Before sunrise this morning my low ceilinged room was snug with the presence of Alex and the breathy hum of a fan. I drifted off thinking of him slipping coins in blossoms on our walk home - his thick fingers delicately inserting the dull metal – the flowers bending on their stems as if resisting, then gripping the coin, then bobbing and nodding "yes" on their stalks. I woke just now with the cabin of the plane curving next to my head. It's dark too and full of motor drones. For a moment I forgot an entire day had happened and it seemed I'd slept while the bedroom lifted and transformed. Somewhere though Alex slipped out of this flying chamber. Boston glitters below me; miles back home sunlight glows on his skin.
In her workshop Mary Lampson
deconstructed her edit of a scene in Harlan County USA. She explained that she hinged a crucial emotional shift (playful to violent) on a shot of a cop turning his head, looking directly at the audience, then looking away. It’s a brilliant edit. I almost pity the guy. Who knows what that hard glance meant at the time but it has become a pivotal point in labor history. The very first time I saw this scene I saw my father in the face of that cop. Dedicated young policeman that he was, I was sure he would have fought against the strikers. I was young then and trying to be dedicated to simple ideals of justice myself. I remember the cruel, absolute, naïve anger I felt towards him, towards my entire family history for never struggling in the manner dictated by my newly awakened political alignments. Now in answer to that youthful viewer the cop/my father turns his head and his eye delivers the message “what a dumbass you were.”
Hanging with Mary afterward I wanted to thank her for that edit (and I should have) but I was enjoying laughing and bitching too much to shift our peer-to-peer present tense into personal history. All evening though I thought of other faces from the film – faces in quiet moments, in humorous and tender moments – all those glances that been shaped to say as much as any of the movie’s union speeches or the cries of its grieving mothers. I thought of the way Mike had filmed my mother and my father. How his eye caught their soft love and their hard love and the struggles written on their brows. I thought of Mary Weiss from Off Label –her face brittle but not breaking as she described her son’s suicide. I thought of other faces from other films and the faces of filmmakers and peers as well. My perfect film would be only long takes of faces, still and wordless but conveying the enormous battles between institutions and people; the quiet battles between individuals and the ghosts that life brings upon them; and finaly the knowledge that everything from fighting ferociously to simply fending off despair is heroic. Thank you Camden, and Mary Lampson, and especially Mike Palmieri for the film I will never make and will makes constantly whenever I look around.
Film Festival Parties – or Monster’s Ball – or things that
go click and paste to timeline in the night.
The festival parties here take place in large rented
houses, mansions even. It's mazing how the stately nature and personal history of these houses is lost to their generic, tourist friendly decor and the soullessness of rooms left empty most of the
year. Tonight's party is an inverse
haunting – the warm, physical living invade the dead body of the house, filling it with memories and histories of the horrors, heartbreaks, and triumphs
they gather in their films or see while working in this
business. At a documentary film party you will always here these words
spoken intimately and with gusto: genocide,
oppression, murder, torture, rape, refuge, exploitation, trauma, fraud, violence,
powerlessness, struggle … There is no doubting the political commitment of the people gathered in this
room but sometimes I’m sure that we make movies to have some control over the
horror film that life can be. I
love being in the presence of these wonderful ghouls all the more for that.
When I photograph Alex (or anyone I really care for) it's almost as if I fall into the early ideas of spirit photography – those theories of spirit radiations that also form images on photo emulsion. The image I want of Alex is not made by light striking the sensor but rather from the wave of emotion that shimmers up whenever I see him – a bright wide wave that is speckled with particles of worry that hang like dust in the sun. This is the subtle light that all lovers emit. Their eyes become photo sensitive plates that capture it from the air. Putting this into a photo is another matter. When I see these pictures they glow with what passes between us but Alex’s beauty is a radiant thing in itself and the special light I see might only register to my eyes.
These are images of Alex. These are not images of his way of laughing simply because he has received knowledge or put
his perceptions to work; nor of his generous but ironic enthusiasm for the
stories that get told beneath
make-up and booze at the drag club where he works; nor of the cooling of his body when
the bedroom sweat dries and the gentleness returns. I want these very impossible things to be visible in of every image I take of him. I want this of all my images of past lovers, of family, of the world. There are many ways to to take good photographs but for me it only happens – if it happens at all – when you want the impossible from them.