[↑] Source unknown – Title unknown (2009-2010); [↓] Albert Finch – Journey.. (2015)
There are literally thousands of reasons why the Harry Potter series was such a cultural watershed. Among the most notable: a consistent worldview/mythology and the way the world is introduced to the reader very much the way humans begin to understand their world, i.e. through limit observation–the reader experiences the world with Harry and then learns the depth and breath through institutionalized education.
It’s funny though because the point where I invested in the story wasn’t when Hagrid arrives. It’s when Harry arrives on Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station and encounters the Hogwart’s Express train. Whether we realize it or not: there is something in our subconscious that still clings to the wonder of our first–from the standpoint of evolution–encounter with speedy transit.
Trains are fucking magic. Full stop. (And the fact that the wizarding world would enchant a train sells the whole thing in a way that is one of those conceptual coup de graces that there is no way to overestimate.)
The best I’ve ever heard this sense articulated was by Ani DiFranco in her staggering 9/11 elegy entitled Self-Evident, where she laments the problems our addiction to fossil fuel creates:
…once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face
give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
And that’s why, although neither of these images is anywhere near perfect–both feature underexposure and the compositional logic doesn’t really gel–there’s still something compelling about them. It’s almost as if by virtue of the fact that one places a moment that is moving not only in time but also in space in stasis, there is an inherent narrativity to the resulting image.
Consider Pavel Kiselev’s heinously under-edited, but still intriguing Railway Novel. Or, this fragment by Dylanne Lee that doesn’t fit within the themes of this blog but has been almost constantly lurking at the fringe of my consciousness.