Monday, October 1, 2007
More thoughts on photos and meaning
Over the weekend I've been thinking more about photos, those historical/artistic records we figure will outlast us but that, in the most important sense, are as brief as our faces (John Berger).
The examples I gave of knowledge I had of the people in the 1966 photo of young men and airplanes at Lake Powell, knowledge that supposedly would disappear when I do, weren't as good as they might have been. I listed names and professions and what became of some of us after the photo was taken.
Better examples might have been taken from the thinking I've been doing while trying to read the photo for some writing I'm doing.
I was in Boise, for instance, following traces left by my brother John before he died of AIDS in 1992, when I stepped right into Larry Echohawk's campaign for Governor. The contrast between his extremely public and successful life and John's death in a cheap apartment across the street from the State Capitol was painful. Those thoughts and memories create an aura (see Walter Benjamin) that no one besides me can experience.
The future Mayor of Farmington is interesting to me because of his role in the 1974 demonstrations by Navajos in Farmington after three Navajo men were tortured and killed by Farmington High School students. The Mayor, a kind and gentle and generous man, excoriated the Federal Civil Rights Commission's "Farmington Report" as the product of a socialist government and claimed there was no racism to speak of in our red-neck, oil-boom town.
I look into the faces of the five generous men who have brought us here in their airplanes, I look at our faces, and I try to trace present and future beliefs and affiliations. I scan the photo most intensely for explanations of the racism that raises its ugly head at the most awkward times in my own psyche indelibly formed by this and other events tied to my home town.
"And our faces, my heart, brief as photos."