If you’re a Wallingford walker, you must have seen him: every day, 70-ish gentleman walking about the neighborhood, snapping pictures of the seemingly ordinary. And if you’re like us, you’ve been thinking “that man is obviously planning a terrorist attack against Wallingford cherry trees and sidewalk cracks!”
But no, it turns out that man is Paul Dorpat, the very same Paul Dorpat whose Thumbnail History of Wallingford we have frequently consulted, the very same Paul Dorpat who’s published 12 books about Seattle, and the very same Paul Dorpat whose Now and Then column, plumbing Seattle history, has appeared every Sunday in the Seattle Times for 26 straight years without a break (until this past Sunday, when the issue was dedicated to Earth Day…but don’t worry, he’ll be back next week).
We caught up with Paul (electronically) and asked him what’s up with the snap happy camera shooting:
I started on July 17, 2006 to get exercise but also took a digital camera with me and by the time I arrived back at my front steps I knew that I had a project. It would keep me walking and I’d wind up eventually with a years worth of pictures of the same sites – the promise of animation, which I did a good deal of in the 1970s – the drawn kind.
The first subject – the one where it occurred to me what I would be up to – was a front lawn filled with dandelions. That was mid-block on 2nd Ave. N. E. between 45th and 46th. By now I have taken perhaps 600 photos of that lawn, all standing in the same place and holding the camera at the same level and trying to keep the same composition in the viewer. There is a lot of opportunity for slippage in all that, but I’m counting on my faith in computer programers to have developed one that will sort of lock my repeats into a near conformity. I have had encouraging messages and advice from animators with academic portfolios – excuse me professors – and others that this will be a snap.
I quickly built my list to more than 400 sites […] I do quickly look through each day’s take, which is the fun part of it all and much less strain on my aging joints. When I was doing everything it required between five and six hours a day. A job. Now it is more like two to three because after two years of it (last summer) I figured it was time to give back more time to “Keep Clam” a biography I’m writing about Ivar Haglund (of Ivar’s). I don’t think that any of this is going to actually get animated until I finish that book and get going on another one that is waiting. I’m 70 years old. Consequently, everything is contingent on living. But it is for ten-year-olds too, although more seemingly immortal. […] By now I have pressed something around 350,000 snaps.
So next time you see him, don’t bother calling Homeland Security. Just say hi. He’s your neighbor, Paul Dorpat.