The scene: Midrand Drive-in a few more months down the road, a few more teeth missing from its massive grin, is the biggest screen I have come across yet and the only one with a curved screen with a full walk-way from top edge to top edge.
Built near a busy intersection, the screen was made out of corrugated metal sheets so that despite the picture being burnt out on every leading edge from the light of passing traffic there was still an illusionary whole picture from the perspective of a parked car watching the show. Corrugated steel was also very much in demand in the area for no cost housing schemes.
I visited the Midrand Drive-in a number of times. Sometimes to take pictures, sometimes to explore and sometimes to sit in the sun having a morning smoke with Hetmaine and his dumb friend. We didn’t actually say much, just sat leaning against one of the last remaining walls of the cafeteria contemplating the unique ritual of it all.
Hetmaine had been living, in the only room still protected by a roof, for two years by the time I met him. The room was small and walled in soot from winter-fires.
When I first visited the Midrand Drive-in it had only lost one tooth. Standing under its curved gaze was a burnt out double decker bus; I was told by an inquisitive, neighbouring mechanic that it had been blown up to celebrate a prestigious movie premier.
A small variety of equally burnt out cars littered the pavement.
I thought it peculiar that the grass, for the most part, grew in rows along the rising, rippled edge of the pavement and not in the furrows.
Over about three years, I watched all this metal, slowly disappear
I was beginning to think that next to Hetmaine, I was the Midrand Drive-ins closest next of kin, so was a little upset when no one told me she had finally died.
I arrived on the scene of the crime to find a one man demolition squad packing up his torches in a blue and white caravan and waiting for the “boss”. Hetmaine was un-characteristically absent. I haven’t seen him since.
All that was left was a flat rectangle of yellow veld grass. I imagined, as the torch man told me how he cut a line through the screens back legs, how it teetered then crashed forward on its almost toothless grin in a beautiful death-defying arch.
That picture is lost forever so I offer this one in memory.
The screen itself is obviously a focal point but what makes the scene so arresting is its desolation and vacancy.
A feat of the heart as confident and proud as monuments and as grave as tombstones.
Missing evidence evokes after thought bittersweet smell of melodrama
These fundamental absences serve to create an enormous presence, establishing the photo as silent, meditative memorial
Images become diorama-like stage sets on which we project the stockpile of imagery we all lift from our communications culture
We simply witnessing it only after the fact or are we downloading the presence mind