Archive for October, 2011

2011/10/20

Memorabilia

by mdjb

… I picked up on the heather
      And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather—
      Well, I forget the rest.
from Memorabilia by Robert Browning

I am tired of having to prove my qualification over and again. Yet, once more I proffer a shaky promise to investigate possibilities and make good on my investment.
A stray dog looked at us with sad appearing, mournful eyes as if making commentary on the choosing of our path, as if to say she had tread that way, and losing her pups, discovered it led to no place anyone would want to reside.
Memory is the mother of all fire. The further removed it is from the spark, the brighter it burns, but briefly, for without feeding afresh, the flames are diminished, then, and sputter, dying. A friend suggested to me, “If you’re so unhappy there, why don’t you go home?” I did not respond with either of the thoughts running through my mind, the first being that home no longer existed, and the other that I stood tenuously in the middle of a track that had not run its course. Soon enough, however, the downed flag came into view.
Try as I might, I could not produce the transcript, based as it was on a fallacious scenario. What had taken years, many years, to build had been constructed with faulty materials, and when the contract was requested for review, by an independent auditor, the edifice began to tremble. I had always known it would, but never when. All those tremors were signs I should have heeded, coming as I did from a place where the ground is solid and hardly ever causes worry.
Still, I lingered over finding a solution, and was distracted by bright hues and melodious rhythms, often coming up a winner, forgetting joy and defeat may resonate as briefly as the memory of fire.
On the return trip, I noted an eviscerated dog’s corpse scattered in pieces across the road. The overall impression was one of dull red, no longer the color of blood, and I wondered for a moment if it was the same sentry who had warned us at the start of our journey.
I leave you all now to play the game as best you may. I have a friend to help me find my way, and so, we head to Paris and another life I never led. This time, this place, ignite something onto which I can and will hold.
It is late, and I am tired, as I have stated, but the beauty here is that the realization will come when it no longer has consequences over which I must be concerned.

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2011/10/10

You’ve Seen Their Faces

by mdjb

Erskine had scolded her once before for artfully arranging objects around a poverty stricken woman before taking what she meant to be a telling photograph, and at the time Margaret was taken aback by his remarks, thinking that was what an artist did to make art. Found art was a new wrinkle to her, now that she was involved in photo-journalism. When the moment was right in recognizing irony, there could be no argument as to manipulation. They were now ostensibly committed to documentation which was not to be regarded as propaganda. Still, she did not remind him of his former stance when it came to putting words into the mouths of her subjects. Erskine was a writer after all. Still riding high on the success of the theatrical version of his Tobacco Road, there was no stopping him. He believed he had found the true sound of America.
It was not long before she joined him in contriving voices to caption her pictures. She had her own celebrity to maintain, and if he could profit by bringing attention to the plight and proclivities of poor, illiterate dirt farmers, who was she to say he was wrong? Though it rankled that he had once implied that what she did was false, now that he claimed the same actions taken upon text were merely enhancement, she began to see his point of view, and sought opportunities with a vengeance.
They had gone to Louisville to take pictures of the flood victims, and on that cold winter day in 1937 when they happened upon a breadline of average looking people standing under a billboard featuring a white middle-class family taking to the road in their sporty new automobile, she saw irony in the juxtaposition of the row of black faces underneath and the bags and baskets these people carried. The caption on the sign negated the need for either Margaret herself or Erskine to come up with something though she believed he would want to anyway. Always ready with her flashbulbs in place, she caught the scene, and for a brief moment felt she had trumped her husband because, truth to tell, without the caption in place there was nothing so remarkable about the people standing there save for the difference in the color of their skin from the shiny white faces gleaming above. Without the words the irony merely stemmed from a racist attitude she had always stated she could not abide.
Later, when their book met with criticism even from the redoubtable Dorothea Lange, Margaret was crushed. It was as if the critics had seen through the veneer. Having forgotten what raced through her mind that dreary morning in Louisville, she had taken a great liking to that one particular photo and forever after kept it in mind when she attempted to exonerate herself of contrivance of any kind.
But take a look, and after you have seen the faces, ask yourself, “Where is the irony?” What is the biggest difference between the people at ground level and those above, besides the fact that one group is standing and the other riding? Without their baskets in hand, you might not even guess for what the former were waiting, though a little knowledge of history reminds you they had to wait for it for another thirty years.

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