I had to run an errand in to the suburbs. I do not like going to the suburbs. That’s where you find the horrible creeping sameness. It’s what’s people have done to everything. The strip malls, the fast food chains, I find it hard to know where I am just by looking around. Everywhere looks the same.
When I say it is everywhere, I mean everywhere. When I got off the plane in Lima, Peru, the first shop we came to on the concourse was a Starbucks. We had just flown thousands of miles to wind up at the same coffee shop that is down at the strip mall. I remember stopping in the middle of the corridor and swearing. A goddamn Starbucks. Sonofabitch. Worse, every American from the plane lined up and waited for the same coffee that place serves. The only difference was the prices were in Soles and not Dollars. Every American in the line noted it and congratulated themselves for experiencing a foreign country. I felt like screaming. There we were, on another continent, a solid 8 hours of flight time from the US, and everyone was getting the same old thing. I’ll occasionally have Starbucks at home, but I don’t travel and not try how the locals drink it. Americans abroad. A gaggle of risk-adverse consumers wanting the familiar.
Photography as a whole is largely the same way. Most photographers use digital cameras from one of two manufacturers and process their images in one of two programs made by the same company. Predictably, the horrible creeping sameness has us. We are doomed.
It hasn’t gotten completely everywhere yet. Small mountain towns lack it. The unpaved back roads and the backcountry is not infested with it. It seems the only places the horrible creeping sameness avoids are the ones that will not produce a profit for it. It’s mostly leaving the film side of photography alone as well. Like small towns, there’s just not enough money in it for the sameness to bother with.
Sometimes I bemoan the smallness of the film world. I’d love to have more options for film stocks and manufacturers. That smallness seems to be saving us. We are not infested with the horrible creeping sameness.
I take heart in the fact that in many of those towns, someone always remains even if it becomes a ghost town. No matter how off the path and difficult to get to and live in, there’s always people who will call it home. Maybe film photographers are those people, living up in the mountains far away from everything and choosing to be different. Escaping the horrible creeping sameness.
The Horrible Creeping Sameness