“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

—Stanley Kubrick

Most images are still sitting latent on a piece of plastic, buried in a few layers of chemicals, waiting to be resolved. It has been over two months, and the two cameras that made those images have hardly made any others. It is a struggle to finish off the rolls inside of them, knowing that once they are finished and replaced I will be compelled to develop them.
This one was made and seen instantly. It sat on my phone, though, and was quickly hidden by the dozens and hundreds of random images that followed. It was taken moments after the last moments of my brother’s life. If it is anything at all, it is a representation of the texture of a moment in an intensive care unit, more than it is anything about a man.

To have documents of this moment are a curse, first. To be in the presence of that event—to witness something slip away that you never thought would leave you—is humbling and exhausting. The compulsion to document it felt almost callous, but when you are in that state, unsure of what you might have left, you want to make more. You want to have more pieces of that person, even if they seem overly morbid or forlorn. It was my last chance, in a sense, to make something about the two of us.

Documenting death, then, was the most dramatic way of illustrating that need to represent myself in something else. Seeking immortality in a moment—injecting myself or my way of seeing into a situation that is beyond me (and, well, they are almost all beyond me).

Again, then, this isn’t a representation of my brother. It is a reflection of a circumstance that I imagine none of us would ever choose, even though he did, ostensibly. For me, it does not even bring up his memory beyond those few days in that hospital. The smells and noises in that room, the food in the cafeteria, the moments with my family that spanned from pure grief to optimism and back, hearing nurse after nurse talk about levels of versed.

I am, on some levels, terrified of getting the film back. Just as I am about all of my feelings surrounding this. Learning to address these things, and the relics of these events is something we all have to face at some point. From well-loved pets to our spouses and our closest friends, we are impossibly lucky to have people worth mourning—which is a small consolation.

If nothing else, this image and possibly the others, give a context for myself to feel comfortable sharing certain thoughts about an otherwise astonishing and paralyzing tragedy.

I love and miss you, brother.

I am in the record making business. I move forward and leave a trail of documents that are some bizarre yet hopefully thoughtful representation of who and what I was, for that moment. It can seem so romantic, but in moments when I am in the worst mood, it just seems like a huge pile of colorful receipts.

There are the memories of making of a photograph, and then there is everything that comes after. All of those times you turned to it for whatever it originally meant. Each time it transforms under your gaze, it becomes what you need it to be (or the last thing you need it to be, depending). Every viewing adds another layer of obstruction, building and changing and shifting its meaning. Sometimes that all gets peeled away and you are left with that original feeling, but more often than not you are left with a response caked in meaning with no quick and easy way back. You could start sanding it down and remove the strata—but everyone hates sanding.

I had a dream that was like an ill-conceived alternative Japanese video game. I was floating twenty-five or thirty feet above the ground, and people kept tossing me things—all kinds of things. I remember wondering if I actually had any sort of responsibility to catch them, to try and hold onto all of those things that came at me—or if I should have been avoiding them, letting them complete their trajectory and smash back down into the crowd. Either option seemed just as difficult, and for every object I felt like I made the wrong decision. If it was meant to be compared with my waking life, I probably could have just listened to what people were asking me to do and have been just fine. Instead, I was flustered and flailed and made a mess of everything. Much like my waking life.

Four years or fourteen, but so often of nothing. What other years old innocuous impulse are we ever held accountable for? Not even the closest relationships of people with incredible memories are people expected to explain why they decided not to take off their clothes before they fell asleep. Whatever charm the things we do that must be done but do not matter have in a life of someone who pays attention can be suffocated by documentation. There is an expectation of meaning, and what a terrible expectation of a document that has no desire to be substantive. What a frustrating thing to want from an exercise, from a result of practice. I remember walking through the alley and hearing my R.M. Williams crunch the sand and glass, I remember having the camera in my back pocket, I remember seeing the rectangle of light on the door and walking backwards a few steps, I remember looking at the shot counter. It was four years ago and I remember thinking at that very moment about taking meaningless photos. Of all people, I love to apply meaning to things, I like forcing these arbitrary images into formats and contexts that imply that there are connections, that they are relevant. I can’t help but see, during that whole process, that it seems very much like taking a few nervous tics and uncomfortable nights and calling it a syndrome.

There is what we remember and there is everything else. A photograph is, often, a representation of a decision we make to remember. There is a photograph of the train on Coney Island that I may or may not have stolen from someone else—I will admit there was at the very least 2 ways to both experience and remember it. The difference between seeing it first and being ready first. The difference between seeing it as an overlap in aesthetic attraction and seeing it as someone being a thieving jerk. This shit is all the same, it is all the same mush of thought and intention—but are you trying to pick up that mush with a spoon or a fork?

As we all try to decide what to remember, all I can think is I never meant to steal anything, anything at all.

I am working on the 14th floor of a building in downtown Denver. It is all beige and cream and brown—I am, from what I can tell, the only person still on the floor at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday. I am listening to alt/post/nueveo/whatever the fuck country music as loudly as I can hoping to attract some sort of attention. I am supposed to be working towards a deadline. From the windows I can see the last few buildings that make up the last bit of the east side of downtown. Then the sprawl of all of the neighborhoods that keep going east. All I can think of is the moment I took this blurry photo from the 32nd floor of an apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen. I thought of this photograph before I thought to take another one from here. I thought of the friends I had to make to make this photograph. People I didn’t know before, and haven’t talked to since. I realized that that is so much of what life is, before I even thought to take a photograph out of the window of the 14th floor. It is just the view I always have, whenever I happen to make it into this office. It was not preceded by a strange friendship made on the floor of a trade show. The view I have now is the view that has been available to me for just about three years. It was waiting for me for over a year when I lived somewhere completely different. It was waiting for me when I was 3 miles away working from a couch. It is waiting for me now, while I think of a photograph from New York City instead.
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