On Wednesday night, at the opening performance of the Arts Club Theatre Company's The School For Scandal my laughs (this is a very funny play) were dampened by a reality that became too obvious as the evening progressed. I only counted two actors on stage that I had previously photographed, Colin Heath and Christopher Gaze. But amongst the audience I recognized at the very least 50 people, who were or are friends, actors, business people, doctors of medicine, that I have photographed in the past and recent past. Some of them stared at me not quite remembering where they had seen me. We photographers can be transparent. I first photographed Bill Millerd, the artistic managing director of the Arts Club about 30 years ago. He would not have remembered me now and there he was. So was sports doctor Doug Clement (above left) and research scientist Julia Levy.
The evening reminded me of 1960 film The Time Machine with Rod Taylor. In the film, when Rod Taylor as George (H.G.) Wells straps himself to the time machine and moves into the future, rapid projections behind him show the future (some initial flashes are WW I, the next are WWII, in between, trees grow and die quickly, cities appear and then disappear. The people crowding the Stanley Theatre lobby reminded me of these scenes, but in slow motion.
I thought of the saddest words I have read in many years, in Harold Bloom's How To Read and Why (2000). In the preface he writes:
"We read not only because we cannot know enough people, but because friendship is so vulnerable, so likely to diminish or disappear, overcome by space,time, imperfect sympathies, and all the sorrows of familial and passional life."
It was around 1958 that I placed my brand new Pentacon F on a tripod and took (self timer) a group picture of my room mates at St Edward's High School in Austin Texas. This view is towards town and by now the field must be gone. From left to right, it is John Arnold, Mac Letscher, me and Melvin Medina. I have lost contact with all of them. I last saw John Arnold 25 years ago when I returned to Texas to have a look at my school. I met up with John Arnold and other classmates,poolside, at a Houston Holiday Inn. it was nighttime and 105 degrees. John had fought in Vietnam and with his crisp white short sleeved dress shirt he looked like a spook. He told me he worked for a security firm. Others had died in that war.
I look at this picture now and it is no different from those flickering shadows behind Rod Taylor's time machine.
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