THIS IS Francesca, the daughter of one of my nurses. Francesca was supposed to go to her big sister's Kindergarten Graduation, and her mother tried to dress her nicely, but Francesca insisted on wearing her cowgirl boots. Her mother tried to convince her that cowgirl boots were not appropriate footwear for the occasion, but Francesca did not believe it. Ultimately, mom gave in to Francesca's unerring fashion sense, so here she is, at the Graduation, in her boots. (Mom took the photograph.)
|Sidebar: No, that's not blood from a Vampire Happy Meal around her mouth, and she's not cosplaying San having just sucked the contagion out of the wound in the side of the wolf god Moro. Rather, it's the remains of an Italian Water Ice, in Cherry or a similar flavor, a sorbet-like frozen confection beloved in summertime in the Philadelphia area.|
There are several things I like about this photograph.
For one thing, it's not posed. Family photographs tend to have everyone staring at the camera, saying 'Cheeeese!' The purpose, I guess, is to commemorate an occasion. "Look, here we all were at the picnic on July 4, '01! There's Roger! That's Peter! There's Lucy! That was right after her breakup with Tony, wasn't it?" It doesn't matter that everyone grinning at the camera gives no insight into character. What do you care? You know these people inside and out anyway. But Francesca here isn't posed, she's just being Francesca, boots and all, which is more interesting to someone who doesn't know her. But what does 'being Francesca' mean?
There's something in this photograph that reminds me of, well, the anomie of being a little kid. I get a strong sense of Francesca as a child-size child in an adult-size world that does not really fit her very well. Why, the trash bin is nearly as large as she is. She appears to be alone. She's really not alone (she's in a crowded school hallway, in the middle of a well-attended public event) but we get only the barest glimpse of an adult passing by at the edge of the photo. There is a sense in the photo of a child being alone in a crowd. She stares up at the world of adults rushing by, but is not really part of it. She's caught in her own little momentary back-eddy of quiet.
I think part of the reason we get this feeling is the lighting. This photo seems to have been taken with available light, not flash. Although you have to look closely to notice, the center of the photo is more brightly lit than the edges, which recede into dimness. Francesca's pale yellow dress seems to light up the area where she is standing, and set her apart from the rest of the dim world. She looks beyond the photo's edge at something or someone we cannot see. It must be interesting: she's tilting her head and craning her neck a little to get a better view, but we will never know what it is.
Finally, she's standing at a corner. Corners are always interesting. They signify mystery, to me. You never quite know what is on the other side, and the only way to find out is to turn the corner, and confront whatever fate awaits. Sometimes it's dangerous. But always it's unknown. Every corner seems to me to be somehow surreal, mysterious, beckoning, threatening. Somehow this photograph, the girl, the corner, remind me of Giorgio de Chirico's Melancholy and Mystery of a Street.
Am I over-analyzing this photo? Maybe. But I still like it.