Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mysterious Visage from the Past:

"Invent! There is no forgotten feast at the bottom of memory" (Henri Bosco)

Yesterday William, bless him, took time from his work to help with the new project. He worked on the emergence of the image of my grandfather, Daniel Hoskins Dutton, starting with an old photograph, using his mastery of photoshop to add what was probably there, based on what remains.

Once he began cutting, pasting, moving, smudging, dodging, all sorts of cyber face-washing & reconstructive surgeries; replacing an eye that had been chipped away, merging layers with heightened contrasts to bring hidden edges into view, drawing in edges - based on clues from remaining curves, even checking the configuration against one of the many photos he's made of me, as a guide to what my grandfather's face might have looked like, I began to wish that I was taking photos of his manipulation of the photo. Those images, a sepia eye, cut out with a blinking dotted line, isolated and looking out from a rectangle of grey, were haunting - lost time exhumed in the light of a digital age unforseeable at the moment the image began. Haunting too, that an ancestor, once only a name, linked to me by genetics, artifacts, and a handful of stories, gradually became more visible right before my eyes, as though we were meeting for the first time. I knew tales of him, but of this man, perhaps in his 30s at the time the photo was taken, most of what I know is that he lived on the same land I live on, and that he looked something like this.

Now that I have an evocative image to tether my imagination to, I can begin to envision a life surrounding it. My plan is to have the facts and artifacts for boundaries and clues, but within that blinking, dotted line of decision, reality is maleable and subject to the ambiguities of art.


Cathy said...

Brilliant work. Can we see how the photo looked before William's Photoshop magic?

Pig and Peaches said...

dear god, I felt like I was looking at a masculine image of I imagining this...
by, the way, we're home!

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I'll ask William (yoohoo!) if he'll send me the before photo of the photo. I had him print a grey version for me & I've been working on that image with a graphite to enhance the image further.

I had the same "this is me" epiphany.

(Welcome home!)