gargoyles ascend a cathedral (part two) – diptychs

Last week I tried to explain – in the bombastic style of Romanticism – the enthralling experience of trying to photograph a scene that goes well beyond one’s ability to capture that experience in gargoyles ascend a cathedral. This week is all about post. The equally daunting task of figuring out how to represent that memory with a set of images. The scene remembered changes over time from the direct experience. Now these cliffs seem taller than could ever be captured in any adequate way. Thus, the diptych format seemed to address this perceived impossibility with the cut of the line between the two juxtaposed images. A rift of artifice acknowledges what cannot be overcome by a mere image compared to the experience. The disjointedness left in place as an acknowledgement of a medium’s limits.

Strange thing is last week I lost a family member. My uncle had spent his life on ships. He lived on oceans. When I look upon these images after his passing, they have turned into some kind of funerary objects. A solemnity has seeped into the crevices. A mournful song creaks out of the waves. The cut of the line between the two images severs memory from experience and omits the forgotten of what was in between. So I dedicate this post to him, my sea dog. And since it was his wish to not have any service I will not end this with an image of him for that seems far too personal for his stoic spirit. Rather, I will end this post with something I used to collect, a cabinet card. A photo from the 19th century that I found rummaging at a flea market once has always stuck with me. An image of a bouquet of funerary flowers arranged in the shape of an anchor. It always made me wonder about the fate of the seaman it was intended for. It strikes me as the most tender of objects for such a rough calling. And now it has found its home for me as an offering to the one I’ve lost.

RIP Bob, here is a Welsh traditional verse from the 17th century for you:

The End of the Day
With the night the house grows dark, with the night comes candle light, with the night comes the end of play, and with the night comes Daddy home.

gargoyles ascend a cathedral

My legs push back against the precipice. My arms wearily hold the instrument as my eye peeps through the lens and my finger trembles to press the button on feelings exceeding a single frame. I could not survive out here. I am but a wanderer passing along this winding, perilous path. Blinking and glimpsing at something too powerful and raw to live beside with any of the comforts required to establish a productive way of life. Yet this is their home, their pattern, their habit, and their comfort. These dream-like forms, others simply call cormorants, gird the steepest drop back into the crashing swirl of sleep. Above the unfathomable chasm and below the infinite dome, a brood scratches its way along these stone faces of bulky severity. What wild ideas am I witnessing that can claw into such an impregnable form? Am I to believe that these are just cormorants stringing along the rocks whose random patterns of erosion drain into this dark sea? Just another iteration of genetic code replicating itself in this random display of meaninglessness? While they are scaling the deepest interior of my dreams and emerging as the shadowy forms from the deepest slumber? Even when this sublime scene awakens with a fervor of gargoyles ascending a cathedral in my mind’s eye?

The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be
But for such faith with nature reconciled;
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
By all, but which the wise and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.

From Mont Blanc by Percy Bysshe Shelley