Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Haunt Your Photo Albums

I don't like to brag, but I have a thriving side career as a model and film star "extra" in a great number of photographic portfolios and movies. I get the roles almost as if by magic, lacking an agent or manager of any kind. I have been discovered on any number of occasions and my performance is always natural and assured.

Here is a perfect example. At a local pool the other day, I passed before the camera of an excited father as he attempted to capture his child cavorting in a spray of water. Without wanting to steal the scene, I ducked too late and was caught in the frame, no doubt in a crouching, apologetic cringe that will be memorialized in the family albums, electronic and otherwise. I can only hope that my bathing suit was not askew and that my expression was reserved, yet emblematic of all the greatness and sadness of our times, and particularly of my generation. (I work on such gazes before a mirror nightly.) That I held the promise of the future in my eyes, and that my feverish squint (blinded by sunlight) does not beg deletion. But I do have a talent at this sort of thing; I am exceptional as a "background character" to add local color and verve to any photograph.

My film resume also includes roles as a bit player in the family "beach vacation" videos shot at Sea Island, GA, Cape Cod, Rhode Island, and the New Hampshire shore, Perhaps you've seen me? In several, I am seen laboriously jogging in the background, and in others, pensively picking up shells and rocks. Sometimes I gaze into the lens with a piercing look that has merited cries of "Who IS that?" during screenings. At the wrap parties, no one speaks to me, but I eat plenty of the crudite.

I have also been seen in "The Wedding Video" (dancer # 6), "Playland in September" (random passerby), and "New York Tourist Scene" (Hot chick in white). I am available for speaking roles as well.

It's odd to think that when I am gone, my image may be playing on some futuristic DVD player in a family living room filled with strangers. I'll look out from the screen, take a step or two, and then the camera lens will swing wide and I'll slide out of the frame, as if I never existed at all.

Speaking of photo albums and loss, I once picked up an old album in an East Village antique store for $18. It seemed a high price to pay at the time, but there was something desperately sad about the collection of family photos meticulously arranged and labeled. There were black-and-white images of the family trip to Niagara falls, Dad with his new car, the author of the album as a baby, and a row of young and happy individuals in bathing caps seated on a dock. Why was it here, for sale? Did no one want it? The owner of the album was a Dorothy Dubelbeiss, and I have tried in vain to find any of her descendant, although quick searches suggest that the family may have been from Rochester, NY. I guard it as carefully as one of my own. Something suggests that it is all that's left, and that this family vanished like a puff of smoke before the wind. I want to think that someone wants it, and I'll be ready with it to hand over once they come to my door.

The poet Tess Gallagher, wife of Raymond Carver, once wrote that "the poem is always the enemy of the photograph." Which would you rather have of me once I'm gone?

4 comments:

Leah said...

I live near Rochester and am eager to help your research for ancestors. I like memory missions.
I wait further instructions.

Anonymous said...

i couldn't come up with a definitive answer re: gallagher quote..wow. where did you find it?

Jenny Phresh said...

Leah (is that Leah G?) I will dig out the album and try to find more information, such as her parents' names. I did do some Google searches and always came up short, but there has to be some information somewhere, right? More soon.

Jenny Phresh said...

My TG quote came from an old book I have of her poetry; I wrote it down from memory so hopefully I have it correct. My poetry books are currently in the attic in a box marked "poetry and plays" so this is another question that requires excavation.