I’m in rural Pennsylvania, sitting by a window in a fieldstone cottage, in a hollow deep in the woods, in the precise location where my father died, seven years ago to the day. I’ve not been back here on this date since, and last night I woke wondering if there might be something to theories of seven-year cycles of life, if I’d unintentionally stayed away, and only now returned.
Looking at your photos of white marble and black granite quarries, I understand that they are images of absence. In depicting spaces of removed rock, you show voids, not remains. This is only apparent by comparison: they are the same image.
Commemorating, or moving on, and what meaning we find in objects or absences. After my father died I made a photo of his body. I don’t think I could have said why, other than that it was something I did in a blur of sorrow. Now that act feels somehow transgressive. A death mask used to be a necessary form of commemoration, a way of signaling completion by abstracting death into plaster or stone. But its modern photographic equivalent seems atavistic.
I’ve only looked at that image once, just after I took it, and I’ve never mentioned that it exists, and now it is buried under seven years of image files. Last night I began wondering where it might be and if I could stand to look at it again, and if simply knowing of its existence might be keeping open a conduit to the past, even if that opening is painful. And then I remembered Brecht’s famous line in the Threepenny Opera, “first comes the devouring, then comes the moral.” We act, sometimes without knowing, sometimes in grief, and only later give our acts meaning. And then I thought again of Plato’s story of Leontius coming upon corpses, and allowing his eyes to devour the scene, and then feeling ashamed. And I realized that we gorge upon images with the animal hunger of the undernourished. Only once we’ve eaten our fill do we ask what it is we’ve consumed.