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all your souls are belong to me!

The Council has planted an enormous bed of blood-red wallflowers on the Plain roundabout, and on a good morning, I smell them as I cycle round the roundabout. This morning the sun was shining and there was a gentle north-west wind. Perfect.

Went to see Intacto last night (gritty modern magic, Max Von Sydow and a good chance to exercise my limping Spanish) and (just a sideline in a complex story, I'm spoiling nothing here -- good film, see it) it was pointing out the dangers of having photographs, specifically polaroids, taken of you. No wonder so many people have problems with photos; ghost stories and comics, films and books, all of them hinting that to allow someone to take a photograph of you is dangerous and could have serious repercussions.

Or perhaps it's just vanity, or something like it; the photograph that diminishes or makes vulnerable your identity does so by carving off part of your appearance and putting it somewhere where you have no control over it. Maybe what appears to be vanity is just the same squirming dissociation provoked by a recording of your own voice -- do I really sound like that? Do I really look like that? -- and vanity is just the easy, social interpretation of the jarring realisation that we all look different from inside our own heads.

I don't mind having my photos taken; in fact I like it, and this isn't because I'm not vain (I am) or because I'm absolutely secure in my identity (I'm not). It's because I find having my photograph taken spiritually satisfying. Far from exposing my identity to danger, I feel (with each photo taken of me) a steady solidification, as if my existence were a notional thing that is gradually being built up into a proper person by the accumulation of evidence; each report, photo, picture or mention building the person that Jeremy is.

And while autobiography (like this journal or my comic strips) has a certain value, documentary evidence (as editors say) is much better for verifying facts, and documentary evidence from multiple sources is best of all. So other people's photos, far from putting my identity at risk, are actually helping me make it more real.

That essential inner self (as she does/does not exist), that the films and stories say is at risk, when in front of a camera, isn't really involved at all. What's smirking at the camera is a presented self, a sort of carapace that is your public identity, your "fame" if you like -- though not in any way that implies being famous. Perhaps "reputation" would be a better word, but that sounds too judgemental, too much like a key to predicting behaviour, what I'm talking is that agglomerate identity that comes to mind when you think of another person. Except when it's fame, it's not just happening in one mind, it's happening in several.

When several peoples' ideas of you begin to collide and form a separate identity that is no longer just in one person's mind, but the information space we construct from opinion and documentary evidence, once you enter the knowledge base, that's when your fame is becoming an edifice strong enough to live in. With every photo, picture, report or mention you're filling in another gap in the public persona you wrap round your inner self, like a shell round an egg. And the better constructed your fame, the more accurate, consistent and well-known, the better protected, nourished and cared-for the self inside becomes; for we feed on attention, even as we fear discovery, exposure, being found out.

Your fame is the mediator between the world and your self.

And that's why I like people to take pictures of me (and also photographing other people).


( 3 worms — Feed the birds )
16th Apr, 2003 08:02 (UTC)
Interesting...I might add...
(well, I was in the midst of adding all sorts of philosophical insightful stuff when I realised you'd already covered it; so, instead I'll say...)

Just don't say, "I'll make you famous!" before going on a thrill killing spree. ;-)

(yes, an Emilio Estevez quote ... marks for whoever can name the film)

16th Apr, 2003 08:53 (UTC)
Re: Interesting...I might add...
How about, before I put you into a comic book? (No, wait, you said famous, didn't you? Oh well.)

"Young guns II" I believe. I quite like Billy the Kid films, but that one? Hmmm.
16th Apr, 2003 11:12 (UTC)
Re: Interesting...I might add...
Full marks!

Yeah, that film was a bit poor, following the standard angle of declination associated with sequels...still, the first one was lots of fun. Captured the whole rockin' country music movement of the early 90s (okay okay, that may have been incidental). :-)

In defence of YGII though, it was good to see how the idealised bandit hero is revealed as an egotistical criminal who undergoes wretched deflation and very many dead friends. A kind of moral counterweight to YGI.

( 3 worms — Feed the birds )