Three Imaginary Girls

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XIII. "Art: Photography and Bright Plastic Bags"

pho·to·graph n an image produced on light-sensitive film or array inside a camera, especially a print or slide made from the developed film or from a digitized array image, or a reproduction in a newspaper, magazine, or book

1. vti to produce an image of something by pointing a camera at it and allowing light briefly to fall on the film inside
2. vi to be able to be photographed, or to have a particular quality or appearance in a photograph

Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Somewhere, there is a statue of Romeo and Juliet figures in a bronze embrace. In several city parks around the world, there are sculptures of figures in a kiss of rock, sculpted by the hands of humans or machines, brought into a being of togetherness to stay in a kiss forever, for always, for us to look at them and think, "That is beautiful." Snow will fall on some in winter; on some, leaves in autumn. Pigeon shit year round on most. On even more nothing will fall, save for dust and artificial light and the eyes of museum-goers carrying brightly colored plastic bags from the gift shop.

I like to think that sculptors make these images of figures locked together in order to create a beautiful piece of art that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but a monument to the love in our lives. Widows and widowers stare and remember their high school sweethearts, and how fifty years later the taste of their high school sweetheart was even sweeter, wrinkled hand in wrinkled hand, going for a walk around the neighborhood to watch the sun rise.

A photograph is, by definition, a capture of light, a capture of a point of view of a camera, a portrait of a moment of sight. To take a photograph is "to allow light to fall briefly on the film inside." To look at a sculpture, a beautiful artwork, is, in a sense, allowing the light reflected from the art to fall, briefly, on that inside ourselves which ever so carefully records. Our emotional memories are like film waiting to be impressed upon.

Rodin has a particularly lovely version of two figures, entitled "Le Biser" ("The Kiss"). A man and a woman, both of bright, smooth stone, have been stuck together as a part of one sculpture for years and years, long past the death of Rodin. People go to this sculpture, be it an original in France or a cast in a museum, and they stand in a large room full of people with cameras and plastic merchandise bags, looking at it. Watching how the light falls across this curve, that arm, this head.

I bought a photograph of a sculpture such as this from a man on the street last night. It was a bronze statue in a wintry park, partially covered with snow and surrounded by dark snow-covered trees. I was walking down a city sidewalk and picked the photograph out of a row of prints on a card table at the corner.

The photograph was striking, fine. I bought it immediately and only later thought of the Rodin sculpture the photograph remind me of. Rodin died years ago, along with his memories of whomever "The Kiss" was inspired by. The emotion which drove the creation of the sculpture was dead, however, as each plastic bag moves past in a museum, the figures in the sculpture are no longer whatever Rodin intended, but become part of the photograph taken in looking at it. When all else is dead, photographs remain. And when all photographs are burned, there is still the image of the burning figures, melting together into ash, burned into our watching eyes. In this way, emotion and art never die.

I realize this thought may be trite, may be perceived as sappy or melancholic or something worse, "retarded." But look at something beautiful, and then look harder, and take it in, because any day Beauty can disappear, and you will be left alone with nothing but a photograph of a statue in a country far away.