I’m a bit of an amateur historian so I like to keep things in order. Since I’m mostly a historian of my own life and work that really comes down to putting names and dates on things. I used to write the names of all the people in my photos on the back of the photos but since the advent of the digital age I instead put the names of the people in the files names themselves. I also took to naming all my drawings and paintings just so I could call them something to help keep track of them. Then I date stuff. Names and dates makes digital files a lot easier to find.

I recently posted an old photo from 1988 in my college Facebook group. It was of our Senior Seminar class out side on a nice day. I’m glad I wrote names down on the back of the photo so many years ago because I sure couldn’t remember them all now. There was one person I couldn’t even remember existing even though her name was right there. There were only about a dozen people in class and many of them a mystery to me now. Time is like that.

I bring this up because I’ve been contemplating time and memory recently because of old photos and videos. It started with a photo of mine of where I used to work in the Marvel Bullpen from sometime in 1993. I wish I could narrow the date a little more that that but I can’t without a bit more digging. Y’see, the flaw in my system from back in the 1990s, my 35mm film days, was that I only dated the photos that made it into my photo album. Sometimes, as in the case of these 1993 Bullpen pictures, I would take panoramic shots of one place or another to be used as fodder for some large collage. These photos were grist for the mill and never made it into an album. Or at least the vast majority of them didn’t. There may be one or two in there to help me date things but that will take a little more digging. Time has won in this case so far.

I posted the large 1993 photo on Facebook for the enjoyment of my old Marvel colleagues and one of them mentioned that he had a video of his last day at Marvel from around that same time. I, and others, encouraged him to digitize and post it so we could all watch it and so he did. It was, of course, fantastic to see the place we used to work and the people we used to be twenty three years ago but it was also a very strange experience. I wasn’t even in this video but that didn’t matter because the people and place were so familiar.

Memory is a strange thing. So much of our memory these days can be made or remade from photos or video. By that I mean that a photo we are familiar with from a time and place can help us remember the time and place or our memory can even shape to fit the photo. That is why it is always strange to see an old photo, usually in someone else’s possession, that we’ve never seen before. There we are in another time and place that was completely lost to us before this seeing the new old photo. No memory of the photo being taken existed before this moment. It’s a glimpse into a lost world that you had forgotten you even lived in. That’s a weird feeling. “Hey, that’s me. I did that but have no memory of it.”

Then I was briefly king of 90s Marvel nostalgia for a moment. The 1993 video inspired me to re-post the video I had from when MTV broadcast from Marvel comics back on February 10, 1992 (I know the date because it is written on the tape). I had posted the video when I was first on Facebook back in 2008 or so but it has long since disappeared from Facebook in one of their many upgrades. Things like that happen. Video becomes incompatible and goes away. So I decided to repost it on my YouTube channel.

I pulled out the old VHS tape, stuck it into my last remaining VCR, turned on my digital video capture box that hadn’t been on in years, and made a fresh new digital file of it. The old files were posted in individual short segments but for this one I edited all the segments together into one six minute video. It was a blast from the past. There were a whole bunch of us in the Marvel boom years being interviewed a little bit on TV. Young, goofy, and full of life. I’ve had this tape since 1992 so it made no new memories for me but I’m sure it did for others.

Social media sure has changed since 2008 when I first posted the MTV at Marvel video. A couple of comic book websites picked up on the video’s existence and wrote little articles on it an linked to it. Soon it had 11,000 views. Not a ton of views in YouTube terms but way more than saw it when I posted it in 2008 and way more than any of my other comic book haul videos on my YouTube channel ever get. It was a strange thing.

The last little bit of photo related time has to do with my street photos. Some of my early street photos were among the odds and ends that I scanned in a few weeks ago. Once again since they didn’t make it into photo albums they had no dates. I only knew they were taken in the mid 1990s or so. I posted one of the photos on Instagram and it frustrated me a bit that I didn’t know the date. In working on a second photo I noticed there was a sign on the street that said “NYC 1997”. It thrilled me to no end to know the year the photo was taken. That’s better than not knowing.