By: Ken La Rive 101897Ó
Once, when very young, we sought to finish a student assignment. Searching, we happened upon an almost empty room in an old folks ward. The afternoon sun reflected off the polished wooden floors, filtered by old lace curtains pulled back from the blinds. It was a glittering spectacle, as there in the middle of the room, was the bent and crippled body of a very old woman in a wheelchair. Bent she was, as if weighed down. It was as if the years were tons; like a butterfly being pressed between the pages of a book. Our photo assignment was, “decadence,” and yes, here was a subject… a subject for study.
We stood back, measuring the balance in imbalance, the symmetry in asymmetry of our teachers philosophical art, and clicked our first pictures. She didn’t move. To our novice eyes she seemed somehow, inanimate.
We moved in and around with macro and flash: a study of a blue veined hand clutching the wheelchair grip, another as a wisp of gray hair on parchment colored cheeks, the bend of the neck from a twisted spine, the unmoving and dangling head that almost touched her knees, and the cup of a crisp white collar showing through the dark green of her sweater. It seemed an eternity. Click….Click….Click…we went, moving in slow motion around her.
And there, under the scope of our three lenses, highlighted by the golden glow blend of light and Extachrome, I heard a whispered exclamation that echoed in the room, and in my mind. It bounced on the empty walls, without thought, and motivated only for the rush for a spontaneous picture… “Look, Ken! There’s spit coming out of her mouth!”…and I saw it. That perfect accent, a crystalline syrup of spittle, sparkling in afternoon sun. I debated, for a moment, to put on my star filter, but was afraid to miss the moment. At the instant, I thought I understood. I, we, thought we saw it for what it was. The decadence of a life. The last few moments, alone in an empty room...
We stood back, measuring the balance in imbalance, the symmetry in asymmetry of our teachers philosophical art, and watched. That ancient hand, holding a tiny white handkerchief, slowly but with deliberate movement, wiped her mouth.