Shot in the intimate spaces of the author’s parents’ home, I read this book as an exploration of existence, both material and temporal. Echoing the title, the images in Still Here point out to the transience of material things; the grass on our back gardens, the leaves on the trees, the skin on our body with all its wrinkles and blemishes, even the brittle wings of a bee. Goldblatt is very careful in her observations, trying to get to the essence of things and their existence. Water, air, light, flesh, all seem still yet are quietly animated by a particular here-and-now.
This book is also a meditation on the passage of time. It shows how we are locked in a continuous present; unable to see or touch the construct we call time. Our nearest approximation to it is through the idea of change, a distinctive before–and-after which allows us to experience the passing of time. Through a confrontation with the physical evidence of this invisible force, the images of this book help us come to terms with our own mortality. We are transient beings, and as such, aren’t more or less affected by the passing of time as all the matter around us.
True to the essence of photography, Goldblatt sets to capture instants in time, not by freezing its flow -quite the opposite- but by aiming to detain what is really significative: The sun shining through a window, the movement of the clouds in the sky, the pattern made by raindrops falling on water.
There is a deeper level of exploration also present in the images, an invisible lattice that connects matter with the ineffable idea of time. This is the realm of affection and memory, where physical beings take on a special anima when we call them by their name –father, mother- and infuse them with affection. It is at this level that matter, time and feeling work in particular unison. The images in this book capture a particular material presence and imbue it with a sense of temporality and heartfelt affection.
The fact Goldblatt chose photography as a medium for her observations reaffirms the driving force behind her work. In essence, photography is the clearest representation of the passage of time. Light has an effect on everything it touches; it assigns shapes and colours, and enables us to perceive this never-ending flow we call time. In Still Here, these elemental truths are rediscovered by a keen and sharp observer, one mindful enough not to upset or interfere with this delicate dance.
The sun shines through the window. It doesn’t fill the room; it looks like it chooses where to set, what to touch. It shines through the flowery curtain and the delicate silk robe. It warms the skin, dazzles the eyes, hits the crystals and exposes the film. For me, Lydia Goldblatt’s work is as much of a scientific exploration of the physical world and its machinations as it is a labour of love.
Still Here is Lydia Goldblatt’s first publication.