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In Winter

February 23, 2011

In looking at the picture below—San Francisco Snowfall 1887—what do you see? Buildings and open fields that we know are long gone now, as transitory as that rare dusting of snow that obscures the dirt beneath. The stark contrast of white on black serves to emphasize the dark squares of the windows, and we know that inside those cold buildings cold figures huddle together for warmth. They gather around the fires in the grates, and for all of them now a hundred twenty four years later, the spark has gone out.

Yet, if you look inside those windows, if you look for the stories that might have been told there, you might see yourself. The photograph editor for the newspaper has shaped the image; he thinks he knows what you ought to see. I think so too, in a different way.

But of course, for every image brought before our eyes, each of us takes away a different truth.

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