: life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
I start a new roll for the last smiles of the year.
The leaves begin to fall. My sister arrives on a train. We wander through London and find the Photographers’ Gallery in Westminster, and spend the afternoon looking at existential photography in their new exhibition. I tell Lucy about Simone de Beauvoir and we talk about cameras and guns. There is an installation called Crossfire in a dark room. Later I read:
‘The video-sound installation Crossfire by Christian Marclay is a sampling from Hollywood films that edits together those moments in which the actors on the screen begin to take aim at the movie theatre audience. For eight minutes and twenty-seven seconds, the montage transports the viewer into a visual and acoustic crossfire from all sides.’
I go in by myself because Lucy is hesitant of the booming gunfire. My shadow forms my perfect outline on one of the surround screens where the actors point their guns at me. It’s loud and intimidating, and it makes my heart race as I stand still with my camera. There’s a picture I could have taken which I think of now as I write back (a long exposure, because of the darkness, with the blur of the screens behind the silhouette; the guns mixed up into bright white light) – but I am too taken in the moment and it passes me by. Here, then, is a new maxim to remember: moments which make your heart race hold a photograph.
Back in Canterbury I cook dinner and we watch The West Wing and take silly pictures with my webcam. The next morning I have a seminar, but afterwards we walk into town and have lattes and chocolate cake with strawberries and cream at the quirky cafe in a corner of the high street.
We each have our cameras, so we go for a walk along the river where the sun dips low over the water. The city is quiet although the leaves fall in a shower of auburn and gold.
I have new boots. Now I walk around in another girl’s shoes.
I go home to write essays and life takes a sudden short, sharp turn. I come back alone. Parts of my world start all over again.
A few days later I am in Cambridge with my friends for our annual birthday gathering. We ceilidh dance the night away, sleep restlessly, eat nutella toasties for breakfast, and walk across the city to the botanical gardens where I shoot for Alice, David, and Jonny’s upcoming folk gig. Last year I could have kicked myself for loading my camera with Ilford when the year’s bright epitaph was burning all around me. This year my roll of Kodak Gold gave me emerald waters and crimson leaves. (The digital shots are here and here.)
We wander through the trees and visit the fogged greenhouses. Later there is cake and cranberry juice in the café while I teach Jonny to use Acer.
In the evening we see Bellowhead at the Corn Exchange and limp home under the street lights and light mist. Sunday is spent sleeping and reading, and drinking hot coffee in a hidden Costa before catching the train home. The hush of the tracks takes us further than we’d thought, all the way to Liverpool Street, and when I get home my attic room is heavy and silent.
I read Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson and a week later my class catches the slow train to Waterloo to visit the Globe. I grew up in London before we moved to the countryside, and a part of me still imagines itself coming home when it sees the skyline through the train window.
We walk along Southbank with the sky clear in the ripples on the Thames. It is cold and crisp, the air sharp as glass. I am used to imagining this landscape under the weight of history, but rarely have I tried to create a picture of this city as Shakespeare would have seen it. I think about the small rowing boats that ferried people back and forth before bridges, of the low thatched roofs and wide open sky, and the way London’s natural soundtrack has changed. (Except for the river, whose wash has always been constant.) In the theatre some American drama students are practicing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet under the watch of the Globe’s director.
When we stop for a break lights have pricked like stars across the river. I take a twin picture of St Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge, and then Claudia and I walk across the water to finish my film.