I’m taking Ruth’s Archaeology and Film seminar this semester and our first assignment was:
A themed mini-project in one medium. Due 9 February. The common theme among all the projects will be: “With archaeology we stake our claim to the future by finding our past”. You can choose any medium that we are discussing in this course: photograph, photographic collage, video clip, montage of videoclips, line drawing, audio clip, podcast, videocast etc.. You should elaborate your medium by a textual caption in which you say why you chose this medium and why you think it expresses the theme.
For my first medium, I chose photography. When I first posted about the decomissioned street cars in Oakland I hadn’t noticed this yet–it’s the key route symbol for Grand Avenue painted on the fence in my back yard. Someone before me had made the same connection to the place they live, and memorialized it in a semi-private place–the wooden fence that surrounds the yard behind my apartments. The yard was partially why I rented the place; it’s a nice little oasis from the somewhat bleak concrete and asphalt landscape outside my front door.
I chose to take a photograph of the back fence during the rainy pre-dawn hours and with a flash, so that it would look as obscured as when I first discovered it, an artifact, a relic, a sign pointing not necessarily to the old key route system, but to a deeper knowledge of Oakland. I tweaked the settings in Lightroom so that the red paint was the only color and the rest was desaturated by the dark.
Knowing what my apartment, my street, my city looked like in the not-so-distant past is an important part of being an archaeologist to me. It isn’t a profession as much as it is a mode of being, experiencing, seeing–a deep curiosity about the surrounding landscape. This, in my opinion, is the most important thing that archaeologists can share with the future.
So, anyway, I’m leading the discussion about photography today in class and we are reading: