William Gedney & Great Aunt Joan

 William Gedney, Kentucky 1972 (left), Great Aunt Joan, south of France circa 1965 (right)

William Gedney, Kentucky 1972 (left), Great Aunt Joan, south of France circa 1965 (right)

William Gedney & Great Aunt Joan

In William Gedney’s picture (left), that central figure, as skinny as the piece of wood supporting him, kicks at the old starter motor like it’s a dead animal by the side of the road. The younger men stand around him, heads down, listening to his mumbled thoughts. 

There was always something about this picture that I couldn’t put my finger on. Within this arrangement of men and that lazy, humid atmosphere, lay my private little punctum. But a punctum so hidden, that not even I could locate it. Then, after 13 years of revisiting the picture every now and then, it revealed itself, like the last, subtle tones to emerge in the developing tray. That figure on the right - the one with his back towards the camera - I’ve seen him before. 

I have an old family photo (right) of my father on a boat in the south of France. Taken by my great aunt Joan, it shows him also cropped at the calf and standing with his back to the camera, passively observing the actions of another older man.

Look at their legs! See how they both carry their weight with their right, while their left hangs idle, bent at the knee. And notice the arch of their backs, one defined by his spine, the other by a shadow. Finally to their heads. Both cocked, one to the right, the other slightly to the left.

I guess this is how young men stand when called upon to assist older men. And it's a pose connecting two pictures, which are otherwise entirely at odds. Gedney’s photo shows men exhausted by heat and work, while great aunt Joan’s shows men at play in the warm Mediterranean sun. Gedney’s man stands with his hands in his pockets, fingering small change that he doesn’t possess until the job’s done. Is that a screwdriver in my father’s left hand? I wonder if he put it to use. I can’t see what he’s holding in his right, but I get the feeling it’s an ice cream.