|Hilary - Mexico City - 1973
Había aprendido sin esfuerzo el inglés, el francés, el portugués, el latín. Sospecho, sin embargo, que no era muy capaz de pensar. Pensar es olvidar diferencias es generalizar, abstraer. En el abarrotado mundo de Funes no había sino detalles, casi inmediatos.
Irineo Funes murió en 1889, de una congestión pulmunar.
Funes el memorioso – Jorge Luís Borges
He had learned without effort English, French, Portuguese and Latin. I nevertheless suspect that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences. It is to generalize to abstract. In Funes’s crowded world there were only details that were almost inmmediate.
Irineo Funes died in 1889 of a pulmonary congestion. Jorge Luís Borges
The Borges short story, Funes el memorioso from his lovely volume called Ficciones has been in my mind and I think at night and remember.
In Spanish to remember is to acordar. But there is another word, a much nicer word rememorar (not at all equivalent to the prosaic remember). And there is another Spanish word whose definition in English would be “one who remembers”. It is a word that Borges adored – memorioso. And that word is the title of the short story of a young Uruguayan who has such a perfect memory that he is unable to process all the he can instantly remember when he looks at something.
My thoughts these days have been about the difference of remembering a person without remembering the portrait I may have taken or the circumstance behind the taking of the portrait. These portraits of my family are all over the house. When I look at them, the process of remembering may be a bit more complex than remembering without facing the portrait.
And yet, when I remember these family members as well as other people I have photographed in my past, I instantly connect the memory of the person with the memory of the portrait and the taking of it.
Here is an example. When my daughter Hilary was 3, she, her older daughter Ale, Rosemary and I drove our VW to San Francisco from Mexico City. Because Rosemary and I taught English in Mexico City hotels that were part of the Weston chain we were able to get a reduced rate at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square. The morning after we arrived we went for breakfast. The place was posh. Our waiter wore tails. Hilary began to cry and would not stop. Our waiter came and asked us, “Is there anything I can do to please your young lady?” My answer was immediate as I knew the futility of the problem, “Yes, if you can bring her some tortillas and beans. That’s what she is crying about.”
I did not take a picture so my memory depends on my memory and nothing more. When Hilary was 2, I placed her on a high bookshelf knowing that she would cry. I had my Asahi Pentax S-3 loaded with TRi-X waiting for her to do that. I waited for the tears to drop and I snapped my shutter. There is a 16x20 inch framed print on one side of my bed that I can see all the time reflected on the mirror closet doors at the foot of the bed. I have a T-shirt with that image and I like to go to Hilary’s job and ask her manager or fellow workers to guess who the crying baby is. They can never guess. In Mexico City, in mid October when I chatted about my author photographs to 1000 people at the Zócalo at the Book Fair, I was wearing the T-shirt and mentioned it in my chat.
So my question here is what is the difference between my
memory of Hilary crying at the St. Francis and that of my taking the
photograph? Unfortunately Borges, the
expert on the subject is not around for me to ask him. And Irineo Funes would not be able to process my question.