Roll #27-28: Alpaxandria

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Sometimes we become overzealous in life. This extra zeal often leads to carelessness which transforms into a mistake. These mistakes exist in our mind, in print, digitally, and countless other mediums. In rare instances, however, these mistakes do more than simply exist; they persist until they become beautiful.

Recently, I succumbed to my zeal for film photography. While I usually carry and expose one roll on an average weekend, this weekend, I decided to dual wield…not one, but two rolls would accompany me on my adventures. Adventures which took me to two very different locations:

1. Alpaca farm in Western Maryland

2. Alexandria, VA

The holistic experience which the two aforementioned rolls comprise have, as a result of their content, earned the following name: Alpaxandria.

For the unfamiliar: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to mammal. A dimension as vast as colonial optimism and fuzzy as a 60s shag rug…the middle ground between cute and revolutionary, between a high school history class and something a 3 year-old drew in a spiral-bound notebook, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and an adhesive on the wall of a nursery. It is an area which we call---Alpaxandria.

These locations evoke very different thoughts and feelings which have produced drastically different musings. These musings start with a feeble venture into comedy and end with a feebler attempt at artistic prose. Enjoy.

Ever want to get under the skin of an alpaca caretaker? Say "These llamas are adorable!" as many times as you can during the course of your hour tour. This is tantamount to a noob photographer repeating "120mm" at B&H while looking for some fresh medium format film. You just don't do it.

There is something oddly majestic, yet heartbreaking, about an animal whose distant cousin has been successfully anthropomorphized and monetized by way of a best selling book series, and now, children's cartoon on Netflix. Do they wonder what could have been? Do they harbor anger for their furry, long-necked brethren? Do they too desire the comfort of a warm red pajama? Do they also get mad at mama?

Regardless, alpacas are undeniably having a "moment" or better yet, a revival, as a result of their feather-soft, luxurious fleece. Although alpacas were bred in Pre-Columbian South America over 5,000 years ago, it seems our interest in their goofy looks and desirable byproducts has sparked of late.

In additional to an array of alpacas, the farm we visited was home to other creatures like a frisky Jerusalem donkey that likes to smell butts and a goat that looks like it swallowed the soul of an elderly woman. Its a fun place for kids, not so much so for animals with desires to run free. Just look at that goat's face.

With one frame left, I wandered. I wanted something different, something unique, something magical. I wanted to capture an image that told a story.


I couldn't find anything so I took a picture of this caterpillar.

On to Alexandria.

Now before you accuse my trusty AE-1 of producing light leaks, let me assure you that the light-tainted images below are a result of my incompetence and inability to properly seal my Patterson Tank.

Alexandria is an amazing city, rich in history. Overflowing even. Well preserved cobblestone streets; a centuries old apothecary; a beautiful waterfront, hugging, guiding the Potomac as it charges towards the Atlantic. Where everything comes full-circle.

A city of texture, color, happiness.

A city of people, places, things.

A city with the bones of the past and a flesh in constant flux. The main street whose location has never changed has altered its appearance over time: dirt, cobblestone, asphalt. Stores once selling compounded drugs and dry goods now hock pumpkin spice lattes and overpriced kitchenware.

As the seasons change, so does Alexandria. The hot, humid summers see flocks of tourists sporting Velcro-strapped sandals and cargo shorts. The trees flanking historic Prince Street full, green, and teeming with life. As autumn arrives, the flocks thin, producing a more adventurous, sophisticated tourist. The trees, now a yellow-orange, still teem with life as they shed their foliage. Red, orange and yellow rain down on Prince Street. Leaves eclipse cobblestone. Eventually, winter arrives and tourists disappear. The squirrels and birds which previously inhabited the trees of Prince Street have hunkered down elsewhere to brave the mid-Atlantic winter. Trees now bare and tenantless sway in the icy winds. With their branches reaching towards the sky, they pray for a short winter before closing their eyes. With spring they shall awake.

Camera: Canon AE-1

Film: Kodak TMAX 100 & FujiFilm 200 (I messed up the processing on this one)

When: August 2019

Where: Lisbon, MD & Alexandria, VA

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