Testaments i; The garden during his wake; the mountain where he died
In the first full bloom of spring. Both beautiful, dear and familiar places I rushed to. Really rushed to by slow flight as slow shock descended. I was searching and recording as the wake settled into the house. Building up a cache of films and files, but I wasn’t present when he parted and I couldn’t find him beyond his waked body. I kept gathering evidence to hoard and scrutinise, too afraid to develop the footage.
“Trauma is stored in bits and pieces in the brain, it is important to create a narrative to store it properly, when you put words to it and hear those words you can store it better”. Dr Rachel Gibbons; Good Grief Festival; workshop on traumatic loss 2020
I wanted to agree but the narrative sank deeper on my bones and it didn’t sit right.
Then finally in the winter printing began in the darkroom, in a steady, stunned relief, finally watching them emerge in welcomed images. It pained, comforted and controlled me in equal measure, a desperate calm tearing and a strong, pointless pull.
A series of test strips of my family house during the wake, and from the mountain where he died, they hung dutifully from clothes pegs in my darkroom.
I saw them from the corner of my eye and turned to look a long time, the test strips made sense to my fractured mind, partly because of their own split and fractured state. But fractured for a purpose, with a direction. It was helpful how they fitted the splintered thin thoughts, images flicking across my mind now. They fitted, nothing else did. Finding something that fits a fractured situation is a huge relief, gives it a place… legitimising. Legitimising like a theory. Like a process. Test strips, what are they? Tests, the simplest experiment, to answer questions; How much time do I need to see this picture clearly? How much light will be right? What cut from this scene will each reveal? Which slice of time will my random framing have exposed? As I stared at them hanging by clothes pegs, involuntary coherent images settled into my vision at last.
Testaments ii; The Happy Gazebo; scattered shadows, baffled house
“A strange weave of space and time: the unique appearance or semblance of distance, no matter how close it may be.” Walter Benjamin, Photography, p518
Joyful shadows caught in the bright white of the gazebo. A gazebo? Surely a sign of summer parties, happy weddings. The backyard obliged, accepted its role to stage a sunny display of dappled shadows for the duration of the wake. A brand new surface, a structure, a screen, erected to host overflowing shock, overflowing wakers, instead exposed previously unseen scattered shadows. Latent images. It almost felt ridiculous, greeting them now. How happy it all was. Happiness? The windows of the house blankly reflect the scene, screen, surface, mimicking my bafflement. In a detachment of confused delight I walked out into a live display of shadows. I photographed, took many angles and aspects as the light changed each duplicated perspective. I had wondered before if I understood Benjamin’s description of aura, but now I felt it slowly shatter and change, as tentatively predicted, into shock.