Pola Esther – Untitled Diptych from Mutual Attraction series (2012)

I saved this to my drafts a few weeks back with the intention of pulling together a short piece comparing it with the Sheer Delight editorial Robbie Fimmano shot for Interview Magazine back in March–specifically the variation circulating with the effing brilliant addition of a corresponding color palates.

Only at the moment I’m following a different thread–so I’m calling an audible and running a different direction with this.

For the last month or so, I’ve been working on a piece of fiction. I’m still unsure what form it’s going to wind up taking on but for now, let’s say it’s novel-esque.

The impetus for writing it emerged from two things:

  1. I am extremely alarmed by the increasing prevalence of the notion among many (but especially Evangelical Xtians) that despite being a decisive majority, American freedoms are under attack–you know the type of people who think unironically that being correctly labeled a bigot is somehow more damaging that you know centuries of institutional prejudice;
  2. While I try to live my life in a fashion which minimizes (if not eliminates) regret, there are times when I wonder to myself how my life might be different if I could go back and pass on a little wisdom to my younger self.

The tricky part with that second thing is I usually think I’d want to go back to myself at 19; Yet, lately I’ve realized that I was already too beaten down and cynical then. In reality, I’d probably need to go back 6 years further.

As far as the first thing goes: one of the reasons such bullshit persecution complexes rile me so easily comes as a result of having–much to my then and continued chagrin–attended a parochial high school.

Any attempt to bridge the gap between your adult self and the thirteen year-old precursor is a bizarre experience. What’s a little unnerving to me  is how much this character resembles a girl I actually knew in high school.

Her name was Beckie and she was the closest my school had to the central casting I-don’t-care-what-anyone-says-punk-rock-is-alive-and-kicking teen angst soap opera trope.

She was generally exuberant. Socially awkward but in a charming way that constantly pointed to an individual who was both extravagantly kind and shamelessly wore her heart on her sleeve.

While she wasn’t physically bullied, she was heinously body shamed. Like looking back on it now, it upsets me. She was extremely tall. If memory serves she was the tallest person in her class from 7th to 9th grade.

At my school, you had to walk between classes in a single file line. Thus frequently, you’d end up waiting in the hallway while other people emptied out of a classroom. I remember a boy walking up to Beckie, grabbing the squared neckline of her dress, pulling it out and looking down the front of her shirt and telling her that she should think about putting some band-aids on those mosquito bites. Carpenter’s dream and Pirate’s dream jokes chorused after her wherever she went. (I don’t think she actually owned a bra until 11th grade and then it was a sports bra for the sake of propriety.)

But still, she was kind to everyone.

As I’ve worked on this story, I’m actually finding that I full-blown regret that I never go to know Beckie better. I see how much we had in common then–but I had my head up my ass then. Was focused on the wrong things; things that ended up inflicting woulds that would take years to heal, if they ever did.

I see how much we have in common now: she’s a studio photographer and as much as I’m not fond of studio photography, she’s got some tight chops.

It occurs to me that even though there has always been a part of me not-so-secretly twitterpated by her, I think she’d maybe have been a better person to know than any of the people I associated with then–all of whom are decades gone at this point.

And as I’m banging my head against a wall trying to find someone to collaborate with on a photography project in Iceland this September, I realize that as strange and probably slightly creepy as it seems, the people I’ve been approaching and have largely ignored me–all have something in their work or personality that reminds me of Beckie.

That’s why I’m mentioning this here. I feel like you can look at just about any single image Esther makes and be hypnotized by it. But her diptychs have a way of returning your eye to the image with more attention and greater insight.

Or maybe I’m talking out of my ass…

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