‘With all my heart’
image © 2012 Aline Giordano
text © 2013 Aline Giordano
The photos… the photos… She had ripped them apart to remove my mother and me. She didn’t even take scissors to cut us off. She just tore the paper. Was it in a fit of rage, or did she do it calmly, realising that she had lost us forever and that there was no point in being reminded of this in her loneliness? She apologised for the state of the pictures and mumbled: ‘You’ll have to give me some new photos, my little one’. The torn photographs were an echo of our family disintegration. I knew deep down I would never give her new photos of me because I would never see her again. I didn’t want to give her an opportunity to tear my life apart, again, for real or metaphorically.
Only my brothers remained in the old Polaroid snaps from the seventies and eighties. One particular square image was of my younger brother. He was wearing a red cowboy hat with a silver star on it. He must have been eleven or twelve. He had been distracted by something and was smiling away from the camera.
He killed himself when he was 21.
The past, the wretched past – she was revisiting it as if nothing had happened, as if my brother’s death had not dampened her anger, to the contrary. How far this was from Jacques Brel’s majestic song ‘Les Vieux’. In her house it didn’t smell nicely of lavender. There was no silver clock, not saying yes, not saying no, because death was already there in this house that reeked of dog p*ss and bleach all at the same time.
I asked her if I could photograph the photograph of brother in his cowboy hat. She didn’t quite understand what I wanted to do but she said ‘whatever you like my little one’. I knew this would be the last visit and I was determined to give this photograph another life. In an attempt to wipe out the past lived with us, he kept all our family photos. I don’t know where they ended up, those photos and all the Super8 movies.
‘give back what you took from me you whispered in your sleep who but me would write it down so now it’s mine to keep’ (Bazerlay 2009)
Even since, I’ve asked relatives to dig out photographs of me when I was a kid. It’s not an easy task. They have their children’s photo albums tucked away, somewhere in their attic or buried in a wardrobe. They don’t need to have them to hand, or even look at them. They know they have them, and they know that the people in them are still alive. They don’t quite understand what these photographs mean to me. In twenty years, I have managed to gather only about ten photographs of my brother and me when we were kids. I look at them often. Thinking about it today, I wonder why. Nostalgia? Or all these lost loves, at last, that are ‘mine to keep’.
Barzelay, E. (2009), With all my heart, Hungry Bird: Freeworld.
Bourdieu, P., Boltanski, L., Castel, R., et al. (1965), Photography: A Middle-brow Art (Whiteside, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press.