All I’ve got is a photograph

Pyromania was Def Leppard’s breakthrough album, and I remember it well. I was 14 when it was released, and a freshman in high school. When “Photograph,” the best song on the album, came on the radio the other day, I was instantly transported back to the point in my life where I owned this on a cassette, and would put the cassette into my fake Walkman, turn up the volume, and embrace all of the teenage angst that was swirling around me in every direction all at once. I miss those days, sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to relive them, either.

When the song came on the radio, and as I listened to the lyrics about a “passion killer who’s too much,” and all of the rest of it, I began pondering the ways that photography itself has changed since 1983. It used to be that you snapped a picture on a camera, not knowing whether it was a good photo or not, and took the film in to a store in order to be developed. If you were really in a hurry, and willing to pay extra, you could have the prints back in an hour. Otherwise, it took a day or two before they were ready, and you had to go back into the same place you dropped them off at to pick them up. Those were the kind of photographs that Def Leppard was singing about back in the 1980s.

It’s also the kind of photographs that are at the heart of a remarkable new book named Baseball Fantography by Andy Strasberg. The premise of the book is stunningly simple: If we’re baseball fans, then we must have some old photos that relate to the game in some way. Maybe you saw Rod Carew at Spring training one day, and took a picture to remind yourself (and maybe impress your friends, too).

Rather than letting those photos gather dust in an old album or a box hidden away in the attic, why not put them together into a book, and share them all with the rest of baseball fandom? The result is like looking through a scrapbook, at candid pictures that nobody–save for a few close friends of the picture taker–has ever seen before. It works amazingly well as a concept, and this is the first of (hopefully) many scrapbooks about the game that touches so many of our lives.

In addition to the photos, there are many great pieces about the game, from essays about ballparks, broadcasters, and players, to fascinating little tidbits about the game I might never have learned otherwise. And there’s even a passing reference to the Cubs’ own Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers. But the best part of all comes at the end of the book.

The rise of social media, and Facebook in particular, has made us far more willing to share images of ourselves than we once were. And we’re also more willing to look at images from other people’s lives, as well. The picture above is a perfect case in point.

I sat down with a box of about 500 photos from various times in my life, from about 1995 to 2000 at the latest. They weren’t categorized in any form, but I was entirely confident that at least some of the prints were related to baseball. Whenever I go to baseball games, I take pictures to record the experience for posterity. I always have done it, and probably always will do it.

The picture above was taken at Jacobs Field in Cleveland (some now call it Progressive Field) on July 4, 1999. The little girl asleep on my lap is now a teenager, and if she doesn’t love baseball, well, it isn’t for a lack of trying on my part. There were several other shots that I had to choose from, taken at Wrigley Field, Coors Field, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but this one was the one that I liked the best.

I scanned this image into my computer, inserted it into this blog post, and will also submit it to the Fantography web site, as well. This is an interactive experience that, even a few years ago, wouldn’t have been possible with a book. But there’s really no reason not to see if anything I have would be of interest to them, either for posting on their website or inclusion in a future book.

I even went so far as to submit a few original pictures that have appeared in posts on this site previously (here and here and here, among others). If I’ve already shared these with the internet community, why not repurpose them for Fantography, as well? And if it brings a few more eyes to this blog, so much the better, right?

The photograph as I once knew it, and that Def Leppard once sang about, might already be a thing of the past.  But millions of them are still around, and Fantography offers a innovative way of gathering and sharing these relics-in-waiting in our digital and social media-driven milieu. It’s a concept that’s well worth checking out.

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