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Mysteries and Secrets
“Everything eventually gets thrown out,” said a friend. Are the secrets forgotten too?
The forgotten hand that painted this, the generations of Wilsonians who walked by and took note, who maybe had a tingling of the tastebuds, then went and bought a pack of Wrigley’s gum. The sign told them to do it. There’s a lot we don’t know here. We have just a fragment on the wall.
What dramas unfolded in front of this ad, placed at eye level? That’s going to be the theme of this series of photos - “mysteries and secrets.” I selected a batch of photos quickly and then wrote this on the road. I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska at the moment, but that’s another story. A long one.
After I pulled this group of photos and let them sit for a day or two, I looked them over and it struck me that they were all about secret, hidden things. Of course, that’s true for almost every photograph ever taken.
Diane Arbus famously said: “A picture is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” Keep that idea in mind as you scan these shots, here for your pleasure.
From small towns on busy, yet lonely, highways, to broken down cars with stories to tell, there’s always something to see if you stare long enough at a photo. I will usually have more questions the longer I look.
An abandoned neon ice cream cone over a concrete pad. Once it was a mountain town dairy joint that saw thousands of high school victory parties. Now you just have fading memories. Strange, ancient messages carved in the cement from love affairs 70 years ago. Snapshots of love and ice cream at dusk. Soon it will become an ATM or a vaping outlet.
Border town variety stores and inside, through a dirty window, Christ on the cross, dolls and wicker baskets next to him, along with a set of crutches tied up with twine. “Groceries and Lunch Meat” are the priorities here.
Corrugated buildings and shacks, painted and overpainted, then written on. They sit for decades and then fall down. Somebody once cared about this stuff. They die and somebody else has to deal with it. “Everything eventually gets thrown out,” said a friend. What happens to the buildings? And what happens to the memories? Do all secrets get forgotten and die?
All photos by Paul Vlachos.
This piece first appeared in EXIT CULTURE: WORDS AND PHOTOS FROM THE OPEN ROAD. You can purchase the book on Amazon HERE.
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Paul Vlachos is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. He was born in New York City, where he currently lives. He is the author of “The Space Age Now,” released in 2020, “Breaking Gravity,” in 2021, and “Exit Culture” in 2023.