Reboot

Ending the silence. My mother’s horrible death left me exhausted and more in need of repair than sharing, more than I knew, which for a time took what remained of creative inspiration. Finally, I encountered another detour, this time an opportunity to get my photographer hat out of the closet, ironically as the result of the illness of a former colleague. Now the job is done, mom is gone, and I begin again.

Angle of Reflection is currently resting with an agent who has promised to read it within a reasonable amount of time. That was about a month ago, so we’re probably about half way to any reaction. This agent had read an earlier draft more than a year ago and offered positive feedback and suggestions for change, but ultimately said no. This is a very different book: darker in tone, closer to the bone, probably not at all what she expects. Of course, I can’t decide if that’s a good thing but it does help shape my anxious waiting. My fingers are crossed, which is probably why it’s taking so long to type this. (Nervous laughter).

I’m about ready to get back to work on the next novel. It’s a much more ambitious project and had to wait until I felt I’d exhausted the possibilities I’d launched with Angle; of course I realize that should anyone want to publish it there will be more work to do, but until that happens, I’ve taken it as far as I can and it’s time to move on. I see Angle as the book that taught me how to write a novel, a much more difficult process than I ever imagined. It was about two and a half years of writing, considering, assessing, and revising, a very different process than making photographs. Doing it – and having a completed novel be the result – has taught me what works for me and what I can anticipate in the next book. It’s very hard work, more difficult than anything I’ve done before, but it also required a very intense emotional investigation that only came in small increments. Each draft dug a little deeper, each step went a little further. Then, in the middle of the process, I decided to quit using antidepressants and my path to the truth seemed much smoother. I didn’t know when I started this book that I was also launching an exercise in self-therapy.

The photo job was an effective jump-start. It wasn’t a creative opportunity, but it got me back out in the world. The need to work and interact with others got me out of the house and out of my head and, as a result, seems to have reignited the spark needed to get my butt back in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard.

Capa Two

Just a few more thoughts on Capa before we move on. Larry Walker’s comment about belief and reality strikes home: “If I believe the Capa snap is a picture of a soldier just killed, lacking any evidence one way or the other, does it matter?”

Capa’s job was to report on the war in support of the Republican cause. He was employed by Vu magazine, and the photos appeared in a special issue supporting the Republicans. He was, in short, a propagandist. If he was shooting training exercises and an editor seeing the picture with the caption, The Falling Soldier chose to believe it was a picture of a man dying, what difference does it make? Either way it succeeds in its purpose, which was to create sympathy for the Republican cause.

I doubt Capa set out to deceive, but he gave at least three different versions of the circumstances of the photo. In one he said that he was ducking down beside the hill and holding the camera over his head when he released the shutter. The film was then sent off to France to be developed. If this is true, he didn’t know what he had captured. When the magazine claimed it was the moment of death, what could Capa do?

If he contradicted the editors, he would lose all credibility, probably forever, and certainly lose his job. He would also damage the cause he passionately supported. Capa was a gambler: sometimes poker, sometimes he put his life on the line. In this case, when everyone felt he held the winning hand, and it would have been foolish to fold, he went all in. Was it a bluff? Maybe. We’ll probably never know, but it makes for a very interesting story.

A fascinating and enigmatic man who hated war and was never happy when he was away from it, Capa spent his life surrounded by beautiful women, poker playing artists, and soldiers fighting for their cause, their country, or just their lives. He wasn’t a very good poker player – Huston would win back all the fees he paid him to shoot stills for his films – and he was never able to commit to any of the women he loved. He was a great war photographer and a dedicated anti-fascist who lost his life covering the ridiculously futile French colonial effort in Vietnam for the vehemently anti-communist Life magazine of Henry Luce. The final irony in a complex life.

Here’s a link to Magnum Photos, the cooperative of photojournalists founded by Capa and others where you can view The Falling Soldier and a whole lot of other great images.

http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL535353