Sorry, Timon. No sympathy here. Six sentences, maybe. 🙂
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The Comeback – by Beverly
The minute it was over, I knew I had made a mistake. One of my strobe lights had shorted out, and a shadow filled in the blank wall. The spot light that hung from the ceiling had dimmed, casting a translucent glow over the thin body curled up on the concrete floor of my studio. Dark blood seeped from an ear and trickled across a swollen face toward a gaping mouth: a study of shapes and shades.
A twisted coil of sisal rope adorned a long neck, its prickly fiber against the smooth pale skin: an example of contrasts.
There was no need to touch the stilled neck. The lack of a pulse was obvious.
Another time, this research might have led to my best work. Peer acceptance and professional acknowledgement for thinking outside the box had boosted my artistic standing in the community. Demand for my photographs had pushed me to enlarge my work space and challenged my intellect and creativity to produce new and curious works.
My usual subjects had been lifeless in their position, cold and spiritless inanimate objects of the city. Although my subjects had a purpose, they were static. My latest portfolio lacked life – a broken wheel that held up a cannibalized Toyota; steel scaffolding wrapped around a crumbling brick building; crushed beer cans ready for recycling.
The waiting list of buyers for my latest works hung over me like a smoldering blanket. Countless awards and praises from other professionals for my unique and thought-provoking compositions had established my position in the arena of outstanding photographers. My black and white images captured my signature style of multiple shapes and repeating patterns. But after two decades of filming New York City, I was out of inspiration.
Last month I had faced my annual December exhibition in SoHo and had nothing new to offer. Snippets of reviews in the NY Times suggested that I had grown stale, washed up and out of ideas. Rumors of an up-and-coming photographer circled the coffee houses and galleries.
“His work is fresh and airy,” they whispered. “From California, no doubt.”
My head ached with ideas that thrust me into thinking of possibilities outside my comfort zone. Having perfected techniques that placed me at the top of my game, I recognized my career was in jeopardy unless I came up with something contemporary and profound. I had to summon up the courage to take my work to the limit and shoot on the edge.
What if I photographed a living object at the brink of death? Could I capture an image as the soul attempted to flee the body?
I began to experiment.
Willing subjects were easy to round up among the local homeless community. An offer of a free meal and a bottle of cheap wine enticed both the young and old. Countless times I failed to achieve my perfect shot, ending up with slobbering drunks who staggered out the door in panic.
I needed an organic subject on the verge of death, one who would willingly release his body and soul from a present existence – if only for a moment. I found him on his knees, head lifted toward the heavens. In the rear pew of Saint Mary’s Church, this solitary figure beseeched God to forgive him.
Goosebumps traveled up my arms and my forehead dripped in sweat. I approached quietly, softly introducing myself. I could hardly contain my excitement. I had found my subject.
We talked at great length about living and dying. The grim reaper and angel of death. A shining light leading to a narrow tunnel. The fine line between life and death. He had been a priest and told me how he suffered for the sins of his flesh. He craved for redemption and to save his soul.
In the silence of my studio, I whipped his cheeks with the tiny stylus for a vertical pattern of blood and flesh. He grimaced, but could not give me the smile I asked for. His hands fought the tightening of the rope, no longer comprehending he was only on the verge of a loss of consciousness. His trust vanished and his fear emerged.
I was looking for effect, not reality, as the camera shutter rapidly clicked. The image of a slow release of the breath with the invisible skirting of the spirit from the body would be the consummate work of my artistic calling. My reputation would soar while his soul would be unchained.
In an instant of realization, our eyes met. Somehow we both knew I had failed. His soul had already departed before we met.
Categories: Critique Group