|One of the few photographs I have made this year. |
(Arles, France, July, 2016)
It's difficult to look at images I've made during the last 20 years. My stomach clenches and that wave of grief powers over me bringing with it memories of Rob and me and Dev. Sometimes, I stall momentarily in that pain, forgetting how to swallow.
It was Rob who I most always showed new photographs I had made. He was often the first person who saw my work and he encouraged me to exhibit and publish. Now, I think of the time I spent making images--most often a solitary act-- and I would gladly trade every image I ever made to have just a few more minutes with him.
During the last year I have not photographed very often. Yes, I'll snap a quick picture with my phone, but I barely have touched my Nikon during the last 18 months and I have yet to pick of the Leica camera Rob bought me. I can't even say where it is at this moment. Two weeks ago I took my Nikon with me on a 6 mile hike and the feel of the camera in my hands felt natural.
I have yet, however, to look at the images.
In my mind, Rob and I would grow old together and we would take that trip across the United States a decade from now with camera and pen in hand. We had planned to make a book together. The poet and the artist. I didn't see the possibility that he would die so young and that his life would so quickly be gone. Even though Rob was at home for his last three weeks, he was lucid only now and then and not for any sustained amounts of time. Mostly he was negotiating his leaving the earth. Fifty days prior to that were spent in hospitals. The last sustained conversation--for hours and hours I had with Rob was in late September. Then, we sat up all night and talked. Staph infections, narcotics, and of course--the spread of cancer reduced the quality of time we had together during his last 6 months. Most of that was avoidable, had surgeons and infectious disease doctors done a better job--or even a competent job.
I don't know when I decided to blog about the cancer, Rob's fight, death, and the aftermath of grief. But across these last 18 months, I have written more than 130,000 words and filled several art journals. I never imagined in August 2015 that I would have this record of life. How could I have known? A friend told me that the way I would manage after Rob died was by making things: words on a page, an image in a journal.
And today, nearly 19 months later, I think that perhaps what art making most answers is what we cannot know. And knowing that is why I still lift my camera, still paint, and write most days. It is the need to make, to create that best defines comfort.