The message a dead friend left with 6500 Polaroid photos

4:30 AM Monday Yesterday I was thinking about this blog and whether I should make it more personal or more political when I thought of a dead friend and his daily “blog”.

Jamie Livingston took a Polaroid SX 70 “instant” photograph every day for almost 20 years – from 1979 when we 22 at Bard College in upstate New York to 1997 in New York City when he died of cancer. He took over 6500 photos and every one was personal.

He snapped only one photograph each day – only what he thought was going to be the most meaningful event that day. One photo and one photo only. The World Trade Center could fall down and… From 1979 to 1981 maybe 8 or 9 photos included me. Maybe half of those were just of me. I thought it an honor to be chosen, even in the early days.

This was before phones had cameras. The SX-70 was small for the time but still the size of a hardback book. The film cost something like 6 or more dollars in 1979 money for ten prints. And he had to store these photos – even one photo each day added up.

There is a photograph of me from July 11th,1981 (go to 7-11-81) where I look so young and so good that I cannot be sure it is me. So young and so good and so gay. I don’t remember being gay in 1981 but who knows. I hope it is me. Behind me is a friend I haven’t spoken to in years.

Lost youth is sad. My lost youth – everyone’s lost youth – is sad. It is sad that Jamie, Stacy, Bob and others are dead. It is sad that I have fallen out with some of the people in the photos who were my best friends at the time. It is sad that I am in London and they are not.

But the saddest part is that most of my friends in Jamie’s photos are easily contactable. Most are facebook friends, and if they aren’t, they are friends of facebook friends. facebook has made it possible to stay in touch with everyone.

But I don’t have the time or the energy to stay in touch with everyone. I have kids, a girlfriend (maybe), comedy work, and even a few friends here in London. I am trying to make ‘now’ work. I don’t have time for 1999 let alone 1979.

Every day I make a conscious decision not to contact my old friends. I notice their names on my chat lists and see their updates and even read their comments. Every day I decide that I don’t have time to chat with people who, if I ran into on the streets of Nunhead where I live, I would be over the moon. Instead, I don’t facebook them.

I hope they live long enough to when I have time for them or I live to have time for them. Then again, Jamie didn’t make it to see the people in his photos – the people who were the most important part of his life. Maybe I should make time right now.

Our friend Hugh Crawford collated Jamie Livingston’s photos and put them online. It is retroactive blog: a slow motion trip from the punk era New York, into the boom President Reagan 80s thru crack cocaine to Mayor Guiliani’s New York through the personal photographs of one man.

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