Small Town Parades, Free Time, and Self-Doubt

That’s a horse of a mottled color!

Writing this now makes me laugh a little, a post ostensibly about a 4th of July parade, in mid-November. This is a travelog of sorts, sharing part of my family trip to the Milwaukee region back in June and July of this year.

It’s not talent that keeps this band afloat…

It’s not that I haven’t had a chance to develop and process my film until recently—a problem all-too-typical with my photography these days—rather I’ve been sitting on these pictures for a few months just trying to figure out what to do with them. And that is related to my infrequent, scattershot shooting habits. It’s bad enough that I don’t get out much to take pictures, but I find myself feeling out of practice.

My family and I were visiting my wife’s sister in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin – a suburb in Milwaukee County. Our visit overlapped Independence Day in the US, so we decided to join her family at the local parade. Sure, it was a bit jingoistic and a little heavy-handed, but there was something about the parade I really enjoyed. This could have been a Secretary’s Day parade and I think I would have liked it just as much. There were all the local political big fish in vintage cars, freshly-polished emergency services vehicles (that MFD amphibious truck!!!), tacky floats, and marching bands. And the streets were lined with scores of people on a beautiful upper Midwestern morning making pleasant chit-chat while the kids ran into the street to collect candy thrown by passing floats. I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually attended a parade, and now I’m sure I’ve been missing out a little.

In case Lake Michigan catches on fire?

But every time I reviewed my photos from the morning, wondering what to post next, I just gave up. I didn’t really like any of them in particular. They’re all shot from nearly the same vantage point. A few of them have weird, distracting things inconveniently located in the frame. Or, ugh, the kinda bland look of Cinestill 50D.

Well something changed over the past few months. Part of it is that I got over the need to have some portfolio-worthy set of photos to show. And part of it is that I just wanted to share the visual evidence of what was a pretty great morning. It transitioned to some chill cookout time back at my sister-in-law’s house followed by some lovely fireworks in the evening. A good day over all.

I still have a few photos to share from back in July, and I’m getting ready to ship off some more rolls for processing in the near future. So part of this is also that I needed to clear my head of this little mental weight so I could get on with sharing the really fun stuff from the drive home, and whatever else is yet to come. My photography doesn’t have to be an exhibition; sometimes it can just be the supporting cast in a story about a little piece of my lived experience.

It’s all over when the patriotic street sweeper cruises by.