Yes, I know my photographic guru was somewhat of a nut case. I figured that was okay because I always thought that I was also. Ralph highly stressed living your life through the camera and I always have. To my disappointment, not as much as I would have liked. He never let anything remain under the surface. The thrust of Ralph’s teachings was in bringing out your hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments, successes, failures—just letting it all hang out. One he frequently mentioned was that the greatest gift you can give to another person is to let them know that you are every bit as vile, corrupt and perverted as they are. I appreciate that because I, in truth, am a very inwardly turned individual. To share has always been difficult because I know how vile, corrupt and perverted I am and was never sure I wanted everyone else to know. But because of Ralph I understood that I was at least abnormally normal or normally abnormal, everwhich. I always felt that I had been a little screwed up by spending so much time with Emerson and Hattersley—today, I think I was wrong. I guess, assuming Socrates was correct and the correlation can be drawn, I have lived a life worth living because I have surely lived an examined life. Although, I’m not entirely sure it works both ways.
For the last ten years of Janet’s life I photographed her constantly. I said it was to make up for the first twenty-seven years of our marriage when I was absolutely forbidden to take photographs of her. That was part of it but there must have been more to it than that. I have always used the camera to try to understand life, to make some stupid sense of life and that was never more so than with the photographs of Janet. It wasn’t Thoreau’s life of quiet desperation but we shared a life that was quiet and unassuming. I found in Janet all that I needed in life and I wanted to understand that through the photographs. To the end she was my sanctuary and I can only pray to God that I was hers. Her last years were so difficult, there were only questions, no answers; guessing and never knowing whether or not I was doing what she needed, what I should be doing. I relive those years and all their fears daily.
Family, for the most part, ignored the photographs. Maybe they did not know how to talk about them. Maybe they just didn’t care. I don’t know. My photography is hardly ever a family discussion. Friends did comment, said they liked the photographs, but I know that at least toward the end the photographs were difficult to view—much to private—and I’m sure many felt exploiting, I was never sure myself that they weren't.
Today, there was a brief post to the blog thread where I announced that Janet has passed away. He sent me a link to a post that he had made on his blog regarding the taking of emotionally charged images. I have often wondered if I would every take a photograph that would have a profound effect on another individual. Thank you so much Andreas for letting me know that I did. Your words about my photographs has touched me very, very deeply. It does affirm one of my long held beliefs—the only worthwhile photography comes from the very deepest recesses of being—when it all hangs out.