1) The frivolous option
Well, I could have a go at a blatantly frivolous post – filled with grinning Easter bunnies & melting chocolate eggs. But, um, 't was rather the snow that was melting this morning, when I cycled through the wintry park, which was incongruously full of spring flowers and twittering birds. And with big blobs of wet snow falling off the tree- branches, and a wet frosty air one could get drunk on, while swoosh-ingly riding uphill.
2) The tragic option
But on the other hand. Easter! Such an opportunity for deep & doom-laden reflections! With its great tales of Suffering, Passion and Resurrection … And yes, later this day I may still very well switch off the phone, draw shut the curtains and immerse myself once again in one of Bach’s passions, these heartrending and ultimately redeeming reenactments of intensely humane passions - anguish, humiliation, treason, guilt, pain, love, sorrow , hope …
How not to feel moved by the Agony in the Garden - when this man, utterly forsaken and alone, prays to “let this cup pass from me”. How not to shudder at the torture of this “man of sorrows” , “derided, mocked and spat upon”. It is of course telling that, a few years ago, while contemplating a 15th century print of “the Mocking of Christ” (1) , I actually recognized the expressions of cruel glee on the faces of the persecutors: it were the very same expressions of sadistic delight as one could see on photos that circulated at the time, photos of the torturing at the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib.
So yes, the human condition being what it is, I can quite relate to the need for redemptive stories about a god who sends his son to partake, up to and including his very death, in agonizing human suffering.
3) The true story option
But of course I can also quite understand the need to celebrate budding flowers, fertile bunnies and tasty chocolate eggs. So for once, I might try not to give in to my penchant for ponderous posts.
And I might try to fill the page with more lively stuff, eg with an account of last Saturday’s pilgrimage, together with a friend, to Oscar Wilde’s and Marcel Proust’s graves at the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Yes, I could tell about Saturday’s photo-shoot adventures with M. in Paris! About the transportation of a tripod and a bag full of cameras in crowded metro-cars . About a raincoat (not mine!) carelessly cast aside in a downpour, only to be appropriately attired (il faut souffrir pour l'art) for a frivolous tribute to dear Oscar: a pink-glossed lipstick kiss pressed on his slightly pompous white tomb (again: not my lips!). Or about the waiting for the errant sun to break through the clouds so as to be able to take a photo of a shadow falling on Proust’s grave (quite a modest black stone), but for lack of enduring sunlight we had to resort to a black umbrella silhouette picture instead (yes, my silhouette and my umbrella this time). Or I could tell about the two cute and obliging boys with a map, who helped us to locate Sarah Bernhardt’s tomb, far less flamboyant a tomb than expected. And about M. bravely soldiering on with her dandy-esque boots, limping on the cemetery’s pathways paved with cobble stones.
4) Degenerating anyhow into needlessly ponderous ruminations
Ay, but can I just like that put M. in a story of mine ? I must confess here that I suffer from an outrageous kind of almost superstitious discreetness: thou shall not make likenesses of living people – thou shall not appropriate other people’s existences for your stories.
And surely that’s why, though an avid street photographer, I rarely take photos of people in the street: who am I to think that I could sum up what they really are about? Or, alternatively, who am I to merely take a photo of their appearance in a brief moment of existence, without bothering to capture their essence? And if I could capture other people’s souls, who am I to publicize them on my blog? So this blog as well as my Flickr-photo-pages are to remain eerily depopulated … ?
Ah, portraits …. Whether it are pictures in papers or magazines, taken by a professional photographer, or just snapshots, it’s rare that, starting from a mere portrait of someone I do not know, I feel able to fathom that person’s soul. I’ve often gazed at photos of unknown people– but however accurately they render each physical detail , however long & intensely I stare, I cannot make out who is behind that face. Maybe painters can do it, have the outer form reflect the inner workings of the soul? Like Rembrandt’s self-portraits – where every wrinkle and fold of his ravaged face cries out to our hearts.
Well, perhaps self-portraits are always more telling, expressing what the artist or the photographer wishes to express about her- or himself?
Oh and then there are the photos of people I do know personally, of people I love …. How evocative and poignant the portrait then becomes! Because the portrait then is a reminder, a token of everything we love and appreciate in that person. And because it allows us to sense the whole of the person in one intuitive, instantaneous grasp that no literary description could ever offer.
(1) the picture is not Schongauer’s “Mocking of Christ” (did not find a reproduction of that one) , but his “Carrying of the Cross” , scanned out of the Colmar-museum catalogue