Our Sunday Best: Truth Makes Contact — The Crossing (A Prologue)


We meet on a transatlantic ship. A designated place, a predetermined time. We will be crossing eras together, and continents, one-by-one. Our goal is to chase down the first photographers to be faithless to the idea of the absolute truth in an image.

These are the strange ones, the hard ones, the ones bitten at the edges by their own pure desires.

You and I stand side-by-side on the deck. We are in our dinner clothes. I’ve altered these past months, and so have you. I am leaner and hungrier, laced with that umbra of a person who wants a thing, and what I want is a story, and the truth.

And you’ve changed too: You stand taller now. What you want is to see it with your own eyes.

That’s why we’re here. Tonight, we’re beyond words on this deck of a pleasant ship cutting through calm waters.

But the white page is never beyond words. Language elbows her way into the margins; footnotes of extraordinary length will be implied in every image we see— especially the photographs due to us on this rough trip. I am your guide.

It’s up to me to pare away the words that calcify on history, those set thoughts always endangering history’s ability to breathe freely.

It’s up to you to remember. To cast us back, to connect history to me and to you.

In silence, you put your elbows on the beautifully turned railing.

I say, I didn’t know if you would actually come this time.

You don’t even turn to look. You know I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to her.

History pushes her curled hair away from her face. She lands a heavy hand on my shoulder.

I shudder from the weight of her touch.

She says, You know what I want.

But I don’t. I never do.

The moon is our witness. We’ve created a pact, it seems.

We’re out to find the truth, you and me. We’re out to find the people who released that truth back into the world, a reflection of a reflection, music sung in a different key, an all-new way of sussing out what’s real, and what never was.

History has left the promenade. She’ll be back. She always comes back to take her due.

USA. California. San Francisco. Ernst Haas. 1955.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS The photograph above features Henri Cartier-Bresson’s first camera, courtesy of Christie’s Fine Art Auction House and Wikipedia. The photograph below is Ernst Haas looking through some sort of viewfinder (?). We’ll be talking about both of them before this series is through.
TO CATCH UP: Try visiting A Smörgåsboard of Posts, which has the entire “modern photography” series in full for you to peruse. I’d love to talk to you in the comments about each of these stories, so don’t be shy!
NEXT WEEK: The first, and wildest, of this wild bunch of photojournalists. W. Eugene Smith! Oh, you and I are going to have a LOT to talk about in one week!

READY TO READ ON? HERE’S PART TWO! Our Sunday Best: {Truth Makes Contact} And Then You Wake, Not Knowing How You Arrived to This Place

About Courtenay Bluebird

Courtenay Bluebird is the creator of Bluebird Blvd. and The Bluebird B-Side. She is a published writer, career journalist, and professional photographer who likes books and sweets. She laughs loudly and sincerely both in public and in private.
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  1. You have written a beautiful but very heavy burden. Thank for making me stretch.

    • It’s my pleasure, Wally! Honestly, I think this story will be right up your alley. There’s a lot of talk about photography being the bridge between art and science in this timeframe of modern photography’s history. I can’t wait. I hope we have a lot of fun!

  2. Now I know you’re back. -hugs-

  3. Up to your usual awesomeness!

Hey there, cupcake! How are ya?