As this has been a slow afternoon at work, I decided to try to identify my friends on the thousands of photographs I have stored on my second work computer. These are faces of people in Chinatown parades, Obon Carnival line dances at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, military re-enactors, or just people in the background of many of my shots. They may be people who cut me off on the highway, served me lunch, speakers at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, or what have you.
After one has been looking for a while, one keeps wondering whether the face is the face of a friend or acquaintance. Then I bring up the original photograph, and it’s just a tiny face in the background greatly enlarged by the mighty Google face recognition software.
Even so, I am surprised at how many faces I recognize of people I haven’t encountered for years. Have they dropped off the edge of the earth? Or have our paths simply diverged, as they frequently do, for reasons relating to geography, changing interests, or whatever other reason. Some of them represent friendships I will take up again. Perhaps some of the people I see most now will be somehow re-prioritized in life’s endless reshuffling of the deck.
None of the faces above are familiar to me, but several look as if they possibly could represent people I met once (and filed away in my mind as “do not make any special effort to remember”).
There is a term in demographics called cohort. The term refers to a group of people one is affiliated with at a particular time. For example, I belong to the cohort of Hungarian-Americans born in 1945 in Cleveland, Ohio. I also belong to the cohort of people who attended graduate school in film at UCLA but never attained their degree objective. There is also the cohort of people who regularly attend the Chinese New Year Parade on Hill Street every February, people who go to the Obon Festival, people who attend military re-enactments, or people who just read obscene numbers of books because they love to.
All the people in the thumbnails above intersected, however briefly, with my life at one time or another when I was sporting one of my digital cameras. Every one of those faces represents a different world which intersected mine.
How many faces will we see in our lifetimes? How many millions? How many people are wondering about my image as they edit their Uncategorized Picasa photos? Who knows? The answer is blowing in the wind.