"Gonna Live Forever" by
I have been wanting to critique this photo for some time now... When I clear out my message box this photo always seems to be the last one sitting, patiently waiting for me to gather my thoughts about why this is so meaningful to me.
Photographs are a powerful medium. They capture the world as it is and leaves little to the imagination. However, a good photographer knows how to utilize the frame in such a way that the photo is not always about what is inside the frame but often about what is outside it. This is a great example of that (and I will discuss this further down the road). This is a photo that greatly relies on the power of suggestion, just as much as it does the power of symbolism. Therefore, I have had to do some research in order to understand better where this piece is possibly coming from. And while I do not know entirely the specific intent, I know that (based on other comments) there is something very personable about the realities of cancer and how sickness, the frailty of our bodies, has left a mark (no pun intended) on the minds and hearts of those cancer has touched.
The photo itself is brilliantly composed. The contour of the model's body creates a strong zig-zag, almost s-curve, through the center of the frame. These dominating diagonals are supported by long vertical lines in the drapes, yet textured by wrinkles in the fabric of the gown. There is a divide between the ideal and viperous abnormality. In the upper left hand corner, two hands reflect the emotional conflict of the work. The left hand longingly looks for freedom beyond the sterilized curtains that block the rays of the sun. The right hand is tense, and is embedded in reality. One the ideal, the other the Truth.
A black ribbon marks the right hand, which also grips a lock of hair... both seem out of place and throw the elegance of the photo into an uncomfortable place. A steady tension arises. This foreboding feeling is amplified by the cool color pallet. Even though white plays a dominant role in the composition, the photo itself is dark. Possibly under exposed. Where bright and vibrant light should be coming through the windows there, in reality, is more of a damp, heavy grey which makes the atmosphere feel thick. Stuffy. Even oppressive... it beckons a level of pity and grief from the viewer.
Having said that, I do not see just despair. There are two details that changed the way I saw this photo... One is the body language of the model's legs, and the second is what lies beyond the frame. It took me a while to see the detail, but through the gown you can see the subtle silhouetting of the model's legs. For whatever reason, when I noticed this I saw this photo with momentum. The position reminds me of someone who is in mid walk, not someone standing stagnant. The gesture of the hands drastically changed with this interpretation. Whoever this person is, they are walking forward. Their gaze, which is out of frame I know is looking towards the outside. Their line of sight is the same path as their hand. Intensely observing the outside... knowing that freedom is coming. Fingers pressing, with actual pressure against the window pane.
In light of the poem (something entirely separate to critique), the person speaking becomes sure of their conviction.
"You and I are gonna live forever.
Gonna live forever
The poems narrative comes to a close. The imagery and wording is like the final breaths before death comes... and the step from life into death occurs.
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And just now it hit me... I know why this photo is so meaningful to me. My Grandfather passed away Thanksgiving morning (Nov 22, 2012). The funeral was last Sunday afternoon. He had prostate cancer and Alzheimer's. He lived a full life, devoted to his family, his church congregation, to the LORD, but he struggled in his final days. My Grandma and Mom said that as they watched over him as he struggled for breath. I could not be there for him, but I remember thinking that he should run for home, rather than try to hold on here. I found out later that my Grandma had told him that several times that last day. She said, "Stan, you do not have to stay here. You can go be with Jesus." He died in the night.
I think this photo is helping me mourn. And I am so grateful for the timing that this photo made its way into my life.
And thank you Pariaa for posting this most amazing work.
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I looked up the universal meaning of a black ribbon, and discovered that according to [link] the ribbon stands for both mourning and Melanoma awareness, a deadly form of skin cancer.