Look At These Photographs

     A picture, being worth a 1000 words, would have served well in replacing some of my more long winded descriptions found herein. As the vast majority of the photographs from the dorm and Comstock era were taken and held by the elusive Mr. Knaus, we only have a scant few records of how we and our surroundings looked in those halcyon days. Examining the Comstock photo link, one can only find the measly few I had managed to wrestle from the skinflint Knaus those many years ago, as no one else has seen fit to post any. This being the case, I feel it is time for an entry celebrating our favorite mysterious shutterbug and some of the torturous situations he put us though in the name of art.

            Knaus began college life with every intention of becoming an aerospace engineer. He often stated that this was purely for the anticipated ability to say, ‘yes, in fact I am a rocket scientist’, should anyone question his expertise in such a salty, old-timey way. I believed him fully for his grades reflected the level of commitment and he soon moved on to other things. After briefly flirting with the world of bio-chem, again I believe simply for the perceived bragging rights, he found his passion in taking pictures of things. On the practical level, people take pictures to preserve a record of things that happen so that they may look back and play let’s remember, such as we are doing at this very moment. As even the most intellectually challenged of howler monkeys can accomplish this with effective ease, colleges needed some justification for allowing this field of ‘study’ to become a degreed undertaking. As such, Knaus was challenged on a semi-weekly basis to take pictures of things that didn’t happen, that no one wanted to remember, or would recall fondly.

            In the dorm days, Knaus was still a fledgling novice, eagerly flipping though books on Ansell Adams and some old bastard called Steichen. His projects were somewhat simple in nature and he found that the presence of fire gave him the most bang for his buck. In one I recall the mulleted head of Dave W silhouetted by the ignition of a hefty spray of Thrust in our bathroom. Of course the most famous example was the celebrated and too often told toilet story, which I will decline to mention again in this entry but for the fact that the catastrophe yielded no action shots as Knaus had forgotten the lens cap. The Stooges would have been proud.

            By the time we moved to Comstock, however, Knaus had grown considerably more advanced. Where his love of taking endless nature shots had not yet fully manifested, he continued to explore using his familiar motifs of darkness, death and fire.  Although the house had but few working lamps (partially due to our attempt to economize and partially due to my habit of stealing bulbs from other parts of the house when mine went out), the everyday darkness was not sufficient to create the masterpieces Knaus had floating though his insane imagination. To remedy this condition, he made use of the crypt and our presence within it.

            The crypt as it came to be known from the get go was the underside of the Florida room situated at the front of the house. The area consisted of the water entry pipe and a large heap of dirt pushed to the left side. The right side contained some kind of pit going down to the basement floor level and a hole punched though the wall that would later be utilized by the cats. Entry for humans was only though the window sized door starting half way up the wall. A chair or empty keg was usually employed to boost ourselves up to the necessary level to shimmy in, head first only. How we allowed ourselves to be talked into entering this confined filthy environment I have no idea, but we did, and it soon became a regular Sunday night undertaking once the line up was over for the evening.

            Knaus would enter first and crouch with his camera against the left side wall. Aaron and I would crouch similarly on the left with our backs to the pit, or descending into it depending on the photographic needs of the day. Generally, Paul would take time delay exposure shots where Aaron and I would remain as still as possible while waving around sparklers or lit pieces of wood to create the appearance of light trails in the air. I believe this was the sole basis for many of his first experiments. I recall one time when Jason, curious about our whereabouts, called down into the basement. We went silent, knowing that should he join us in the already claustrophobic space, our senses would become immediately overwhelmed and we would likely pass out and suffocate from the fumes. He came down and could not determine our whereabouts and left in confusion as he could clearly hear us from the living room. Eventually we told him, but only after we resolved never to enter again on account of the cat feces build up and accumulation of his underwear.

