As we enter Autumn, and my neighbor’s huge old oak tree begins to shed, I reflect upon photography and the magical, inexorable relationship between life and death which our medium so subtly and elegantly renders.
In my driveway, there are oak leaves with acorns attached. The leaf I pick up has dark spots and is starting to dry and curl but the acorn is quite green and, within a month or so, will lose its adorable little cap, which a friend comes to collect for her cats to bat around the floors.
That leaf and that acorn, like a father/mother and child, personifies the nature of something lost and something saved. In reality, the acorn often gets swept off into my garden and, in the Spring, I find young oak tree shoots all over.
“In its allusion to photography, the moment lost in real-time is the moment saved on a fine membrane of silver gelatin or, less romantically, as pixels. Nonetheless, the spiral of life becomes manifest in the photograph”, as Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, so eloquently and personally confides to his readers.
When we look upon an old photograph, as I, at this very moment of writing, gaze at the albumen carte de visite of my great-great grandmother, Julia Selinger de Forga, I am drawn to her life, long gone, but am able to see her as she stood in the studio, Salon de Fotografía Hecht, posed with a book and a chair under the weight of her arm. This photograph was taken in Spain, when she was on the Grand Tour of Europe in 1845 with her father, a German residing with her in distant Perú.
She is alive to me. The image, of her dress, her hair, her graceful hand, allow me, because of the magical mixture of egg whites, silver nitrate, etc., to enter a time lost and regain some of it. The moment captured, like the acorn, is not the same as its predecessor but a new rendering, a variant of it, still something that retains the life of the original.
This is the reason I love photography. I wanted to be an archaeologist, I thought, in sixth grade. I studied Classics in college, but, until I stumbled upon photography, I did not understand then that the coincidence of past and present is fully fused within the photograph.
To learn more about Liese Ricketts please visit her page at Liese Ricketts.