Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Black and white photographs, there's a certainty to them that freezes me.  Even in those famous ones where a moment of pain, doubt or confusion is captured, accidently nailed down for all of us who follow, the faces seem to know more than I do.

Maybe colour is too messy.  My first day at the shop*, I crashed my bike on the way there.  Tore up my knee pretty badly.  I spent my first hours as a small business owner with blood dripping on my boot, eventually I had to turn my sock inside out because it had become crusty with dried blood.  The colour of it was vivid, shocking, I would look down and not know what to do, not believing it was real.  I can picture the same wound on a solider from the Second World War, published in some high school text, grainy and grey.  He might be grimacing or making light of it, the fear of his situation might be clear in his eyes but those old photos never seem to show people unsure of their reality.

I wake at night and wonder what the hell I've gotten myself into and don't fall back asleep.  I work 10 and 12 hours a day but none of it seems real.  Any yet I'm not petrified, not like I thought I'd be.

My daughter now remembers me even though we only have an hour or so together before she goes to bed at night.  She can't possibly see how confused I am; she seems to know that everything will be alright.  Could it be that I'm so old to her that she sees me in black and white, all the mess and existential angst leached away?  Am I just surface and certainty to her the way old faces in monochrome are to me?  Perhaps.

But then it doesn't really matter does it?  Despite everything I will still tickle her feet until she screams with toddler laughter.  I will still crumble when she puts her head down next to mine and clutches me tight.  I will lock my uncertainty of everything inside my skull.  In technicolour, in greyscale, in hand-bloody-tinted daguerreotype even if that's what it takes:  I will be as real as she needs me to be.

*We've purchased a bike store in a small town in Australia.