            Knauses later experiments became both bolder and more dangerous. On one occasion he sprayed not one, but both metal support poles in the basement down with Thrust, and lit them on fire. He took his time snapping away as the flames licked the dry timber on the ceiling and I sweat bullets thinking of having to explain away arson to the landlord. As insurance, Knaus had near by an old fire extinguisher that he either found in some recess of the house, or brought from home. Many months later that same extinguisher was employed for the purposes of horseplay and was found to not work at all. Despite my concerns, no harm came of it and the resulting project contained perennial favorite, ‘Litter Box Jam’, of which I may still have a copy.

            My favorite project was one that required a full script and costumes. It was a murder mystery in which I played a post apocalyptic detective hell bent on solving some sort of murder or other crime. In order to best highlight my destitute nature, Paul insisted on a close of shot of me consuming a tasty dinner of Alpo dog food with my hands, straight from the can. There was some amount of negotiation involved, but we managed to work things out where I did not actually have to consume the dog food, despite Knaus’s artistic insistence on authenticity. I was able to effectively argue that the moment before presented a much more powerful image, and thus I have been preserved for the ages mere seconds from taking that first big bite. The mystery ended with some gun play, followed by the mandatory money shot of myself and Aaron dead on the kitchen floor in a pool of fake blood. Having to lay motionless on that septic surface was far more disturbing than the Alpo and the crypt combined. Fortunately this project ended Knaus’s need for us as subjects as he moved on to more esoteric material.

            In the end, Knaus abandoned his taste for darkness and horror and moved on to nature and pure abstracts. This of course let to interesting adventures in themselves, such as the summer trip up to the Adirondacks undertaken by Knaus, Aaron, some dude named Brian, and myself. We always encouraged Knaus to make the most of his talent and reserve a booth at the Allentown Art festival and hawk his wares. There may have been some ulterior motive in the urging as we understood that in the unlikely event that he became a photo superstar, the prints of his we had would increase dramatically in value.  For some time, his works could be visited by accessing a website he created, but it has since disappeared. As I understand it, he has retired down to the wilds of Gowanda to start a family or perhaps become a crazed loner occupying a shack in the woods. In either case, I hope he manifests once again, perhaps prodded out by these very writings, and shares the hoard of images from these old days that only he may have.

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11 Responses

  1. I lied! Knaus’s site can be found here:

    http://clik.to/pknaus/

  2. I signed his guestbook as well.

  3. As did I. Looks like a schizo.

  4. I did too. I was with him when he took the Luna Moth photo. We were visiting Andrew in Waynesville, and the thing was stuck to the side of a house. It turns out it was a rare insect or something.

  5. We have the Knaus photographs added to the COmstock pictures here:

    http://www.flickr.com/gp/67172361@N00/P29zq6

  6. For the record, these are all the Comstock era Knaus photographs I have. I recall the famous ‘Literbox Jam’ hanging on Aaron’s wall beneath the mirror. Knaus gave it to him after the naming and because it featured Aaron, Malice, and a tower of flame. Aaron, it’s probably in that trunk of crap you have been dragging around for lo these many years, unless like I, you have been encouraged repeatedly to divest yourself of such things since marriage. For the record, I’m still holding on to everything like grim death, but it’s only a matter of time…

  7. I think you are correct. It is probably in my trunk of old crap. I will have to look for it.

  8. I have not fully divested myself of old crap either, but knowing that Aaron sold most of his old crap to begin with, and even divested himself of the property of UB table, and the planter I gave him in 7th grade, I wonder how much could really have traveled in 1 car plus one pod.

  9. The UB table is in good hands now. Although my wife initially eyed it up for a Craigs list sale, I pled my case and won, mainly on the basis that it is ‘hot’ and thereby unsellable.

    You gave him a planter in 7th grade? How thoughtful… and domestic. 🙂

  10. It was for purely selfish reasons. The planter was the largest container to serve as a garbage can for my room. Before the plant holder I had used tissues in a large pile.

    The quick story of the UB table was we took it from the dorm lounge, as it was the perfect size for a Risk board. When I moved across the street to stay with Dan for the summer (Did I really do that?) Mike helped me carry it, under a blanket and a box, down seven flights of stairs (the side stairs of course), over an obstacle course of couches, mini-fridges, and other end-of-year junk littering the stairway, and across Main Street to Dan’s house.

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