A Pilgrimage Never Taken

Many many many years ago when I was a grade school kid; I had a friend named BLS. After school [most days] we would walk to her house way out at the end of town, past the rail road tracks, next to this scary looking old mill. I’d be lying if I said we never ventured into that old mill to check it out; even if it did scare the dickens out of us.

B and I had great adventures like riding bikes down the highway to the next town just for fun… walking three miles out into the country to go fishing with twigs for our poles, kite string tied to the ends of them, an opened safety pin for a hook, and marshmallows for bait… roller skating as fast as we could down a freshly paved rode then spinning around just before the intersection where my wheel hit a rock which caused me to stop rather abruptly, face plant onto the smooth asphalt, and slide across the street on elbows and knees.

No we were not exactly what you would call “girly girls”. Oh once in a while we played cheerleaders and tried our best to do a flip, and were happy to be flying through the air, right up until we hit the ground usually flat on our backs.

I remember one plan that B and I had way back then. We were going to travel all over the country. I guess being small town kids before the internet we didn’t think globally. We were going to get “one of those big bus like cars that had the living room and kitchen built into it” and we were going to drive down every highway and dirt road we could find. I was going to take pictures of everything we saw and she was going to write about it and we were going to make a book.

book annie leibovitz pilgrimageWell that never happened. B moved away when we were in about the 8th grade; I wonder if she ever did much traveling.

So why do I bring this up? I have been enjoying Annie Leibovitz’s book, Pilgrimage, I kind of think that if B and I had ever created our book it might have been something a bit like this one.

Yes the images would have been very different after all my skills are years away from hers and my style, if I have one, very different from hers; but I think the text would be similar. Something like the notes you might write to yourself in a travel journal. Keep in mind she is not a writer so don’t expect an epic novel here.

It kind of seems to me that Pilgrimage was something that Annie Leibovitz did for herself. No assignments, no fussy actors, no agenda, just good old fashioned road trips to places she loved. Places like the site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, Gettysburg, Yosemite Valley, and Niagara Falls.

The images are undoubtedly Annie Leibovitz, she has her own uniqe style that I think just about anyone could pick her images out of a line up [on the edge of under-exposed but still crystal clear and sharp as a tack]. This collection of photos however are not those of the rich and famous, it’s a collection of objects mostly. Somehow she managed to take thought provoking images of everyday museum items such as a pair of boots that Annie Oakley wore in her shows.

I’d call this a coffee table book deluxe with plenty to read. You could also spend a great deal of time just looking into the images at all the tiny detail she manages to capture.

The only real problem I found with this book is that it seems disorganized in that you might be reading about Lincoln only to turn the page to see an image of Graceland then find a photo of Lincoln some 10 or 15 pages away. Not that I’m complaining it’s worth thumbing trough to find the image you are looking for. You could easily go cover to cover just checking out photos and reading very little text along the way if you wanted to.

Even though that little plan B and I had never worked out and it remains a pilgrimage never taken I wonder what it would have been like. Would we have done as well? I doubt it. But it would have been fun to try!


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