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Bones Of Time
This will be my first editor’s note, but not my last. I have been remiss in writing intros for many of the essays here. I cannot do much of an introduction for some of the essays where the photographer is unknown to me nor have I been a part of the development of the story. Interestingly and surprisingly most of the work published on BURN so far has been from photographers I have NOT known at all. Not them, not their work. But, I certainly can write a heartfelt intro for Patricia, Panos, Anton, Angelo, Kyung-hee, Victor and my old buddy from college days, Medford (damn right he is emerging..no joke!!)…Patricia and Panos are totally manifestations of online mentoring. We all met here. There could not be two more different photographers or personalities than these two. Anton, Kyunghee, Victor, and Angelo come from my world of personal workshops and well, Medford and I met when he tried to crash into my darkroom space back in grad school..enough said.
Yes yes , this is an intro for Bob Black (and appropriately long!) (and full of referencing!)..Bob does not match any of the groups above…I did not have Bob as a student, he is a teacher himself. Nor did I mentor him online. Bob is who he is just because. As with all of the photographers here, I rarely or barely edit. I want this to be a forum to let the photographers run free. A crazy concept in publishing, but the one set of words I absolutely do not want to hear are “he didn’t run it the way i liked…he did not run my best pictures”… So, I may not always completely agree with a photographer’s edit on BURN, but I will stand by photographer’s rights and creative freedom over all other things. You are always seeing basically the “directors cut”.
At the end of the year when we do our print publication, you will see a tight edit from me. Or, at one of my presentations at photo fests. Like Look3 in June where the Emerging Photographer Fund grant winner will be announced. But for here and now BURN is raw. Sure , I choose carefully the work. Some of you have already figured out that I do a bit of it just to see where YOU will take it. This is your edit after all. BURN is nothing without the comments. This way both the photographers and their audience have the ultimate amount of freedom. I do not edit the photographers nor the audience. Photographers show their work. The audience is the judge.
With Bob Black you have now an un-edited writer and an un-edited photographer. Bob thinks things. Bob knows things. Bob is a biblioteque. He writes to each and every picture or essay presented on BURN without fail. Nobody has been HERE more than Bob. Now since I have gone this far (BB style) I just have to mention Marina (Russian born wife) and Dima (well behaved polite teen-age son). Yup, cool family.
Ok, now I am running..Bob Black style.. and Bob Black style is where we go now…
– david alan harvey
PARTIAL EXCERPT FROM
BONES OF TIME
“What we see is not made of up of what we are seeing but rather from what we are.”–Fernando Pessoa
“I am a reflection photographing other reflections within reflections. It is a melancholy truth that I must always fail. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”–Duane Michaels
“The son remembers what the father wishes to forget.”–Yiddish Proverb
…and so this morning darkness spreads thin the winter light and soon the pliable silence is more limber with memory as it enters.
And what began as a small ache, a tap of ash and rough bone, soon morphs into a presence that fills the elongated space between the chair and desk at which I sit and the throat of the corridor that scaffolds the space between these words and the commonwealth where my wife and son now sleep. It is because of this tract, this early-morning quiescence, that specific beat between the rum of my ticking head-heart and all that has gathered between the un-counted clicks of thought and waking, that I am at unrest. Now with a receipe of words, as if counting upon alchemy and gestation, I try to make sense of a description, try to make sense of an arrangement of pictures (photographs I have taken and images pin-tacked in my head) that are born of a remembering. At the moment, I am sifting through all this and am failing.
It is six in the morning and my body is crowded by the sound of my sleeping wife and son: and all begins to drift. Then, the swallowing of their impressible, morning breath. As if my own. As if. As. And then.
We are, if nothing else, small bursts of memory.
And it comes like an avalanche. We are comprised of this, a negotiation. The moments between that which was and that which tumbled into an accolade of what is and what will become, vigilant. Pictures meant to speak of that which is here, the now of this quiet morning when I feel bereft, all that I am scrabbling to hang upon like beads on an abacus string. Without the sound of my wife’s hum or my son’s sleeping acuity, grounding disappears like vapor. Have the photographs that I spent the last six months making and wrestling with counted upon this morning impass? Is it possible to convey this doubt, the missing part of that which I am and all that I shall be as a simple thing? The description of that space housed by the corners of a morning, of the purloined arrangement beween solitary lull and what is bound. Seamlessly another thought pivots.
Between the silence and the space of their bodies and the lives apart that have shuttled into my own. The ‘we’ metamorphosed from the separated each. I ask myself a simple question: “Have you yet threaded the silence from which your life is built?”……
Our bodies carry, like flotsam and drift-wood upon the back of a slow-articulating river, the memories of those who came before us. Along the curve of our spine, tickled beneath the hinge of our jaws, along the fan of space between our fingers, from within the resonant sound of the shape of our teeth, memory seeds itself and grows with a fecundity we seldom acknowledge properly. What grows happens in the silent snap of a moment. That moment , however, may occur in the lick of a lifetime. We contain the entirety of the lives that came before us, bestowed to us along ligament and hair lick, tongue and tissue, wobbly vocabulary and vocal chord. We are, even in our muted silence, the spoken history of those lives lived gone, only too-often the songs written upon our bodies remain choir-less, the stories cast along our limbs unopened, the mythologies archived in the chambers of our cranial corners still un-categorized. Yet, we hunger to remember. But there still the faces and the traces, the sounds of the rounding of days, the pictures and tinctures of the already lived and lost, recomposed inside our own seemingly inimical lives. But are we unique or an amalgam? We grope to understand within the shape of our hunger to remember and to retrieve, to understand and delve, research and relinquish. We contain. We sift. We burgeon. It is, in fact, all there inside us though often at a loss of approximate distance. Remedy this, we tell ourselves, remedy this.
