I’m fond of telling stories with photos.
But I haven’t figured out how to tell a story in a single image. One image plus words perhaps.
But it’s hard for a photo to carry its own story.
(One trick is to reference a story from somewhere else.)
A single image is better at holding emotion and light and time.
There’s a story behind a few of these images from 2013.
Behind where this doorway leads.
Behind this friendship.
Of who she is and who she’s been.
Of the choices that led there.
Of what he was able to make possible for himself.
Of the promise of summer.
Behind these smiles.
But it isn’t the stories that keep me coming back to these thirteen photos.
It’s the emotion.
And the light.
We do not know when he will be able to tie his shoes.
Or to take a shower, or to dry himself with a towel.
Or to ask for help without shrieking when the wifi on the iPad stops working.
We do not know how he will make it through college (or, some days, even high school).
We do not know when he might be ready to live on his own.
And if he is able to live on his own, whether he will live on Amy’s frozen macaroni and cheese, like that character in that movie.
But last Wednesday, with his classmates, as “La Raspa” played, he was capable of marching in time.
And spinning in time.
And kicking in time.
And circling up in a group.
And of blowing kisses to the crowd when they’d finished.
And of knowing that he could.
On a grey day in May, our friends joined us on a whirlwind photo tour of downtown Chicago before we packed up and moved to California.
Our guests gathered near Buckingham Fountain, as I camped out with my zoom lens on the observation deck of the Sears Tower. We had no cell phones, just two wristwatches and a plan.
Not sure what passersby thought when everybody got in a line. Or circled up.
I hopped a cab to join the shivering crowd. Christa’s down front, in the white turtleneck and denim.
I set up my tripod and flipped on the self-timer.
More people joined us at the Picasso sculpture in the Loop. Again, not sure how we did this without cell phones.
This was the last shot of the day. My friend Kristin, here on the right, is the one who cancer took from us last week.
As I scan these photos, and upload them to Facebook, I am confronted by the arithmetic of time. Of the twenty years since Kristin and I lived in the same place. And of course there are people in these photographs I’ve haven’t seen or spoken to since.
It had been ten years since I’d seen Kristin in person; I’d never even met her kids.
But consciousness and memory ignore the fact of time. They believe that arithmetic need not apply.
It was his second stop at the SpongeBob photo op spot at Nickelodeon Universe today, and it’s clear to see now he went in with a plan.
First, he gained the trust of the handler, probably asserting he wanted to ask SpongeBob a question.
Then he set his sights on his target.
At this next moment (though I was too far away to hear it at the time) he asked SpongeBob something like “What’s that spot on your tie?”
I didn’t get a photo of what happened next.
The costumed performer instinctively leaned forward (it had to be instinct; it happened so quickly).
The boy raised up his hand and flicked the underside of SpongeBob’s nose.
The performer stepped back, as the handler busted out laughing.
The boy, with mic-dropping attitude, turned and headed for the exit.
The SpongeBob performer called him back in for a hug.
I hope that as we continue to work to teach the boy to act more like “normal” people that we never extinguish this capacity of his to create surprise and delight.
To bring this kind of a smile to the face of an end-of-the-summer theme park employee.