“to conserve is to create”

draft - March 25th, 2020

“to conserve is to create” refers to the historical role photographs play when it comes to preserving. More specifically, the works of Eugéne Atget who photographed crumbling royal gardens. 

“In the present disorder of the world, to conserve is to create” - George Duhamel 

I’m breaking one of the first rules of writing by not only starting my piece of writing with a quote but also by using a portion of that quote as the title. Those words by Duhamel, selected by Jackie Kennedy in an introduction she wrote for a book on the photographs of Eugéne Atget, hit me in a way that other sentences and phrases have not. 

See, I’m on book number 7 during self-isolation in the 500 sq ft apartment I share with my boyfriend and dog in New York City and I’ve been highlighting and collecting words from these books that feel important to me and that relate to the world we are living in today. Weirdly, most of the books I chose at random cover many of the same topics like art, politics, classism, corruption, race, love, and identity. 

The books help me break up my days and in between writing desperate poetry and binging on Netflix, I read. Reading has always been an escape and we can find so many hidden meanings and mantras to bring into our current situation. 

After speaking on the phone with my brother one night, I brought up the only other time I felt this way and maybe others who have experienced loss feel the same way. Losing our dad was the first and only time my meaning of normal was completely disrupted. If the earth were to ever stop spinning, we’d be sent spiraling into the atmosphere. I think that’s why people have described feeling like their world stopped when someone they love passes. We start categorizing our life by the before, during and after because life will never be the same. 

It’s a scary comparison. Will we gain our normals back? I don’t have the answer to that question and neither do the scientists, doctors, economists, and governments. But maybe there is a power in the unknown. I have long been feeling a shift and need for change. With the world gone quiet, can we finally listen enough to change the corruption in our systems? Can we repair communities that have been needing us the most? Again, I don’t have the answers to those questions but it’s worth finding out through knowledge about ourselves and about us as one. 

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