IT'S fleeting impressions, mostly, that catch my eye from among the images people have shared with us for our next book.
A little girl getting lollies from Santa-clad fireys at Mimni late last year. A suburban streetscape in the red dust storm of September 2009. People queuing, COVID-19-style, at their local pie shop in this strange and terrible year, 2020.
These images were clicked on mobile phone cameras, as often as not, although there are plenty that have been more carefully composed on fancier gear.
Our plan is to take this disparate jumble of places and faces and assemble it into a book that will tell some kind of story - probably a disjointed and chaotic one - about the first 20 years of the 21st century in Newcastle and the Hunter. "Newcastle, by Itself" - is one of the working titles, which seems appropriate in a time of lockdowns, isolation and quarantine.
We have no clear idea yet what shape or direction the book will take: that all depends on what material finally comes in from those people who are willing to share some photos with us. I know what I'd like to see. Images of the changing face of Newcastle and surrounding areas. Last of the trains. First of the new trams. Cranes and building sites. Unusual perspectives on familiar places.
I'd like to see faces of celebrations on New Year's Eve 1999, of fans at the footy, of people enjoying concerts and bands. People at rallies and meetings. People at work and at play. Weather shots. Crazy pets. Sombre and reflective moments. Nature.
I'm already pretty sure this book - our 12th - will be a one-of-a-kind. It's a departure from our usual formulae of straight-out history and nostalgia, but it somehow seemed a good fit for this odd year. An invitation for readers to throw their own passing observations of our corner of the world during these two digital decades into a mixing pot to see what might come out.
Actually we've been mulling this idea over a for a few years. It started with a couple of conversations about the perishability of digital images, compared to old-style photos using film. One day you can have a hard-drive full of photos. The next-day - after a lightning strike or a computer virus - you might have a paper-weight and some fading memories. It was my wife, Sylvia, who suggested that some people might like to see some of their fragile and transient little pieces of digital data preserved between the covers of a printed book. She proposed putting it forward as a sort of community project and seeing who would be interested in taking part.
With a lot of help from our wonderfully obliging and thoughtful website builder and problem solver, Steve Wilkinson of Ark Digital on the Central Coast, we got a system up and running for people to upload photos for consideration.
So, if you're interested: if you've got some pictorial gems in your phone memory, on a flash-drive or a hard-drive, or stored on your camera's memory card, please consider getting involved. We'd love to see what you've got, whether it's a great piece of scenery, a human interest snap or something sombre and moody.
They don't have to be technically perfect. If you think there's something worthwhile about an image we'll be very glad to look at it.
If your photo makes it into the book, we'll reserve a free copy of the book for you when it's printed. And of course you'll be credited by name.