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Capturing Today For Tomorrow's Vintage

November 21, 2019

Post written by Samuel Anderson


One of the things I always like to see in a museum or gallery is a painting that captures a moment in time. I suppose to some extent every painting of a real-world subject accomplishes this feat, but I’m referring instead to visuals that exude a palpable sense of time - those that show something that might never have been the same again, or which might not even exist at all anymore.

The tricky thing of course is figuring out how to capture such a scene in your own time. Beyond the obvious (such as a certain model of a car, or a certain public figure making an appearance), we don’t always know what in our own time might be considered vintage in another decade or more. For fun though, and for anyone else intrigued by this general idea, I’ve done some thinking about the subjects one might capture today to produce those moment-in-time paintings that might be so fascinating years from now.

Shopping Malls

It’s possible that the imminent demise of shopping malls is overstated in online articles. This is a matter of personal perspective, but in my own experience it seems that for every closing department store or dying mall, there’s another one opening some trendy new store or restaurant. That is to say, it may well be that malls don’t die so much as evolve. Nevertheless, the so-called retail apocalypse has already been a haunting subject for photographers, and there’s something to be said for capturing the state of modern malls regardless of what happens moving forward. Whether they die out or evolve, they’ll likely be different, such that an ordinary depiction of today’s mall might look very much like a snapshot in time just 10 years from now.

Independent Theaters

There are few things I want to see disappear less than independent theaters, and my hope is that some, at least, survive. Like drive-in cinemas before them though, some of these venues do seem to be closing, and as the movie industry in general moves toward greater convenience and comfort, it seems likely enough that more will shut their doors. A lively painting from across the street of one of these theaters - the charming types, where a litter might be missing from a title in the signage, but the moviegoers are smiling as they walk down the sidewalk toward the entrance - could become a very nostalgic image indeed.

Poker Rooms

I suspect it will be a long while before poker rooms are totally obsolete. But America is at long last beginning to catch up to the digital revolution that has changed the nature of casino gaming so much internationally. Online poker has already been made available in New Jersey, and has been made legal in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where sites could be offered within a year. Developments like these are only going to spread, and digital (and perhaps virtual reality) poker is only going to get better - which means the standard casino poker room could also become, largely, a thing of the past.


A painting of one of the major airports of our time may take longer to make an impact as a moment in time. But as unlikely as it seems, we are likely heading for major changes in transportation. “Smart cars” may well enable safer and more efficient road trips, and the development of hyperloop systems could allow people to safely travel hundreds of miles at a time without needing to fly. This is not to suggest airports will be obsolete; even if hyperloops are successful and become widespread, they won’t be crossing oceans anytime soon. But airports may in fact grow less busy if nothing else. A bustling terminal, with rows of planes outside the windows, may be a foreign image to your children or theirs after them.

City Streets

Today’s city streets also strike me as a subject that could easily wind up becoming something of the past when we look back. The simplest of changes are already underway, with more traffic circles being implemented to improve the flow of cars, and more expansive greenways and bike path networks being used to encourage eco-friendly transportation. This sort of progress carried out over time could make for fairly dramatic change, such that our city streets in a few more decades look entirely different. Thus, this is another subject that might make for an ordinary, everyday painting today, but which could be far more interesting in time.


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