Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A coat of paint

New York City, 1998

I found these pictures last week while rummaging in an album for something quite different. In the Easter holiday before our finals, we skipped town, boarded a plane bound for NYC and took off on a proper adventure. Me, my boyfriend, and three of the coolest women I know roamed Manhattan for five days.

We ate pretzels on the Staten Island Ferry, breakfast at Tiffany's, and Chinese takeout in those little cardboard boxes at the top of the Empire State Building. We went on the Ricki Lake Show as audience members and we drank cocktails in the coolest bar we'd ever seen. We hung out with a man and his cat in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, and with another man and his vintage clothing store, listening to his band (which turned out to be pretty cool, in retrospect, as the other half of his band is one of Echo and the Bunnymen).

We were young and carefree and, I think, pretty photogenic.

I also found a quotation I've been thinking about for a while now. It's from 'A Life's Work' by Rachel Cusk:

When I look at old photographs of myself they seem to resemble the casts of Pompeii, little deaths frozen in time. I haunt the ruin of my body, a mournful, restless spirit, and I feel exposed, open to the air, the weather, and to the scrutiny of others. I know that there must be some physical future for me, but it is bogged down in planning problems, in administrative backlog. I hold out no great hopes for it in any case... I'll be lucky if I ever find the time to make the long journey back to myself, to the old ruin, and hurl a coat of paint over it before the winter of middle age sets in.

I've been thinking about why I don't post many photographs of myself here. It's not just that I'm often the one behind the camera - more so now than any other time in my life - but it's also because the pictures I see now don't match the pictures I remember. I don't know that there is time for one last coat of paint on this ruin; I barely have time for a coat of nail varnish.

When I look back on this record of my life and my family in later years, will it seem odd that there are no images of me? Will I remain simultaneously present yet invisible, like these women? Or, a decade on, will I have the same thoughts about the few photos of myself now as I do about these New York memories? That they are precious, and that the nostalgia outweighs the criticism.
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