A Panoramic View of San Francisco
after the photographs of Eadweard Muybridge
Sepia suits clapboard well. It varnishes the houses with a period air, their dusty stoops and cedar shingles gleaming wearily. We can almost smell the pitch and resin. Street after vacant street banks down towards the water. Scoured paths and pavements of compacted mud craze in the morning heat. A panoramic view of San Francisco. He laid out the surrounding precincts frame by frame, like freshly chloroformed insects. But his plates were slow. Even at the widest aperture exposure times were what -- seconds at least? Enough to let things that were quick enough rub through into transparency. Hundreds of passers-by were turned to a threadbare gauze when they crossed between his camera and the haze of distant light. Perhaps the currency of immortality is staisis rather than enduring power, genius or evil. Once, someone wrote, means never. Most of us falter simply through living once. Notice that packhorse, tethered by the neck to history, its head fudged into anonymity where it ducked to dislodge a fly. That half-presence shows how bodies sometimes turn to dust because they move. Scratch love, shadows, ignorance or the grave, it's what we see which makes us blind.