The third Chris Beckett story in Interzone Oct 2008 is called Rat Island. It is about the rapid environmental breakdown of the planet. It is also about the power of photography. The protagonist and narrator tells the story through a series of “snaps” he took when he was an eleven year old boy. He took these snaps, firstly as a hobby – perhaps even an obsession – but when he came to realise, through his father (a civil servant), that “we’ve got two or three years at most before it all comes apart,” the urgency of these snaps also became apparent. The necessity of them – of recording what, or who, would soon no longer exist. I mean… what would you do? How differently would you see things if you thought those things would soon disappear? How important would it become to record, by some means, every single moment, scene, spoken word, thought?
Even photography is temporary – nothing lasts forever – but it can freeze the ephemeral, make the short-lived live a little longer. But there is also a melancholy aspect to photography – you know that what you see in the frame or on the computer screen or on the screen of your mobile phone will never again quite be how it was then. On the plus side, however, as long as cameras of some form exist, there is always the infinite capacity for creating unique and lasting snapshots of what was!