i) Scanned snapshots photos from 1980’s-90’s
“….A misunderstanding; I thought I could describe a ‘state’; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history”. CS Lewis; A Grief Observed, p47
It is a process, I agreed but I needed a history that could serve as a map. Past, present and future fiercely bonded together. Fear of you not being here had always lurked. Anger for allowing it to taint the security of knowing you were there rose up. Frustration that years of dread now served me no protection. There had been no preparation, no understanding, no acceptance.
There was however a continuance, this realised fear was familiar, I could link up episodes from the past and plot future ones orientated from my vantage point of absolute loss. Lost and in need of some history. I did have a solid collection of books and essays centring around death and mourning, it always had been firmly on my radar. I took direction reading what others thought and followed flights of gut feelings about random photographs from the past albumed in my mind as significant.
Absent History i; Tomb
I rummaged and found one of these photographs, the negative of an old colour snapshot taken in the Glasgow Necropolis. Me, perched on a large tomb. Confident in my place there. I had pointed to it from the entrance of the cemetery and said ‘I want my photograph taken by that one’. We hiked up to discover what I almost expected – the name on the tomb, John Henry Alexander, contained my fathers name. Thrilled, I couldn’t wait to tell him about it, the coincidence delighted us, he even went to visit it himself.
My intensified pull to find proof in photography brought this thrill of coincidence back. What is the link between a coincidence, a ‘concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection‘ and a death? A correspondence, feeding a draw or a pull for contact? This rush and thrill was the opposite of grief; it was a certainty, there was more to find, keep us connected, if this concurrence could be futuristic…it adhesed to my colliding sense of time and loss.
Proof of the invisible, of intangible links are there for the tracing in photography. If I had a hope of connection it might lie here. Much like my sighting of his negative space, I took the unassuming shadows of a negative and began a chase, driving the content of this poor quality image deep into the darkroom. Using high contrast settings, home made filters to translate the light to desaturated tones, extra sweet wrappers to lift out even more contrast and exaggerated cropping, I waited for the negatives weak proof to break or bloom. It was satisfying process, exploring and interrogating the truth of a photograph, yet resulted in suspended findings, neither proving nor disproving its own evidence.
Absent History ii: Passenger
Since a child always secure as his pillion passenger, motorbike trips were brimmed with security, and always that insecurity; a security that fed insecurity somehow. As I wrote before, I knew it would happen, it had happened. It will be. Calm. I had known all along. About finitude. Why then, so shocked like this? Stupefying grief riddles me.
I look stupefied in the test strip now, set beside him in a quick collage, tricking myself that we both looked at a phantom photographer, each with our own motorbike telling the photographer we knew, we could see them in their absence. Me baffled, unsure, him relaxed, sure, both merged as photographer and photographed, visibly present and absent at once.