Early one morning I came upon a pair of thongs. They lay in the middle of the footpath, as if someone had just walked out of them, and gone on their way, barefooted. It is not the first time I have discovered homeless thongs. The humour-loving, curious artist in me took a photo. I edited the photo so it would be viewed more as an art work than a photo. I tagged it on Instagram #thongsasart and wondered if anyone would be as amused as I.
They kind of were.
The next day as I walked by the same place, the pair of thongs had been moved. Not by me. I almost never move anything that I photograph outside. It is kind of my little challenge to myself to photograph things as I find them so that I have to work with the existing light and environment. The thongs now looked as if they were escaping into the tall grass at the side of the footpath. I photographed them again.
Day three. Separation of the pair gnawed me with anxiety for their future. It was not good for a pair to be separated. Now there was nearly 30 feet (pardon the pun) between the two. They had lost sight of one another.
Day four. Before setting out for my morning walk, I found myself nervously anticipating what might have happened to the separated thongs. The closer I got, the more wary I became. Grass. Had. Been. Cut. Town Council workers using their big mowing machines would never see the thongs. The pair meant nothing to them. They would take no notice if the blades transformed them into mulch.
I was almost afraid to look. There, in the newly mown grass, was Right Thong, face down. But where was Left Thong? Hesitatingly I stepped slowly into the grassy area, running my eyes along the ground. Something blue was at the base of a small tree. Ah. It was what makes a thong, a thong…the flexible, rubber wishbone that embraces the foot. It lay disembodied from its sole. A metre or so away lay a star emblazened remnant, once part of Left Thong. To its right lay another piece. I felt like a forensic scientist collecting data, though I already knew the truth of Left Thong’s demise.
Day five. You know that feeling of being curious, but not really wanting to know if the outcome is bad? I walked and tried not to look too far ahead, thinking perhaps I should just leave the story to its own conclusion. The podcast I was listening to distracted me, and before I realised, I looked down and there I was next to Right Thong. Right Thong was facing up again. I could see small signs of its ordeal, but it was gently smiling at me–as if to say, ‘it’s okay’. I stopped to photograph the survivor. As I was taking care to focus, a young woman walked by, sending a nervous glance our way.
I said aloud, ‘I know this looks crazy’–as if somehow my saying it, made it less so. We both knew it didn’t.
Inside I thought of the words I’d just heard in my ear. They were by Frank McCourt who wrote the wonderful memoir ‘Angela’s Ashes‘.
[By writing] ‘I learned about the significance of my own insignificant life’
Yes, it was an insignificant thong, the image of which was made by an insignificant artist. But if we are to believe that nothing ever leaves the ethers, those images are forever. Making art makes us human. Being aware of that makes us grateful.