I was sitting in front of the television this Sunday morning. I thought about this post. On Saturday I came across a link on facebook and was enchanted by the quote on the linked page on Brainpickings. I copied it to a new post. I first gave it another title, but changed it to Live boldly. I don’t even remember the first title. Something with silent.
My thoughts wandered away.
The dream and photo i wrote about in an earlier post, Memories.
My earliest memory came back to me in a dream. Around my twenties i dreamed i was crawling on a short stairs with maybe two steps. It was warm. I felt the warmth in my hands which were resting on the steps. I felt the warm stones beneath my fingers. My mother was sitting in front of me. She pointed to somebody behind me. My father. He was standing there with a camera in front of his face. He clicked. I had the photo. Somehow i lost it. I searched for it quite a few times. I still hope it’s somewhere in a book or a notebook. Somewhere hidden. I do love this memory. I can still feel the warm stones. I was like a year, a year and half old.
This photo was taken in 1965. It is something that really happened. And the dream i had, when i was around twenty years old, happened too. The dream, even with this distance of around thirty years, this dream i can still remember clearly. Pointing to myself, feeling the warm stones beneath my hands and looking behind me. The memory of the event itself, when i was only one year old, has faded away for a long time.
This dream is the counter point of the photo. In this dream i look at my father, with a camera in front of his head. His finger on the button ready to make the photo. I had only turned around a second before that. My mother was pointing at something behind me. My mother with her dark hair in a high knot up above her head, smiling. The sun shining. Warm stones beneath me. I turn around and look at my father. I do not see my father’s face. A mechanical object is in front of it, a camera.
My father is the one not in the photo. He took it. What i see in the photo is me and my mother, still pointing. Me, the one person i do not see in the dream. Me, the one person who is experiencing this event. I feel her, i feel what she feels, but i don’t see her. What i see is my dad.
My dad who has been absent from my life for the past twenty-eight years. My dad who is still alive. Who lives in a older people’s home somewhere in the west, between Rotterdam and the beaches. My dad who is slightly demented. Not sure about the slightly. My dad whose voice i last heard on the phone. You are not my daughter.
As you live your life, you are the only person you can not see entirely. You see your hands. You see your hair, when it is longer. You see your legs, your tummy. You do not see your back. You do not see your eyes. You see your nose only from the side, a bit blurry. You see your mouth only when you make a kissing face and put your mouth way out in front. Still blurry.
You do see other people completely. You see their face. You see their eyes. Their nose, their cheeks, their mouth. Their hands, their feet, their legs, their tummy. You see their backs. The top of their head.
But you can not see what is in their head. You can not see their thoughts. You can not feel what they feel.
They are a mystery.
I made many self portraits. When i was at art school, i started out with drawings. Then photography. My final project was with self portraits.
Making these self portraits was not extremely difficult. I only needed myself, a tripod, a camera and film. I started out with black and white film and ended up with colour. I used 25 ASA film most of the time. Very fine grain. Great colour. I still have all the negatives.
I used a whole film for each set. Looking into the camera with different facial expressions. A smile. A serious look. A look away. Different angles. From above. From the front. From the side.
I postponed seeing the look on myself. I only got to see what i looked like when i developed the film and started printing. Contact sheets gave me an overview, a chance to pick the best photo. The ones i believed to be the best anyway. Very difficult to get to that one.
This situation was very different from my initial photo opportunity, when i was one and a half years old. I was grown up. I was making these photos myself. Picking the right time myself.
For years i didn’t make photos of myself. Or they were hopeless failures. Not good. Not a good look. Not a pretty girl. Not a good photo.
I did make a few in 2010 i liked. And last year i made two great ones. In the sunshine. With the sun shining on the white cd cupboard. With my iPhone camera. I did need to make a cutout. The photo was ok with the entire shot. But a square cutout worked like magic.
I confess, i do like it when i look pretty in a photo. Of course i have so much more ugly photos of myself. But i get to pick the ones i show you. So yes, i show you the pretty ones. Even though i don’t feel i’m that vain, a bit of vanity i don’t mind.
So most of my work has a relationship with my dream of me and my mum and dad when i was around one and a half years old. I didn’t realize this at the time. This dream i still remember. I don’t know why i had this memory dream. I don’t know why exactly i made the work i made. But it did call to me. And yes, it is becoming clearer. I can put it into the story of my life. The story i’m telling you here. Which i forged out of my memories of the fifty two years of my life so far.
The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.
We all make stories. We grow up, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. All different things happen to us. Happy things. Sad things. Painful things. We meet other people. And things happen. We fall in love. And out of love.
We try to make this story matter. We have so much inspiration. We have all the old stories. Fairy tales. Movies. Television. Books. Myths. Religion. But all the stories in our lives are only pieces of these old stories. Our own lives are a multitude mass of little pieces, each told with a slightly different voice.
But each one of us is also a physical person. A whole being.
Born. Growing up. Walking. Working. Loving. Dead.
There is mystery in each of us. Fractured existence. Different voices. Each telling another side.
Me, here, on ellenpronk.com, i’m talking about my own existence. Fifty two years now. Halfway. Or slightly over.
I’m trying to make my stories work. For me. To understand my life, so far. To see threads. To make new threads. To tell new stories. To notice new things. Sometimes i fail. Many times i fail. But everything i tell here is true. In a way.
From me to you, i do hope you enjoy it here.
You are welcome.