the means to leave their homes. The CDC recommends that everyone have emergency rations for at least two weeks. Most households have enough canned goods and dry mixes to survive a short disaster. Water, of course, is your most important commodity. Always keep a few extra cases on hand. And remember, dry goods like pasta and rice require water. 

For a complete list of recommendations visit the CDC web site. A well-prepared community is your best defense in the time of emergency. Get your neighbors involved. Two weeks of food,  water, and medical supplies takes little space, so even the smallest dwellings should beef up their survival inventories.


Lew said...

The picture is haunting and b&w makes it even more so! I have developed film and made prints, but not in a long, long time. I grew up reading Dad's photography magazines and saw the desperate plight of people around the world. I also fell in love with the works of Ansel Adams and others of the early 20th century. I haven't thought much about the next world collapse, but I think I will stock up on pencils (we have a lot of paper here) and learn to draw.

Patty said...

Lew: very good idea. A drawing account is another way. Worked well for the cavemen.

Don't forget to stock up on rice and beans. Ha!

Tina said...

See you can write Patty! Have you been watching too many Prepper shows lately?

I have lived through a 7.2 magnitude Earth quake and know how important it is to be prepared. We need the basics...food, shelter, water, clothing, fuel(to heat water for coffee)and lots of humor.

Having been born and raised in a Third World country, I appreciate hot showers and 24/7 water system here which most people take for granted. I am thankful to have been blessed with parents who had more than hope... they had big dreams for their children and worked their butts off to send us to great schools. I consider myself lucky that I've had access to National Geographic magazines, seeing the photographs made me realize that the world has alot to offer.

Your photograph is haunting. One thing I hope people will think of is helping alleviate poverty in poor countries. Sure, we are in a recession right now and every one is feeling it. In the US, we have food banks, welfare and shelters... in poor countries they have nothing. I am not talking just giving free money. I've learned of the micro-finance, it's a great way to teach people catch their own fish. http://www.grameenfoundation.org/

Keep writing!

Patty said...

Tina: I left out humor. Good point. Gotta have that.

Yes, we have been watching the prepper shows, but most of the people seem to be extreme, almost borderline nuts.

We began to slowly "prep" several years ago. It is certainly not a lifestyle we lead, but it is a lifestyle we can fall back on. My hope is that people follow the CDC recommendations and store 2-weeks supplies.