A disquieting brush with photojournalism leaves me still bristling....
A few weeks ago I recall reading a post on Utata questioning photos' inability to tell the entirety of a story in a single image. I have never felt this so acutely as I did this last Sunday. (Brace yourselves, I am about to beat the dead horse).
Unlike anything I have ever photographed, the subject of my last post struck something in me which continues to vibrate with this strange, unknown, frantic urgency. I must know.
I had a long chat with my Brother in Academia because he was particularly struck by the images as well, and he related his readings on Freud's studies of psychosis... we delved into things far beyond my ken, which bars me re-explaining them here. What I can get my head around is this:
I entered this sphere, belonging, now completely, to another person's insanity. In ten or fifteen minutes, I sat in a car snapping away, trying to make a whole out of a thousand unrelated pieces. I look at the photos, words are cut off, repeated elsewhere, spelled differently, paired randomly. Completely disjointed and out of context from each other. While I was there, I knew none of the backstory, and yet I continued to try to catalogue and make sense of the fragments I was seeing. I still am. There will always be this huge hole in the story where her brain started filling in the blanks.
bearing © Laura Kicey
The most unsettling thing was that which spoke to me directly as a photographer. In amongst the lists of words that had lost their meaning, which appeared to start off as accusations, there were the words take pictures. In the tangle of Violet Hobaugh's mind, was 'take pictures' something her 'attackers' were guilty of along side the vandalism (which she herself committed on her own property), poisoning, arson, mail fraud, robbery and rot spraying? Or was it a request to take the evidence of her situation and make it real by showing it to other people.
the windman © Laura Kicey
I went through the Patriot News archives and bought some articles on her from '93 and '04, during which she was fighting the PA Department of Transportation over a tree on her property... which she took residence in for a number of years. I gleaned as much as I could of the time recorded before she went off her medication and her schizophrenia consumed her, and all she felt she had left to protect her were words. I still want to transcribe the walls, it feels like her answer is in there somewhere. She may be dead inside for all I know.
Most of all, I remember sitting in the car, looking at these walls covered with words, having this completely out of character urge to go up and knock on the door and speak to the person inside and hear their story. I haven't been able to shake the intensity of my feelings about the visit even now, days later. Return? Forget? There is no logic to either, looking harder will not change that.