Issue 10

Winter 2014


A Photographer’s Glossary of Love

Aperture is the beginning. The opening through which you were lured into light. Dare alla luce; dar a luz. You were given to light and your pupils dilated to welcome it – blue orbs so long opened to darkness the length of which you won’t see for a while.

What do you see with those tyro eyes when you look at me? A blur? Bokeh? My face a quiet shadow before shifting points of light? There are many languages to learn, though they often interweave. This word is from the Japanese boke – the pleasing blur. Though it also means witless or confused. Many things can confound the mind, from sleeplessness to senility to love.

You, on the beach at North Berwick. Sitting beneath the marram-bound dunes. Your sunhat casts you green. I won’t correct it. With your streaming skin you look pelagic, and that is its own truth. We all come from water and water re-shapes everything. Next summer the dunes and the sand skimming down to the waves will be entirely new.

Those shadows by your feet seem all wrong for someone just learning gravity. I dodge away the weight to untether you. It’s too soon to be subject to the laws of the physical world.

Exposure is evidence. That on this day, and in this place, we existed. For exactly the right amount of time the light entered my lens and fixed your presence.

I only know the you I perceive. I create you on film. But every medium has its limits. Is your half smile sadness or mirth?
Ghost Image
Your birthday. Your face above the candles in tangerine light. My long exposure conjures two of you - one mesmerized by candlelight, the other watching. But it will only be this way much later, when self is someone you see, as well as inhabit.  

High Contrast
February, under platinum skies, your mood like the shifting weather. Clouds sculling in off the Atlantic, routed by sunlight. You live your life in high contrast. It’s a quality much valued in art, though difficult to sustain in life.  
You’ve clambered on top of a trig point, and the mountains unfold around us. My focus is sharp to the cragged horizon, but it’s not infinity that enthralls me; it’s you in the space between me and the edge. Behind it, earth rebounds to an infinity not inscribed on a focus ring.   
I can duplicate you endlessly. Send you in bytes over continents. But it only happened once, that you ate that plum from the tree that no longer exists, and none of us owned.   

So much is counter-intuitive. Blue is hotter than red. Your face is as overcast as the sky, so I shift the white balance towards blue and retrieve your skin’s warmth.   

A wide-angled lens is more deceptive than a zoom. You’re on a hill above our city, and it spreads out behind you like autobiography. But the missing image is the one you see in front of you. 

I took a photograph of your wrist. Just at the point where the radius and ulna flare softly to cap the eight carpal bones that lie like bound pebbles. I was so close I could almost see them under your skin. So close you were my own skin.

From your birth I’m newly aware of our death. In every picture I see the negative spaces. Having you is remembering what not having you was. Now, and not now, are both shapes. Where did I come from? Where will I go? Both questions rely on a grasp of now’s opposite.

You’re standing inside a Norman church. Above you light flares from a stained glass window – Virgin and child, and two kneeling saints. The brightness leaves you in shadow. Maybe the darkness is its own benediction. I won’t try to light you – you’ll emerge for yourself. 

The child on the rocking horse is your father. Four decades later, the same shaped face, the same fall of hair, a central lock glancing your forehead. Of your grandfather there’s an imaginary print. I could stack them together and trace the same lines.

Quartz Date
12/11/2007 branded on the corner of an image of you by the sea. Hoisting a wet disc of slate as large as your head. But this stilled moment is too meagre. It doesn’t hold the years you lived up to now, or what lay beyond. Each time I look I see a different version of you.   

However high the resolution, the closer I look the less I see. Too near, and all I can discern is the pigment on the paper’s grain. It’s better to leave you the space that spans elbow to wrist, and recollect that this is where you used to lie.
Shutter Speed
Sometimes I hold the shutter open the better to see you run, or fly. Your limbs and face blur but I defer for a moment the curtain clicking shut. 

True Colour
The colour is almost right, but not right. I can see this clearly when I look at your eyes, which look back at me in a colour which was never your own. We dream half the time in black and white; in all my dreams your eyes are always right.
What do bees see when they look at you? A spectrum beyond anything I or the camera can grasp. The image of you is like my own in the mirror. But there are worlds of you I can’t comprehend.
I chose you. Did you choose me? What I see through the viewfinder is offered, not possessed. Now you understand yourself as a subject, I rely on your generosity. 

You bear my watermark, like it or not. My lesser self claims this is mine. You would do better to consider it a talisman. When I no longer hold you, it’s the best I can give. 

There is my subjectivity, and you in the lens. And then there are elements. Silver, nitrogen, hydrogen, iodine, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine. And xenon, filling your face with clear bright light. Most of them are us, except Xenos – strange and rare and yet here.   

The prints of me as a child are long faded and yellow. Although entrusted with the arrest of time, they’re as frail as our bodies and as fugitive as memory.

I can think back to a time without you. Can you imagine those years? Can I imagine a time without me? For you to exist necessitates me, and all the way backwards. Can I conceive a time without us?


Lindsay Shen