Saturday, 18 October 2014

WORDS OF LOVE.


I mentioned a while ago that an old friend had contacted me across forty years; he said he was dying, I didn't know what to do but I decided to enter a correspondence with him.  He's still here, by the way, after relatively novel cancer treatment, seems, in fact, remarkably more healthy than your correspondent, who doesn't have a terminal illness, at least not yet, although we shall all have one, sooner or later.  

The correspondence, anyway, in its second email, contained a photograph of he and his wife with an indication   - I've shown you mine, now you show me yours - that I reciprocate.  Pigs might fucking fly.

I explained to him that I shared the distrust of photographic image portraits evinced by the Native Americans, the idea that somehow the photograph stole the soul, that in a split-second it sought to capture the uncapturable - and corrupt it.  There wouldn't be any 'photos of his old pal, parseccing their way, formless, through cyberspace, reincorporating themselves on his laptop. Certainly not.  There would be no Oh, Ishmael hasn’t aged at all/very well; there would be nothing to be erroneously interpreted from a fragment, a stolen moment; he’d just have to fucking well read, like the rest of us do.

Doesn’t seem to have deterred him and he often acknowledges “some good words, there, Ishmael,” and maybe, at the nearly-last moment, I may upset, just a little, the conventional applecart which seems to have been his life, maybe that is the point of the correspondence, a rattling of the chains; life in the old dog, yet; many’s a good tune played on an old fiddle.
 How should I know;  people write to me and I write back as cordially and wholesomely as I may.

Coincidentally, though, I was looking in my Lapham’s Quarterly earlier on and found, side-by-side, two other expressions of my own  cautionary note on the value of the image;  one is from before-before, one from the present and I thought, on reading them,  that a lamentation, a regret, a warning are as likely to be framed as elegantly and as lovingly as anything else, be it high-falutin’ poetry or two-and-a-half minute, Rockabilly  love song. Here they are then, Words of Love. 




Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977

When we are nostalgic, we take pictures.  It is a nostalgic time right now and photographs actively promote nostalgia.  Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects being photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer.  A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feeling because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists.  All photographs are memento mori.  To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s or thing’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability.  Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

Juana Ines De La Cruz, 1690
“She attempts to minimise the praise occasioned by a portrait of herself, inscribed by Truth which she calls Ardor.”

     This that you gaze on, colourful deceit, that so immodestly displays Art’s favors, with its fallacious arguments of colours is to the senses cunning counterfeit,

      this on which kindness practised to delete  from cruel years accumulated horrors, constraining time to mitigate its rigours and thus oblivion and age defeat,

    is but  an artefact, a sop to vanity, is but a flower by the breezes blowed, is but a ploy to counter destiny,

     is but a foolish labour, ill-employed, is but a fancy, and, as all may see, is but cadaver, ashes, shadow, void. 

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Get over it. It's only a bloody photograph!

Baron

Anonymous said...

Get over it. It's only a bloody photograph!

Baron

call me ishmael said...

No, Herr Baron, it is much more. Are you unaware of the clamour about ex-girlfriend, intimate 'photos being published willy-nilly; of the revulsion at child pornography and would you say to the subjects of these photographs that they should get over it, whatever that means?

Nothing is just a photograph, that is just what those two pieces say, images come freighted with artifice, to which we add what we call interpretation; represetation by painted, snapped or digitised media is complex and untrustwortyu, get over that.

Bungalow Bill said...

I find the banal family photogrhs most of us have accrued especially saddening to review years later. Some irrecoverable instant, and knowing what came afterwards. That is very potent from Juana Ines de la Cruz, of whom I had never heard, and I see from Wikilies that she was another one, so many of them women, to have been cut down by the forces of darkness; she had to sell her books and other things she had gathered and was warned about getting above herself.

SG said...

Just watching Schama on Rembrandt whilst reading this Mr I. I don't know if a photograph captures the soul, but it really is just a two dimensional snapshot. How many dimensions does a painter with the insight and skill of a Rembrandt capture? A rhetorical question of course.

Bungalow Bill said...

In fairness, it looks on closer inspection as though de la Cruz largely cut herself down. Anyway, a rich poem thank you.

Caratacus said...

Which is why ole Caratacus feels a touch misanthropic when attending some event or other and you can't see properly for the forest of fucking mobile phones being held aloft. Are people so distanced from Life that they cannot just live the moment and experience to the full the joy of just being there?

(Totters off to the decanter in search of another sharpener ...)

call me ishmael said...

I have wept at the Rembrandts in the Reijksmuseum, mr sg, but at the divine craft, not the subject matter. You should go, if you haven't. Vermeer, too; those Dutchmen.

call me ishmael said...

It has become as though the digitised reality is more important, your majesty, than reality itself; i-GlobaCorp colonising Life itself.

call me ishmael said...

I had to stop myself sharpening the punctuation on both of them, mr bungalow bill; I didn't paste them, I copied them out, you see, and kept thinking, That's misspelt, that should be a full stop but that's the way they were. I think I preferred Susan Sontag and time's relentless melt but both are friendly hands, reaching over both art and artifice for human contact, albeit that in order to do so they needs must deploy both; odd, that poetry stuff of yours.

SG said...

Thanks Mr I. Alas I have not visited the Reijksmuseum - I gather it has recently benefited from a rather fine refurbishment so a visit could be timely. In the meantime Rembrandt is on at the National Gallery which is much closer at hand. Re: your love of craft over subject matter - it is the skill of the marksman that matters rather than the position he shoots from. Perhaps this is why many of your contributors and readers wander in from the other end of the political spectrum to that occupied by your goodself.

oldrightie said...

All nostalgia governs mortality and the fear thereof.

call me ishmael said...

Eventually, mr sg, the only place to be is in No Man's Land, shooting both ways, and comforting the wounded and dying, isn't it?

call me ishmael said...

I don't know about that, mr oldrightie, now that nostalgia is commodified, packaged and sold, Life as a Greatest Hits album; as they say, nostalgia ain't what it used to be and the older I grow the more suspicious I become of it's mawkish allure, in others and in myself. Missing Courtesy is one thing, missing the Moody Blues and flared trousers is quite another.

Mike said...

Images are just that - images, raw data. Its what they eye sees and how the mind interprets that counts.

Since I started wearing specs for reading, I've noticed how its changed my perception of things, eg: some days I think the dog is looking fat; when I take the specs off he looks OK. Its got me doubting my senses now. Is green really green? Well not to my colour-blind mate who only realised after university when he applied for a job at British Rail, and was rejected.

call me ishmael said...

Leaving aside personal interpretations - which are infinitely unique - what is worrisome about the widespread digitising of reality is that people no longer know or care about the difference - thirteen year-old boys demanding pornstar sex from their girlfriends, for instance; that creep Ray Cole carrying sex pictures of himself, for instance; everybody thinking they're in the movies, everybody thinking they're a comedian.

My late brother wore glasses all his life, mr mike, and every once in a while would take them off, throw them on the ground and jump on them.

Anonymous said...

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Enjoy the transient moment. Not through a camera's lens or a painter's mind.

The World is now full of voyeurs living through their iPhones. Secondhand lives through secondhand experience. People wax lyrical about a painting but forget to look the beauty that exists everywhere.

Baron
ps. It's only a bloody photo!