Month: February 2010

Of Memories and Photographs and More or Less Morbid Thinking

When people go away they vanish, turn to nothing, stop being. They live only in memories, haunting the imagination. We know they go on being somewhere else, but no longer see them, just as we no longer see those who have already passed away. ~ Dezső Kosztolányi, “Skylark”


~ Suzanne Lalique, “Photos de famille” [via Le Divan Fumoir Bohémien via Art inconnu]

To expand on what Dezső Kosztolányi said, it is not only that the people who leave “stop being”, but also vice versa: for the people who leave, those who stay behind, in a way, cease to be, and linger only as painful impressions. And have you ever thought, as I have, that photographs have a kind of remoteness to them, that they somehow possess the uncanny ability of distancing people and places, rather than bringing them closer to here and now? I am certainly not one of those who deplore the modern propensity towards photo shooting – quite the contrary, in fact – but I can’t deny the fact that photos are very much a means of estrangement. Even when candidly taken by loving photographers, even when the subject poses warmly, even then, stuck between the lines of a virtual frame, the photograph delivers a sense of forceful enchaining and lost property. It is what you wish to hold on to, yet it is impossible to do so, for it is long passed – a reminder, yet not a deliverer. This may sound quite a bit awkawrd, but attachment to photographs (which I myself continually display) almost borders on a certain kind of necrophilia, though not as morbid and obsessive. Merely… how to put it? Being in denial on a basic level. Or like taking the skins and furs of a beloved _dead_ pet and stuffing them to eternally capture its perfect likeness. Like the poor taxidermy pony at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, placed right by the entrance, which you can pet and cuddle (respectfully, of course) to its eternal glory. It is beautiful and fascinating and endearing, yet somehow misplaced and obscene. Something marginally tormenting and painful, which we nonetheless need in order to preserve our identity all the better, and, all in all, in order to survive. Somehow. For some reason.

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