We all have ‘em, those custom-made frustration dreams that make our favorite blankets all sweaty. Mine usually involve flashing lights, steep gravel driveways and lower back pain. There I’ll be hoofin’ it uphill with tripod and heavy-cam in tow, trying to make it to the hazy news breaking over the horizon. Scanner traffic crackles behind me and sirens wail up ahead as I stumble and climb but never, ever reach the peak. Sometimes I’m carrying 1950’s era broadcast gear, other times sky-filling spaceships rotate overhead. Occasionally I’m dressed as a British school girl, but I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’d rather discuss occupational imagination residue , that familiar but mystifying imagery that permeates the screen of our deepest dream theater. A little clarity amid the disposable vignettes is all I seek - without all that gold medallion over black turtleneck shit.
I’m a TV News photog - so it would stand to reason my dreams reel out in highly-sequenced ninety second chunks, laced with off-screen narration and syncopated natural sound. It’s true - I fantasize in wide-medium-tight, but more often than not my eyelid cinema is directed by someone else. I’m just a runner, a secondary shooter often unable to accomplish the simplest of task from the cameraman’s manual. I suppose postal delivery people dream of rusted shut mailbox lids and apocalyptic Dobermans. Me - I mostly keep it real, when I’m not sporting a plaid jumper and pigtails, that is…
There’s that dream where I’m riding shotgun with that guy from Wildest Police Videos. I try and frame up a shot as he takes ghetto street corners at top speed and spits out weird Shatner-esque rejoinders. These joyriders thought they could get away…but they couldn’t outrun -- the dream police!” If I’m lucky, I wake up screaming.
One recurring nocturnal vignette is based on a true-life incident I remember well. Having sped to Raleigh for a Governor’s press conference, I’d neglected to check if my batteries were charged until I was firmly wedged in a gubernatorial scrum. With every inert brick I pulled out of my runbag, even the Governor noticed the cameraman melting down in the corner. Somehow I got through that day, but in my dreams I’m still yanking EverDead batteries out of a day-glo fannypack.
Other times my head trips are so staggered and jumbled nothing makes sense. The ever -present camera on my dream shoulder is merely an afterthought, just another lowly appendage that fails to explain the situation I find myself in is so damn incongruent. It’s these times I’m most confused. After all, who can tell if you’re dreaming or not when you’ve spent endless hours walking backwards with one eye closed?
Then there’s the most disturbing dream of all. In this nightmare landscape, I’m a badly aging veteran photog stuck in the doldrums of a medium market career. Ribbon-cuttings, ride-alongs and road-rage stretch into the distance as I scribble overwrought prose in tiny notebooks and choke on dollar menu combos. Just when I feel on the verge of cleverness, my cell phone digs into my hip and I’m off to another ground-breaking. I’m telling ya, it’s chilling.
Hmm? What’s that? Oh...yeah. Scratch that last one.