I did not take this photograph this week, I took it last summer. I submitted a photograph with some writing to a journal with an issue devoted to the use of photography as an aid or a hindrance to memory. This week’s entry is what I submitted for that journal.
My biggest fear is forgetting; a fear that stirs something deep within, a kind of urgency to document. I am driven by this sense of urgency to pick up a camera and assert some kind of permanence over those moments when the harmonious correspondence of light and body language perfectly embody an experience. Just in case I am injured in some freak accident and have lost all memory, I will have my archive of moments to help me remember the fullness of my grandmother caught in the midst of a laugh, the series of autumns that I fell in love with a man made from songs about home, or the winter I became a sister again. Taking photographs has also been a way for me to make a connection with people, it is a way that I can show people that we shared a juncture of space and time and their presence was not insignificant to me. One of my favorite photographers, Duane Michaels has a photograph called This Photograph is my Proof, it is a couple sitting on a bed and the handwriting beneath the image reads “This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were just good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!” I love that photograph because I so intensely identify with Michaels’ compulsion to create a visual testament to his relationship with others.
Last summer one of my dear friends died unexpectedly. I took only a few pictures the times I spent with William. When I was around him I was content with just being and observing and not recording. In the wake of his death it has been hard for me to not have those tangible moments of proof. That piece of evidence that proves that this radiant soul crossed into my life, that I jumped in the New River with him, or that he rode in the passenger seat of my car. This is the last picture I took of William before he died. An accidental double exposure. First exposure: William runs into the waves at Emerald Isle, NC. He had been seizure free for a couple weeks but felt more comfortable if somebody stood on the shore in case he had another. I stood with Dave and Misa and joked that I felt like a proud parent. Second exposure: the mountains the two of us tried to name the last time I saw William, when he sat on the steps and told me he planned to live to be 103 years old. The picture was developed a few weeks after his death, and I cried in the drug store to hold my last piece of proof, my friend William, the adventurer extraordinaire, running into a sea of mountains.