So, take into your hand something small and weave it into the movement of your thoughts. See how it enlarges all of you and all that you have not counted upon; see how a small artifact reminds you of what once was and what still resides inside: a book, a story, a pen, a signature, a piece of cloth, a word, a scent, a glimmer of a shadow or a speck of light, an imprint, a sound, a comb, a shoe, a tattered lace, an indent, a forgotten taste, a photograph: all the small things that trigger obdurate things. How much could be unbelted if what we longed to retrieved were unhooked. Those places and faces and spaces, ancestor and parent, that sit like an unadorned and unopened book upon the shelf of your gathering. If only we but reached out and opened, would we begin to recognize ourselves more clearly? To snap the spine that has woodened from age, the whelp into the world of recognition. Crack it. Shellack it. You were born of it: desire and duty. Look at the rings beneath your eyes, nibble upon the the carving along the back of your hands, focus on the nimble notes of your voice, take up the photograph of the woman standing on the bridge with her back turned and catch her, the curve of her hip suggesting the loss of love, wander over the TV screen in front of you as that unknown but somehow recognizable woman speaks to you of what has gone missing, distilling her life’s tale as if sung from Scherhazades, know not the name or the details of the forlorn awakening but speak upon them regardless. Arrest that which has rested too long. Remember what you had forgotten to remember while you see what it was that you were meant to see. The ache of a quick snatch gone fleeting. There, in that moment in front of you. Have you begun to remember? Picture this: a photograph as a map of your life pre-drawn.
Bones the size and shape of your once-remembered life.
Time scatters like voices weaved about the autumn grass, small pebbles of hardened mineral rattling like a cup of teeth, bricking and bracking inside the circumfrence of each of us. How can I begin toe pass along to you all those small pockets of eves that now seem so often to make up the pitch of my waking thoughts and stumbles? How can I begin to give you all that has made me the person I am and because you are of me, in me, gone from me, have begun to kneed and wittlemade you the person you too are becoming. Shall I begin with a memory?
We fall into earth long before we begin our step into flight and we are transfigured. If we understand anything, anything at all, it might be this simple truth: we migrate, continually, inside and out. We are tempered and transposed and tampered with by land and sky and sea. It shifts and shapes and sifts inside us, sitting until it (the trees, the water, the dusty earth) becomes us: the metamorphosis. Though is it really us who are transformed or have we been, all along, the transformer. Maybe it is we who bewitch and beguile the land and sea and sky. Maybe we ensorcel that which is around us, shape and hex it so that it resembles us, is defined by us, elliptically wakes inside us because it, place, is of us. We stain the land. We scent it with our hopes and fears and memories; we carve out from this migratory and shifting path, something else. We mark place with our scent, bend light upon its slippery back until it alights. A sky is dampened with yellow because we dream it to life. A sea opens wide its hilly mouth, small dots of cyan and amber teeth, because we have instrumented its awaking. Do we sense this?
“Does the world have nothing inside but sorrow?”–Andrei Platonov
Now, trying to finish this essay, these thoughts, scrambling to cull the photographs together in a way that makes sense, tossing them out into the world for others to see. Failure of the images to coalesce. Failure of the story to rhyme in a way that tints the head. Failure of the photographs to add up, to dream-catch the memories I ‘d had, the expectations for them I’d benchmarked along their ragged edges. A house of cards these images and I let them go. The words here have faired not better as I have struggled to pitch words against the silence of the photographs: ash and dust and bits of light and swatches of shadow, poorly calibrated exposures and thumb-stung negatives, dropped cameras and forgotten words. A mess, a wreck of pictures and a tempest of words. Back and forth between what I had seen and what I had remembered, coalescing. I am trying to offer something to my son and to my father, a gangway, a path, a constellation of moments that most likely only make sense to me, a double helix of words and images, of memories and calculations, or prescriptions and assides. I am lost to explain any of this but am trying to stitch my memories to the thatched stitching of my life’s body.
For the first time in years, I get out of my chair and walk to the store to buy a pack of cigarrettes. I smoke one and all, like a cornucopia of taste and sadness, of joy and illusion, of hope and despair, come funnelling into my body. How much time I have spent to say a simple thing to my father and to my son, how many words and photographs I have carved up to say a simple thing to my father and to my son, how, how to speak simply. Let me know, I ask myself in the dark coat of the winter night, how to tell them something simple: that I am made of them. That, beyond this, something simpler. The words and the photographs have failed and all along I had wanted only to say something simple.
Dad, of you I am made and without you I am nothing. Son, of you I am made and without you I am nothing.
A long, such a long time to understand a small balled thing, such a long time taken to enunciate a very simple thing. It is not DNA from which a family is constructed but time, bones of time enwrapped in the skin of a heart. This, the two of you have taught. Renegade pictures, grandiose, ineloquent words. All that banter. All that time. All those winged memories. Such a simple, fucking thing.
All that gaining and going. All that and all that I am
and so this morning darkness spreads thin the winter light…..