Breathing the Same Air

Seen and captured by someone else’s eyes reminds us that the image we have of ourselves is not absolute, it is not truthful. In many senses the mirror lies more than a photograph. We learn to see ourselves in such a one-dimensional way, that hardly any image can satisfy us anymore. As time gnaws away at our and our close ones’ faces, we return to look at the pictures from our past.

As beautiful, tragic or poignant as an image might be; as much as we could garner from it emotionally, the feeling for which we search remains intangible and elusive. We will never fully comprehend or recreate the moment, it died at the moment of its’ birth. Sadly, the portrait is just a shadow of our meeting, a small stain of the time we spent together.

Each and every portrait I have taken is a photograph of me too. What I decide to see, or more likely, how I confront the things that I see, inevitably determines the final image. But more so, the intensity of the moment shared with the subject controls the portrait. As we stand there, with our grave faces, breathing the same heavy air, never so aware of each other’s details. One is blind and lost without seeing one’s own appearance, the other desperately trying to reach the perfect moment. The complexity of portraiture, its greatest trap, eventually always lies in its power relationships. What I desire to find and to reveal might be someone’s secret. These secrets are finally shown to the viewers, as they were mine.

A portrait remains forever. It is a desperate way to stay connected to someone; even a stranger can remain so familiar. It is my way of preserving a part of that person, embalming him or her. Through the portrait I build a relationship with my subject. I carry my subject’s memories with me – memories, as they are, being so intimately connected with photographs. Secretly I study their faces. This is how I remember them. I wonder how they remember me. As time slowly eats away at us, I still hold these images of them, like they are the only way I ever knew, or will know these people. And that ever-pervasive feeling: I met them. They will die, and eventually I too will die.