Tag Archives: black and white photography


“Passing life’s halfway mark, I lost my way in a dark wood”
– Andrei Tarkovsky, The Mirror (film)


One of my jobs is in a library. I always like to shelve the books first. I’m hidden deep in the stacks, focused intensely on tiny sometimes obscured sequences of numbers, letters, dots and slashes.  I work in the arts and music section, the books are all lovely and tempting…but last Tuesday when I came in I could see there was a DVD shelving emergency underway, so I gave the books a longing look, and got right to work on the towers of DVDs. Still, I have preferences. I always start with the foreign films, then documentaries, and only then attack the regular collection. I find the foreign films more interesting, plus there is a stool on wheels that I can skate around on while running through the alphabet in my head over and over again, which makes it more fun.

Sometimes I don’t shelve them. I put them aside, and when I have a minute I go downstairs and check them out. That’s how I came to watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror.

The paradoxical thing about a task like shelving books is that it requires deep but meaningless focus. It’s just numbers and letters. But then there is the actual object in my hand, which can trigger thoughts, memories, and feelings. My shift is two and half hours and it feels very like to what watching The Mirror feels like: somewhat stream of conscious, deep in thought, with memories, words and images coming from all directions creating a quiet, sometimes profound emotional rhythm.

There is no story, really. Not in our minds, and not in The Mirror. But the engrossing drama of  (presumably) Tarkovsky’s childhood memories,  twisted up with his mother’s history; the sequences of Tarkovsky’s father’s poetry, read by the narrator (A. Tarkovsky);  the beautiful cinematography: by random turns, black and white, and then color; the dreams and nightmares, anxieties, regret and hope all converge to express, I think, a visual representation of the deep recesses of our minds in which our foundations, if examined, can be all revealing. Just a glimpse, maybe. But a flickering light in between the letters and numbers of our lives.

*photograph taken by Augustus Accardi




This Is Just A Test


One Singer to Mourn

Suppose I were not a coward, but said what I really thought?
-Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (273)


Like most of Katherine Anne Porter’s stories, Pale Horse, Pale Rider is a devastating tale. The story of Miranda, a character who is repeated for the last time in this story and who is based on Porter herself, is one of striking authenticity. Porter has such an incredible gift for weaving into her stories moments of startlingly accurate articulations of life.

The two pairs of eyes were equally steady and noncommittal. A deep tremor set up in Miranda, and she set about resisting herself methodically as if she were closing windows and doors and fastening down curtains against a rising storm (292).

Set against the end of World War I, the specter of the tired war still looming clings to the growing drama of the Spanish flu epidemic. And at the center is each individual. Porter’s humanism, pacifism and yearning for the spark of life are themes that she never overtly articulates, and yet they are the very truths that move one so profoundly when reading her stories.

She spoke his name often, and he spoke hers rarely. The little shock of pleasure the sound of her name in his mouth gave her stopped her answer (294).

In and out of dream states and influenza induced hallucinations, Miranda yields to her heart, giving it fully to Adam. The first and last man she will ever love. Yes, she knows what it’s like to fall in love as well what it is like to be heartbroken. The effort that Miranda makes to feel that kind of love, only to have it shattered, is devastating. As Lawrence Durrell wrote so painfully, it is one of those love affairs that marks one for life.

Her hardened, indifferent heart shuddered in despair at itself, because before it had been tender and capable of love (315).

Porter’s stories are all marked with the bitterness of an intelligent woman trapped in the destiny of her biology, the waste of her body and mind. She uses the elements of story telling to lament the shame of it all, without ever taking on the mantle of victimhood. Her female protagonists have cores of iron, but they are not dull fools.

For ten minutes Miranda smiled and told them how gay and what a pleasant surprise it was to find herself alive. For it will not do to betray the conspiracy and tamper with the courage of the living; there is nothing better than to be alive, everyone has agreed on that; it is past argument, and who attempts to deny it is justly outlawed.

The biting cynicism is full of compassion and empathy. The core of humanity in her writing is as subtle as it is unparalleled. How many people have been cheated out of the happiness which is the natural state of mankind? It is writers such as Katherine Anne Porter that keep tally.

*Title from title song “Death always leaves one singer to mourn” (304).

**The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter