Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Alright, take a closer look at that picture in my last entry, the one of Skylar in her Dorothy outfit, standing amid the red-and-greenery of our Sonoran front yard. I've taken enough photos from that spot to know what background effects I can achieve without compromising the foreground. Sometimes they work out, sometimes not. But I know there's a chance. I'm pleased with this portrait on several grounds, not least of which is that it serves as a self-portrait that perfectly captures my relation to the spaces I inhabit or, more properly, haunt. It matters enormously that Skylar is not looking at my looking, that her gaze in fact represses my own, only to have the repressed return in the window behind her.

When she was first born, Kim and I used to joke that our little girl thought her father was a camera:

In this case, I wonder whether the onset of the reality principle -- "The camera is not my father" -- would actually have taken her further from the truth than the fantasy it supplanted.

This line of inquiry leads to the vexing question of whether learning to ignore the camera when the father is its bearer is a blow or an aid to patriarchy. Joan Didion explores this topic brilliantly in her novel Play It As It Lays, though in that case it's not the father himself but his replacement, the lover, who takes the pictures. She gives an excellent sense of what it feels like to constantly be on the object side of the objectif. So does Blow Up, incidentally, though that may not have been Antonioni's intention. In both cases, the identification of photography with the male look is impossible to overlook. Maybe Skylar isn't thinking along such rarified lines, though she is no stranger to abstraction. I do know that she usually refuses to strike a for-the-camera pose for me, even though she will gladly do so for her mother.

These days, I say, "Smile!," in order to make Skylar resist the injunction visibly: better an animated face than one frozen in anticipation or inert refusal. In fact, I'm happiest when she isn't looking at me. It makes for better pictures, more often than not. What I'm trying to figure out is whether the pleasure I take in this particular photograph of Skylar in her red shoes as a masked self-portrait is a pleasure I should be trying to resist or at least limit on ideological grounds. Because in the end I'm still looking over Skylar's shoulder, monitoring what she's looking at so I don't have to pay attention to my own looking. Then again, that's what I just did, isn't it? Time to turn the murderous portion of my subjectivity on the part of me that takes pleasure in writing about the troublesome pleasures of self-reflexivity. Maybe infinite regress is a developmental concept. The more you look at yourself, the further you retreat into a world where you see yourself going on forever. I think I'll go listen to Tommy and follow Pete Townsend's lysergically sage advice.


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