Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

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More Than One Mirror In This Space

Our D.C. trip was interesting from a photographic standpoint. I have great photographs from our Saturday excursion to visit my parents but those from the other days are below my usual standard. Part of the reason lies in the fact that I was helping Skylar use her camera a lot, which prevented me from getting in that non-fully-there zone I need to be in order to be at my artistic acme. More than that, though, the pleasure she derived from capturing important details of her experience of the trip led me to push my own aesthetic concerns aside. I was happier helping her to achieve her goals than to pursue my own. This is, I suppose, the essence of proper parenting.

I'm going to do an entry later about the Bean's arrival into the circle of family photographers -- a serious matter in my parents' eyes -- but wanted to share something from Saturday that captures a moment of particular significance. After leaving the rosebushes by my parents' front door, Bean headed over toward the woods to photograph some of the flowers along the lawn's increasingly indistinct edge. She had already gotten into the habit of reviewing her work immediately after shooting it, a process that involves sliding a switch on the camera. In my photograph here, she is pushing that approach one step further, looking back not only on what she just did, but also on the previous day's shots. When she came to this particular image on the camera's viewscreen, she paused:

It's from the previous night's meal at the wonderful Lebanese Taverna. Although the photo in question was taken from my perspective, sitting across the table from Skylar and Kim, it was actually Kim who snapped the picture. She extended her arm toward me, using my own "blind" self-portrait technique. I could see what was in the viewscreen, but didn't make any effort to guide her.

The photograph above is complex because A) it's about the way the three of us look at each other and at ourselves; B) because it fixes one moment in our personal history, in which another moment was being looked back upon; and C) because of the play of absence between that latter, past-perfect moment -- me looking at the composition of a photograph in which I will not figure -- and the former, perfect moment -- Skylar pausing to regard at a photograph of her and her absent mother -- in which I compensate for my absence in the earlier photograph by making a photograph from my perspective as one looking on at Skylar's looking. What we have here, in other words, is a circuit of looking that testifies to the power of photographs to return to us, though only in a flattened, inanimate form, what we are lacking in the present. I could write thousands of more words on the psychological dimension implicit in this photograph, but will spare you that in the interest of decency. If any of you have thoughts about my own thoughts here or perhaps about what it means for a child to make the transition from the subject of photographs, imprisoned within a frame constructed out of parental love, to a subject who has control over the making and viewing of photographs, I'd love to hear what you have to say.
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