Anna Laura’s art makes you feel all warm and squishy inside, of being aware of a body that is fully vibrating, ripe with the presence of the moment. In those times your internal speedometer slows down, and an awareness of your surroundings steps in to fill the anxiety-shaped void.
When no one has risen from bed past 8am, and all you do is lie half-asleep, one eye cracked open, watching minute dust motes waltz in a spiral created by your whirring fan. Then, one dust particle is suspended exactly in space at 8.01am, and you hold your breathe for fear of breaking this moment –
Evergreen Dazed by Felt presents itself as perfect dust mote music. Jangly, melancholic, magical, somewhere in between so intriguingly represented by dust motes suspended in space; underground precursors to The Smiths but somewhat out of step with their brethren.
Kate Bush’s Mrs Bartolozzi presents a similar yearning against a luminous piano, where the protagonist mistakes an unusually animated washed shirt for someone else they had known in their past. Why is sunshine so warm and yet so sad?
“You could not—I thought then, as now—sum up a life in an image; there must be some degree of distorting and condensing at work to make that seem possible. You can hide things in symbols. And that single truthful and misleading photo hid a life more complicated and troubling than I’d ever imagined.”
In the chapter Camera, Anderson recalls Marino Faliero’s portrait, obscured by a black veil to cover his identity, hanging in the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Marino Faliero was sentenced to death after his failed coup, and also sentenced to damnatio memoriae, translates into ‘condemnation of memory’.
In reality, that meant being wiped out from official records, or an erasure of their names from history through rewriting the books. It was a negation and censorship of their existence, a denial of remembrance and immortalization in history. But the veil didn’t negate curiosity, which drew two artists who depicted Faliero in their art.
Lord Byron wrote the tragedy Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice after being intrigued by the mysterious blanking-out of Faliero’s portrait, and Eugene Delacroix was inspired to paint The Execution of the Doge Marino Faliero after reading Byron’s play.
In The Vulture And The Little Girl, the photo shows an impoverished Sudanese child kneeling in the foreground. Behind them, a hooded vulture skulks nearby. The child was revealed later to be a boy.
Carter had been invited by the UN, along with João Silva to make a report on the famine happening in the country, and to raise awareness of the famine ravaging the population through photos. Both Carter and Silva were unaware of the political and social strife happening in the country, and as photographers were just hoping to get photos. After the photo was taken, Carter immediately told Silva about the distressing situation that had transpired in the photo, of how he had chased the vulture away after taking the shot, and of how the child reminded him of his daughter Megan back home. Silva recalls: “He was depressed afterwards. He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter.”
Carter had grown up in an all-white, middle class neighbourhood in South Africa, and was the rebellious product of staunch Roman Catholic parents, of whom he questioned their lax attitude against Africa’s rampant apartheid. After witnessing several incidents of racial violence and bloodshed, he decided to become a photojournalist.
The photo was chosen by The New York Times to illustrate their story about the Sudan famine, and was captioned with the title: ‘A little girl, weakened from hunger, collapsed recently along the trail to a feeding center in Ayod. Nearby, a vulture waited.’
This elicited a strong reaction from the public, inciting a flurry of donations, and a concern for the fate of the child. It also won Carter a Pulitzer Prize, although it did not bring him respite for his personal problems, stemming from his income’s instability as a freelancer, substance abuse and having to cope with the atrocities emotionally. Its infamy incited backlash as a representation of ‘poverty porn‘, capitalizing and exploiting the visually graphic conditions of the poor to attract sympathy and generate money.
This puts the photojournalist in a situation where morality is a shade of grey. Because of the nature of their work to depict and to record: should they intervene, risking death? Or do they stay out of it and maintain their impassivity, even when someone is dying in front of them?
Tragically, things took a turn for the worse. Carter took his own life by carbon monoxide poisoning, bearing the brunt of the horrors and tragedies depicted in his photos.
I don’t know if Anderson has heard of Carter. But I suppose he would have come to the same chilling conclusion about him, if he did.