Friday, 9 October 2015

Is he one of ours?

I don’t have any post-mortem photos in my family collection, but I do have a few that come close.


I have no idea who this character is, yet he has a place in the scheme of things, and a story that that was lost the moment he floated free from the memories of those who knew him. His sad anonymity leaves him stranded in a forgotten frame. He has travelled, through a lens and into limbo.

What can we judge from a face, or a pose? Well, the truth is, he can be whatever we want him to be. A kindly uncle, a scheming businessman, a sworn bachelor caught out in his Sunday suit.

How about the setting? Inside a marquee, a funeral parlour, at the site of a grizzly crime, perhaps? A police inspector frozen with a flash for the daily papers?

For me, the great fascination resides in the fact that he had a voice, a laugh. He would have shed tears, of joy and sorrow. He breathed the air, and in quiet moments, possibly before sleep, he would have been conscious of his heartbeat and all the realities that particular awareness brings. Later, he would have dreams, a flood of dramatic episodes and peaceful sensations that would help him imagine what might be, in his waking hours.

But today he can be regarded as dead. Dead, but for this photograph where he relives a brief moment, each time we look upon his image. A photograph that captured an expression, his dimensions and proportions, half a thought, the spark of an idea, a secret, the beginning of a smile, a single heartbeat.

32 comments:

  1. He looks so stiff that he could be dead. If it weren't for the backlighting, it would be hard to tell whether he was standing or lying down.

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    1. I hadn't thought of him that way before, but he does, doesn't he?

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  2. Definitely a kind face. Sad that there is no real story for him but I recently bought a stack of old photos from the early 1900s - all anonymous people - and one day I'll give them all a story and hopefully make them real.

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    1. I inherited this one, among many, from a distant relative. Perhaps his story was more interesting than anything I could invent?

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  3. I like your thoughts about who this person might be. In particular, your final sentence speaks to the heart of all sepians who peer through their albums wondering about the substance of the people in the photos.

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    1. Thanks, Helen. The single heartbeat synchronised to the click of a camera shutter, is fascinating, I find.

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  4. There have been very few times I have looked at a picture of myself or my parents or siblings or friends and not known exactly what we had been doing & where we were when the picture was snapped immediately bringing forth sweet memories. Photographs are eternal in that respect. I look at photos now of grandparents & greats & wonder what they were thinking and how they were feeling when the pictures were taken?

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    1. I know what you mean. What words were exchanged in the moments before and after the snap? What did they do for the rest of the day?

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  5. The little flash dots of his eyes looking directly at the camera lens makes it a very artful photo. A think the specialty of Sepia Saturday is the preservation of anonymous people frozen in time like this gentleman. He definitely has that stock photo quality of an "everyman" which I like for its visual cues to our imagination. I could easily see him as a character in a novel or short story.

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    1. Mike, he may well end up in a novel or short story. It would be fun to bring him back to life, albeit a life totally different from his 'known' existence.

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  6. It looks like he is walking towards us from the light that is reported in near death experiences.

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  7. Amazing photo and reflective essay. I like his wee smile.

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    1. Thanks, Christine. There is the trace of a smile, isn't there?

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  8. He's a nice man. I would trust him. But we can only speculate, will never know.

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  9. This gentleman strikes me as a friendly character, even though we know nothing about him. Lots of our sepian photographs are of people who are now long dead, but were full of life at the time they were photographed, even if they don't look too happy to be posing for the camera.

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    1. Agreed, Jo. they exist in a sepia stillness, while our imaginations go wild.

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  10. He does have a kind face, though. The background looks like a satin sheet hung on a wall..which I guess could also be a coffin lining, except I am sure he would not be slightly grinning and eyes open for that.

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    1. Terri, "a coffin lining". Now there's a thought!

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  11. It's true for all those photographs of nameless people that we have in our collections. Surely everyone who has old photographs has a few unidentified people, right?

    I think your man has just the hint of a smile, but who knows.

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    1. You're right, Nancy. I have a whole load of strangers lurking in my collection. Some of them have names, but their stories faded many years ago, and now there's no one left to ask.

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  12. Welll it could be a passport photo if it was cropped. Somebody trying to take an 'official’ image of some sort? I enjoyed this thought-provoking piece Martin (and the Sepians’ comments).

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    1. Good point, Nell. You've got me wondering now. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  13. He was important to somebody who chose to keep the photo. It's always such a challenge to figure out the who and the why.

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    1. Wendy, I'm not sure, but it's entirely possible this photo was taken by my late great uncle. Should that be the case, I still have no idea what the relationship might have been between him and this man.

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  14. Christopher Lee's less successful brother?

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  15. Look at the smile lines around his eyes. I like his face and think he would have been a friendly man.

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    1. Lorraine, I can see what you mean. I'm wondering if he's removed a pair of spectacles for this photograph, too.

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  16. I like your take on the prompt this week.
    :)

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