Five Points, Vol. 22, No. 1Spring
She came into focus on the surface of Ilford Pearl photographic paper —a modern Ophelia startled to life in the developing bath; first her nose, then the eyes, saturated and floating just above the skin of hydroquinone solution and oblivion. I’m saving her, I thought, rendering her immortal. I submerged the paper, agitated it a little, then let it float to the top, shameless, her nude body undulating in the diffuse red light. Shadows gathered around the model’s pencil-light outline, a mounting storm of gray tones gaining substance; stains evanescing, giving way to limbs, features, mood. In college I set up darkrooms in closets, bathrooms, and attic crawl spaces. I had to kneel down to fit beneath the eaves, my head snug against the slanted ceiling as images coalesced in the tray. Before the second image was ready for the stop bath, my legs were already so numb I imagined they didn’t exist anymore. Again and again I sacrificed my own body to birth theirs, giving up my legs as theirs appeared. At this stage the photographs stare up at me from the tray. They reek of urine and vinegar, as they always do, as if they came to life in a caul of their own piss. Even now I associate cigarettes with that tang on my fingertips—each drag piqued with citrus and ammonia as though I’m still running a wet hand along their two-dimensional bodies.