A fish in a possibly antique barrel

Antiques Roadshow is what happens to me when the show we wanted to watch is unavailable and I lack the fortitude to get off the couch.

We watched this show in Britain, where the quality of the items was generally higher, the antiques older and the emphasis on value was tempered by the question of whether or not the item was insured.

If the object turned out to be worth something the appraiser would say I would insure it for so many pounds and the owner would squelch any glee they might feel by murmuring, “That’s quite a responsibility.” Here, the exchange is a more blunt statement of what the appraiser might expect the item to fetch at an auction and owners react to good and bad news with a slightly wider range of emotion.

Normally, the camera, like our attention, is focused on the item in question, its owner or the appraiser, but then there are these wide shots where disjointed bits of the other Roadshow participants swim in and out of view.

One is distracted by so many baggy seats, unfortunate culotte-and-sandal pairings, awkward 360 views or a backpack handbag that hangs lemur-like from its wearer. It is an aquarium of awkward fish.

I am shooting them with my camera, no longer taking in the finer points of early silver gelatin prints or the history of airplanes, but watching the man in white, with his black socks, his visor and sunglasses, scanning the boardwalk for his friends, but instead finding himself in a television studio, his paperback novel and thermos of margaritas transformed into a carnival glass tea service.

Is this his signature look? Does he think darker shorts, boat shoes or Tom’s wouldn’t have been a better choice?

So many people. So many fake Chinese urns.

I was unable to catch a good shot of the woman in what appeared to be a bikini top. Was this the moment that public television exposed someone’s infidelity? “Let’s go to the Roadshow. We won’t see anyone we know there.”

“Marcus, who was that showgirl you were with?”

In life, as on the Roadshow, you can’t control how others see you. If someone has nothing better to do than photograph fashion don’ts you will be caught out eventually, the appraiser’s pointing device hovering over the defects and inauthenticities, the Wangardian eye upon you.

But stay awhile. Is it the length of his shorts?

Then go get dressed and face the world.


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