Rivers begin as mountain trickles, grow deep and powerful, spread wide and calm, until at the end, they open their mouths to the sea. While the current flows inexorably in one direction, its changeable speed cycles objects from surface to bed, creating a second, unseen river of memories. One can never step in the same river twice, and our lives are as fluid as the waters that propel them.
My photographs describe my world, not the day-to-day of it, but
the sun-born visions and night-bound terrors that can’t be seen or understood until pictured. Fresh images appear, they aggregate
into chapters, and the river flows on.
Flooded/The River Is Moving
An eerie calm descends when the rains cease, the hurricane blows over, an angry god is appeased. Fast-moving water can float things never meant to ride the waves, and strange, often strangely beautiful scenes appear before us. Odd craft drift by—dinette sets, quilted settees—and we wonder at the sight of someone too lost or too tired to swim.
We usually envision rivers as flat blue ribbons, but they are deep and layered. As the waters recede we become aware of what sank beneath the surface, adding to the river of memories.
Floods can be an overflow of water or an outpouring of tears. These are images of the river’s fullness and the heart’s despair. We come from water. We are made of water. And in the end, water not earth will take us.
I grew up in a house of secrets. From the outside, it was an ordinary white-picketed colonial on a dead-end street. But past the eagle doorknocker, the only constant was that what happened within was private, never to be verbalized much less shared. Homes are supposed to be sanctuaries, but there was no safety there.
Truth is solid ground. Without it, all is adrift, and one cannot live forever floating. The mind searches for stability, playing and replaying events until it is difficult to separate memories from dreams. In the end, all that’s left are a handful of facts and a head full of stories that no longer feel like your own.
Just as glass is created by intense heat, ice is formed by intense cold. Both are fragile, reflective, and transparent. And both create life-framing windows and mirrors. Fire and ice, repressed rage and cold-hearted indifference, overt fear and quiet longing, all can fill photographic frames with narrative possibilities.
The Last Wave By
These are portraits of souls in doubt. We live in a perpetual state of mediation between affirming or denying our most basic desires. We wake to the tension between wanting to embrace life or just disappear, to rise up to meet the world or sink down to rest forever.
These images imbue commonplace objects with the heart's deepest longings and fears. Both encircled and isolated by elements of the natural world, the figures become metaphors for our conflicted vision of life.
From birth cauls to death shrouds we are caught between worlds, sometimes only momentarily, sometimes more permanently. Some emerge from this transitional space, others do not.
Find What Will Suffice
Sometimes the details even in an empty space can be relentless. But look a little less sharply, a little less critically, and you are left with the undulation of pure emotion. There is no absolute truth. There is only the truth you make for yourself, the stories you tell yourself about yourself. You must find what will suffice.
A River Made of Time and Memory
Susan Keiser © 2019