Monday, November 25, 2013

Storyboard Research

 Found it.

"Looking at War: Photography’s view of devastation and death," by Susan Sontag, New Yorker, December 9, 2002.

That's the article my mother had left spread open to its centerfold photos on the table next to the bed where she died.

My siblings had gone into our mother's apartment the day before I had–– (of course public servants, bless them, had already taken my mother's body away)––so I didn't see the original scene. Lytton didn't leave a note (contrary to myth, lots of people who kill themselves don't), but she did leave some meaningful things around, including this magazine article.

Yesterday, I decided to hunt it down.
My sister said the article was a photo essay of 20th century genocide. This fits  my mother-- the Nazi concentration camps were central to her view of humanity.
But it took some googling to find the article because it wasn't exactly that---it was an article by Susan Sontag on photography and war. I found the article online, but without any photographs. Still, it had to be the one; the issue was the week of Lytton's death. 

To make sure, I took the bus down to the library, which happily is open Sunday afternoons. A librarian showed me where old magazines are kept in the open stacks. 
(Civilization. Sometimes it works.)

I opened the volume of bound New Yorkers from fall of 2002, and sure enough, there was the photo spread.

Doing background research for my LVD project is taking me places I hadn't been ready to go in the 11 years since Lytton's death. With huge relief, I'm finding that I can look at some hard stuff around my mother's death without being paralyzed for days afterward.

But what to do with stuff such as this?
Now I have my painting project, I have a place to put this, but in what form? 

I couldn't stand to watercolor copy the photographs. I don't even want to reproduce them. (You've probably seen many of them, or ones like them---they are by famous photo journalists such as Gilles Peres, who photographed in Rwanda and Bosnia.)

Yesterday morning, I'd been talking to Joanna about the old question, how to handle the material of other people's lives? Am I exposing my mother too much?

And Joanna said, "Well, but this project is about you."

I'm not sure what this project is, or what it will turn out to be, but it's not a biography of LVD.

In many ways, it's starting to feel like film-making: 
you get a big idea, and then you have to come up with illustrating the idea in very concrete ways. I like seeing film director's storyboards---where they work out the setting and the action.

It came to me that I can storyboard me going to the library. I don't have anything to say about genocide or war photography. But I can show a daughter, me, doing research into the background of her mother's life, which is, in part, also her own.

I can't, however, draw from memory. So, today I am going to take the bus back downtown to photograph the library. 
Storyboard from The Sound of Music, the first movie I remember seeing in a theater:

From "Storyboards from 15 Beloved Films," in the Atlantic. They aren't always this artistic--I like Scorsese's scratchy sketches for Taxi Driver.  

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


Zhoen said...

Where our paths cross, we each lay claim to the story.

Fresca said...

Ah, that's a good way of putting it!

Krista said...

I am so admiring the work you're doing with this. Have you read Bechdrl's graphic novel Fun Home, about (in part) her father's suicide? Amazingly well written, drawn, handled. I read it last year when Leslie gifted me a copy and was just blown away.

LauraB said...

Beautiful , while also thorny and stony, work you are doing.
And on a trivial note, I too have "The Sound of Music" as first film I remember seeing in a theater.
On the way to the theater in downtown St. Louis, our car broke down- we took a taxi, which was a big puffy black car still- before the boxy yellow sedans became prevalent- and went to a diner that in my memory is a dead ringer for Edward Hopper's "The Night Diner" (?).
We all had ice cream- I had a sundae with a cherry on top- I was very confused & scared- I suppose my father was off dealing with the car while my mother parked herself & the kids at the diner- and it wasn't till months later that we saw the film.
To this day, red cherries on sundaes are still associated in my mind with scary, dark, night city scenes like Batman's Gotham City.

Fresca said...

KRISTA: I have read it--AB is very talented.

LAURA: Good story about how confusing stuff is when you're a kid. And you win for scariest experience at a first movie!