YS News 2023 Historical Calendar | ‘Peering beyond the frame’
- Published: October 13, 2022
The following commentary appears as the introduction to the newly published Yellow Springs News Historical 2023 Calendar. The calendar, which features photos from the News’ vast archives of negatives and historical materials, is available for sale at the YS News office at 253 ½ Xenia Ave. or online by clicking this link.
What does it mean to celebrate the passage of time?
Is it the foamy explosion of a champagne bottle a couple seconds into the new year? Perhaps it’s a number scribbled on a cake. It may be a sigh of relief on the first temperate day of a promising spring. The melancholy honks of sandhill cranes migrating for the winter.
For us at the Yellow Springs News, our day-to-day work is a celebration of time. The party never stops here.
While we are bound by a weekly production cycle to create a decent newspaper each and every week — a cycle that, admittedly, may sometimes feel a tad Sisyphean — we are also beholden to timelines that stretch far beyond a seven-day block.
On one hand, we must anticipate the future. News items of impending elections, the regularly scheduled observances and jubilations, and, as ever, the ongoing culminations of discussions around development and conservation — all of these never leave our radar. As people of the paper, we are finely attuned to these rhythms. With some degree of certainty, we can tell you what your newspaper will look like months in advance.
On the other hand, we continually wade around in the past — no matter how murky. As journalists, our work must be informed by context. No story springs from a vacuum. We are obligated to apprise readers of what came before and how we got here. Perhaps more than any other organization in the village, save for Antiochiana and the historical society, the News is flush with the historical minutiae to carry out that duty. As many know, we possess archival materials that span back decades. Papers from the turn of the century; negatives stuffed in dusty shoeboxes; special publications with family recipes; and even the old linotype and presses that used to produce the paper on site — all this populates the News office to the point of claustrophobia. We are, quite literally, surrounded by the past. A blessing and a curse.
As Yellow Springs continues to change at an almost exponential rate, we at the News have observed an inflected nostalgia among villagers and returning visitors alike. Perhaps more than ever, people want to reminisce, reflect, and remember. (“Wasn’t this an ice cream shop?” “When did that protest happen?” “What was that cereal company called?” “Didn’t all this land used to be a field?”) Well, your local, small-town paper wants to help.
Enter: the Yellow Springs News 2023 Historical Calendar.
This is the second year in a row we’ve produced this project. We had a lot of fun with the first round, so we think we’ll try to do it year after year. The process hasn’t changed. Whenever there’s a lull in our weekly treadmill, we take time to digitize our hefty collection of negatives. In the past three years alone, we’ve scanned in nearly 3,000 photos taken between the `50s and new millennium. When a photo sticks out — either in its subject matter or artistic composition — we set it aside and save it for a rainy day. Sometimes, readers will see the fruits of this labor embedded in contributing writer Don Hollister’s “News from the Past” column in our print edition of the News, on our website, or maybe in our annual Guide to Yellow Springs publication.
The negatives that are selected to appear in our historical calendar, however, are different. The criteria are a bit more stringent.
By necessity, each photo must correspond with the month in which it’s being displayed. Next, each one must be interesting. Is the photo dynamic and does it tell a story? Does the composition evoke curiosity or spur a laugh? Do you recognize someone familiar? (“Whatever happened to him?”) What memories come flooding back? Do the details call to mind a bygone yesteryear, a place, or a face? What, ultimately, does that grainy, black-and-white photo celebrate?
Unlike last year’s calendar, which featured a varied collection of photos, this particular calendar has more of a thematic throughline. At first brush, the photos seem distinct and unrelated. By and large, they are. We have sports, trees, charities, animals, and more. You name it.
And yet, the commonality that ties together each image under a unified, themed arc is the subjects’ gaze. In each month’s photo, the people within communicate a great deal of context merely from the direction of their sight. The eyes take primacy over the beholder.
Villagers look up, down, foward, over their shoulders, into their reflection. They all peer beyond the frame, almost as if they’re taking in their new setting — that is, wherever this calendar hangs. (“Nice kitchen!”) They see the years whizzing by.
These gazes communicate a knowingness that the fleeting moment, interrupted by the flash of a camera, was suddenly relegated to posterity. Each photo says with a wink and a nod that what we call a “now” has already vanished. It’s off to the dusty shoebox, only to be remembered some other day.
Time flattens and is pressed into print. Our memories conspire with the materials of yesteryear to form a timeline we’ve agreed amounts to a history.
The celebration goes on.