Friday, April 17, 2009


Photography of the everyday, of the absolutely ordinary, is on the class menu for this coming week - but one thing that is inescapable is the way in which such photographs are bound to overlap with photography and memory.   I'm in inescapable commemorative, proleptically nostalgic mode this weekend, knowing that every picture that I take here in Silver Lake is in many ways an archival object, trying to capture the essence of a perfectly lovely house in which I've been so very happy.   And there's little point in pretending that Highland Park, whatever its leafy - well, now that it's spring, its leafy - merits, including its quietness (as opposed to tonight's police helicopter overhead trying to rustle someone or something out of the next street, which is blocked off by a police car; zooming cars; and the inevitable ice-cream van playing Pop Goes the Weasel - or, as I found out today, this C17th London song transmuted in the US into "Round about the chicken house/The possum chases the weasel."   It smelled of skunk outside, this morning, but that's something else again).

What I've been looking for today are little corners of the unimportant that seem to signal decay, departure, the melancholic - a table with traces of former leaves and plants left in the grubby dust as though they were doing their best to photograph themselves onto the tin surface, a few fallen petals, a crumbled and possibly squirrel-chewed paper lantern on the deck. Because it's going to be heart-wrenching (more for Alice than myself, since it's really her house, but for us both) to pack up in June, I'm not so sure it'll be that easy to take valedictory photographs then: the freneticism is likely to block out the kind of calm that's necessary for the quiet perverse enjoyment of imminent loss.   Barthes wrote a lot, of course, about photography as a form of death, but - writing, as he was, in the midst of grief for his mother - he didn't really write enough about the power of the photograph to sum up the place that is no more, or at least, that no longer exists as one's habitual environment.   So I've been thinking how to do this (in advance) without falling into too many cliches involving, say, mist - which is, admittedly, rather absent from Los Angeles in April.

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