Wednesday, June 1, 2016

There are First Teeth and Funerals: President's 1 Hour Photo

"President's 1 Hour Photo" is a 20 minute film made by Trevor Adams by hand scratching images on tiny 16mm film which he has bleached and gouged and then transferred to video and further staggered and superimposed and speed-warped. It was based on my novel, "President's Pictures: Novel in Nine Frames," narrated by Beth Peloff and features music by Dreamland Faces and Lisa McGrath. Ryan Billig, Maren Ward and Josh Tibbetts. It was finished in 2007, but that was after several years work.
I wrote the novel that he based his film on shortly after September 11, 2001. It was really born on a evening where Trevor and I had seen a performance at the Walker Art Center that involved animation and music created on the spot and then had a beer afterwards. Trevor inspired me to write a story that dealt with some of my feelings about the violence and media images that were all coming together in the whole September 11th thing.
The story I wrote was about a person named President Parkingson who works in a one hour photo processing booth in a camera store and processes a roll of photographs that seem to depict some kind of grisly murder. He gets a note that tells him that he is being watched, so he leaves town on the Greyhound bus and travels around to avoid the unseen person who he thinks is pursuing him.
As President travels, he comes upon one scene of violence after another. He takes out his camera to take a picture in an attempt to freeze that scene before the violence happens. He is not as successful as he wishes himself to be.
It was a strange story based mostly on dreams and the time I spent working at a photo lab and also partly written in a tent on a very rainy morning as my tent filled with water. Trevor is one of the few people on planet earth who read it, and he wanted to distill it down and make a film out of it, and this is what he did.
Trevor's spare but always recognizable images made the story come alive in a far different and amazing way than I ever could have imagined. They make it even more dream-like and scattered, a Greyhound bus journey to the darkest media depths of our tortured world.
But he also brings out the humor and the joy that is there too, and the wetness and the yearning. 
He made it all his own, a movie about movies and photography, about time and violence. His version follows a stronger dream logic than mine did, and mines the power of ellipsis and silence. The film is full of spontaneous reactions and perfect flubs, and is fully grounded in the past and night. It's about how we can see anything through all the chaos and confusion, and and and.
But it's also about the photographic medium, the old chemical kind, which I processed for hundreds of people years ago in an assembly-line of colorful rectangular motionless images, and which Trevor took knife and chisel to and sculpted out of the emulsion of a long strip such jumping images of apprehension and seeing.

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