Friday, July 18, 2014

The Child

"Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously.
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously."

"La vie est faite à coups des petits solitudes."  --Roland Barthes

A photograph captures an instant of Life, and in the case of a photograph of a child, it also points towards the child's future.  Here he is as a child; his whole Life stretches out before him.
I am thinking of the difference between a photograph of a child, and a photograph of an old person.  Something essential to Photography (as a form) is lurking here.  I am obsessed with both Time, and Childhood.  What does Childhood have in common with Photography?

For the moment I am left to my own obsessions.  I am a childish man.  I ride bicycles, including a BMX bike which is the choice bike of the adolescent.  I wear "play clothes" (jeans, t-shirts, sneakers) to work (and I work with children), and until very recently I did not even own a sport coat or suit, or pair of dress shoes.  I was obliged to go shopping for appropriate clothes to wear to the funeral of my cousin Robert Patrick Salvadori, who died last month two weeks before what would have been his 52nd birthday.

I remember Robert best from when I was a child and he was a teenager.  He came from Italy to my little suburban world and to my mind he was the living embodiment of everything I had, up until that time, understood "cool" to be.  He wore a black leather jacket, smoked cigarettes, and flipped casually from perfect English to perfect Italian (since he had grown up speaking both equally).  Robert is stuck in my mind at that age and that moment, just as if he were frozen in a photograph of that self that he was. 

In Camera Lucida, Barthes writes that a photograph "produit la Mort en voulant conserver la vie" (produces Death in the attempt to capture/ preserve [a moment of] Life).  We do not like to believe that all the moments that have made up our lives are "dead", or lost to us.  Do the photographs of our Lives testify to Life while simultaneously reminding us that each of these moments "dies" and is lost to us? The moments come and go in a flash, and so how can we reckon them? 

"Today you are older than you have ever been and as young as you ever will be, said someone (?!).  But a photograph disrupts this logic.  The child in the photograph is younger than he already is now, and yet the photograph (preserved, archived, hanging in a museum?) will someday be even older than he ever lives to be.  A photograph can "outlive" its subject, and so produce this warping of Time.

More than ever before, people are documenting the moments of their lives.  I am lost amidst all of these visions.  I grow old.  What will become of me?  I do not know, but I have more photographs to make.

July, 2014

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