Everything Will Be Forgotten / Season of Mists
Frank Rodick, 2015
Maybe the best way for me talk about this work is to start with something about some pictures I did earlier. In 2010 my mother died. Shortly afterwards, I found a set of old photographs in worn albums my parents kept over decades—small passport sized portraits of my mother as a young woman. Using these photographs as the foundation, I constructed a set of images I thought might say something about her life and her death, both of which were difficult, at times torturous. These became the Frances pictures.
What happened—so obvious I feel ridiculous saying it—was that these this series of images said as much about me as they did about her, probably a lot more. I came to see the Frances pictures (individually completed between 2011 and 2014) as a shared visual memoir—of my mother, of me, of us, as I said elsewhere, "stitched together in that sad and harrowing way we never stopped being."
Till then I’d never made what I'd really call a self-portrait. Perhaps the pictures of my mother nudged me along. Maybe it was the shadow of that last parent’s death—the seminal event announcing that you’re next, clichéd but true. My mother's death underscored different things for me: mortality, sure, but more. A peculiar kind of loneliness. Freedom. And an eerie sort of hope that came with an unfamiliar sense of clarity that I didn't know whether to trust or not.
I'd had years of practice to get my my mind in the habit of roaming across time. So I went back to the old albums, those heavy forest green binders with black pages. I found more aged pictures, including small beaten up black-and-white snapshots of me as a child.
In those photos, I'm standing naked in a bathtub. It's my my father behind the camera. His handwriting’s on the back.
Looking at those photographs of me, a three-year boy standing naked in a bath, got me travelling. There were wanderings into other psychic territories, the ones littered through the condensed mists of time and memory. I tried to remember what happened in those early days—the jagged things that happen in the secret lives of families. Those things, those events, resurfaced as occasional bursts of fire, but mostly as things that just, well, happened … first over seconds, minutes, and then, over years. But what seems more important, especially now, is that they, those things, had never left. They stayed … in the form of deep and long shadows, unremitting whispers, occasional but almost always silent cries from voices I can now barely tell apart.
Looking at those early photographs carried me to a place that should have leaned into the intolerable but, like almost all such places, did not. Not then, and not now. I knew then that that I could use these small photos of a boy in a bath. I knew I could transform these old pictures into something that would use a boy’s pale thin body—my body—to give voice to the manifestation of secrets, eruptions of emotion and intemperance, those violent shadows and longings.
From that process came the images I now call Everything will be forgotten. And those images in turn led to more contemplation, this time on the man I’d become. The images from Everything will be forgotten startled me with their violence. But they also reminded me—like a crisp blow to the face—that no matter how I’d changed, certain things do not. They reminded me that to be human is to bear the fears and havoc, large and small, of long ago. That to be human is to be a dark and corporeal storehouse of a murmuring remembrance. That, until the end, the boy holds his ground inside the man.
From that emerged more images – self-portraits of myself, collectively titled Season of mists, from the poem by Keats. They show me as I am now, a man with many more years of life behind him than in front. They show me living in the present, but, like us all, shouldering the past. And waiting for what unfailingly comes next, just as autumn waits for winter.