I never liked the whole business of taking photographs. I found tourists, armed with cameras, objectionable, I found looking through other people's albums or watching their slides a torment.

During one trip abroad I bought a cheap automatic camera, and once the object was already there I shot several films. After some time I looked through the photographs and established that the scenes I had photographed were all I remembered of that journey. I tried to remember something else, but my memories stayed tenaciously fixed on the contents of the photographs.

I wondered what I would have remembered and how much if I had not taken any pictures . . .

When she went to my grandmother's funeral, my mother came back with a bundle of our family photographs which she had sent to my grandmother over the years. Among them was one of me, taken on the beach. I could have been about thirteen. On the back of the picture I discovered a text in Bulganan written in my distant cousin's unskilled hand: This is me, taken on the beach, in my new swimsuit. Under the text was her equally clumsy signature.

Now that picture is in my possession. Why my distant cousin did that, I shall never know. I am puzzled by that detail, sometimes I wonder whether it could have been me who did it, that, in fact, it's hard to prove that I didn't do it, because the picture is quite definitely of me, and then I am shaken by the nightmare thought that I might have signed my own photograph in her language, alphabet and handwriting and her name.

--- From The Museum of
Unconditional Surrender
Dubravka Ulgresic
©1999 New Directions

Go Home     Subscribe to RALPH     Go Up