The Ripscale

Sunday was a rough day for me. Mothers’ Day is a very draining holiday. My mother passed away six years ago, and there’s a lot of emotions going through me. Not good ones.

I thought about going over to Washington Park and photographing the tulips, but parking was almost non-existent. Downtown Albany was tougher to get into than a Phish concert.

So instead of trying to find parking, I drove upstate instead.  And in my car – my Nikon F100 camera, along with a couple of rolls of store-brand 35mm film. Figured I’d take some pictures in the North Country and soothe my soul.  Some shots in the Adirondacks.  That should work.

But for some reason… instead of driving all the way north, I got off the Northway at Saratoga Springs, and drove over to the Saratoga Harness Track – er, sorry, the Saratoga Equine Sports Center – er, sorry, the Saratoga Casino and Raceway – er, sorry, whatever they’re going to call it six years from now.

Now there are rules about cameras at the harness track. You are not allowed to bring any cameras or photographic equipment onto the gambling floor; and if you plan on photographing the race, you can’t use any flash photography. Fair enough. I got up to the rail, set up my tripod and packed a roll of generic ISO 400 film into the F100.

I snagged a few pictures near the rail, just some shots of the horses as they trotted or paced past my location.  The infield flagpole was fluttering away.  Some patrons walked up to the rail and cheered on their favorite horses – or at least the horses that were the favorites and not the longshots.

Then I drove home – I didn’t even feel like placing any bets; the way I was feeling, I couldn’t predict win-place-show in a one-horse race – and dropped the film off at CVS.

A couple of hours later, I returned to CVS and picked up the film, as well as some prints and some digital scans on CD.

Dammit.  The pictures with the flag fluttering in the wind have no horses near them.  The track shows virtually no excitement, save for one picture.  And I’ve gotten some people excited along the rail, but they’re not even looking at the horses as they go by.

Dammit dammit dammit.  Can’t I do anything right today?

And these pictures – they’re just not – I started ripping the photographs apart.  Dammit why couldn’t I get the flag fluttering and free?  And why in the world did I use film, why didn’t I just bring my D700 and shoot digital like a NORMAL person wold do?

Rip. Tear.  Shred.

Let’s face it, Chuck.  You’re a miserable failure.  Your family hates you.  Your friends are disappearing.  You’re about as functional as a three-sided square.  You couldn’t hold a relationship together to save your life.

And now all you have is a bunch of photographs that you wasted money on getting prints… just a bunch of ripped-up pictures… way to waste your hard-earned money, stupid…

… a bunch of ripped-up pictures…

Wait… What if I took this torn section… and this ripped part with the horses… and this ripped part with the flag… and if I could…

At the Harness Track: Ripscale Version
Ripscale: Saratoga Harness. Rite Aid 400 film, CVS 200 film, Nikon F100 camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

It’s not perfect… it’s just a reassembled ripped-up picture.  Just like my ripped-up psyche right now.  Torn like every single emotion I’ve ever had in my life.  Shredded like my soul.  Pulled together like Frankenstein’s monster.  Ripscale.  Sounds like a good word for it.

And although this photo could lead to something more definitive, something more artistic and competent and stylized… and although I should feel like I’ve achieved something new…

I have to think.   I have to think hard and strong and make any future “ripscale” projects like this as emotional and as visceral as my heart and mind is right now.  People would need to understand, to feel, what I’m trying to achieve if I ever do this ripscale discipline again.

Because if I can’t achieve that… then all I have is just a ripped up picture.