In Washington DC two days before Thanksgiving (ten minutes before looking at my watch and making a mad dash for the train station), I saw a collection of photos at the Hirshhorn, “Geographical Analogies” by French photographer Cyprien Gaillard.
They’re Polaroids. Squares of wall or plant or architectural corner—mostly texture or shape, though sometimes scrawled graffiti or a word appears—arranged in diamonds of four or eight.
I could have look at them for hours. The shapes in each photo built off of the ones surrounding it, like bricks in a wall, cemented by the contrast and symmetry of colors.
But what captured me most was the way that—as humans with language—we instinctively string the disparate images together to create a story, to construct a time or a place.
I walked away with pieces of imagery, like disjointed memories from a dream. The kind that we think, if we try really hard, will eventually come back to us and make sense. But they never do. They fade as we are further entrenched in the day.
I found the nearest security guard and asked him to help me locate the artist’s nameplate (oddly situated about six feet away). Now that I had a guard looming over my shoulder, snapshots of the actual collection were out of the question, so I took a photo of the nameplate, and then turned to the guard (who also had a namplate pinned to his shirt. These are the details I wish I could remember.) and asked, “Which one is your favorite?”
He pointed to a diamond of dilapidated-beach-motel photos. Palm trees aching towards the stormy water, a rusty pool gate swinging. I nodded and continued down the hall.
Three months later, it’s cold and I’m spending free time with my scissors and old magazines, on the floor, cutting squares of texture and color from fashion spreads. It makes for pretty good stress relief, post-work, since I haven’t yet joined the gym. It has also resulted in some nice Cyprien Gallard-inspired cards:
The one on the right is a I’m-sorry-I-forgot-to-send-your-Christmas card to a San Francisco friend.
A birthday card to Seattle friend M., who is really good at rolling down hills.
The one on the left is a Thank You for a pair of knitted wrist-warmers.
The one on the right is still blank.