It’s another beautiful day in paradise. Dark, and rainy. It’s one of those days that suggest the beauty of film. F-stop wide open, the darkness and grain, the feeling of an impressionist painting.
It makes me think of being with someone I love hidden away from the world. There’s a bottle of Merlot we’ve been nursing, and we are creating images together. Clothing optional.
I don’t know how many days I have had like this in my life; I know the number is not enough. Those kinds of days are mostly remembered at my current age, the possibility of more dwindling rapidly.
I’ve been really pissed off at the universe lately. My lower back looking like Chernobyl and being unable to roam the city I love is one reason. Another is I still think like I’m 18, yet my body keeps telling me that I am 65.
For the most part, I am a realist. This is the situation, let’s deal with it and move on to the next. So, I have agreed with The Black Dog and the Universe to accept my age, my systems breaking down, and the inevitability of the power being turned off.
I escaped the yoke of organized religion exposed to both the Jewish and Catholic faith for a short time when very young. I remember only that these things were not like the others in my life of sleep, eat, toys, and cartoons, and everyone was acting way too seriously.
I don’t believe in God, and I am a cowardly atheist. I only pray when I am terrified or desperately want something. When my mother got older, she went back to the church after 50 years of being outside. I had no opinion other than it seemed about right for her. I never criticize anyone’s religion, as it has nothing to do with me. In fact, I have great respect for those individuals who have deep unquestioning faith.
I only have faith in human behavior.
I have always enjoyed religion’s mythology, though, and I know a fair amount about the more popular ones. I don’t have to believe in a God or any organized religion to apply its philosophy. My favorite being, “What would Jesus do?” He wouldn’t vote for God damn Trump, I can tell you that.
Before she died, my mother insisted I learn the Lord’s Prayer just in case I was wrong about this whole atheism thing.
I live alone, and I like it. I like being able to finish a paragraph in a book without having to hide in the bathroom. I watch the TV and movies I want to watch. I also stay up as late as I wish to write or working on my pictures or tending to my ant colony.
There are times, however, that I am lonely for the companionship of the opposite sex. I may have always been crap in relationships, but I sure as hell enjoyed the work.
Recently I asked God to let me fall in love one more time before my expiration date. A little while ago and seemingly in answer to my plea, I did. The details aren’t essential, but it did seem as if our Lord, be He Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin*, is a bit of a joker. I really should have been much more specific with my request.
Next time it goes like this: “Hello. It’s me. Not scared, but I do want something. Okay? Here goes. Just one more time before I do the dirt nap, I would like to fall in love. Also, I would like the person I fall in love with to love me back. Please, Lord, do not make her bat shit crazy like the last one. Don’t make her anti-vax, anti-mask, gluten-free, conspiracy believing, fortune teller going, and rabid Trump supporter. You know, like the last one. Thanks.”
They say God is in the details.
So after that short and rather unsettling journey into poor decision-making, I spent a lot of time thinking. Had I, in fact, reached my “best if used by” date? In my funk, I buried myself in the massive job of preparing a new layout for “Women Hold Up Half The Sky,” my new book.
Obviously, in the book, there will be images of women I have been in relationships with. Looking at each image elicits a different response from my head and my gut. One or two make me cringe, and one actually haunts me. It is an image of Linda.
See, she was in love with me, and I was even engaged to her at one point. At least until she figured out that I was never going to marry her and that I never loved her the way she did me. We parted company and stayed friends for a couple of years but eventually lost touch.
Over the years, I have looked at the images I made of her and realized that she was an extraordinary person—a realization due to my accumulating years of wisdom. Just wait, you will see.
Several years back, when I came across the image above, I Googled her name for grins and found an article about her Army service. Joining the Army seemed about right. She was fearless. She had become an artillery officer. That seemed about right too. The article went on to describe how she died from wounds received in Iraq.
That is when this picture began to bother me, began to haunt me. That slight smile, I took for a smirk. She was making a comment about what a twat I had been to her. I thought about how pretty she was and how much she loved me and how I had not loved her back.
That picture became one like maybe you have. You look at it, and you wince. Mostly because of how you acted or what you said or what opportunity you lost. That feeling you get is karma reminding you it’s real.
After my recent exsanguination, perpetrated on me by bat shit crazy object of my affection, I had come across Linda’s picture again. Of course! Of course, my recent blood-letting was the Karmic Slap Back of how I had treated her. And for all the other relationships in which I was the only one who knew that it was a “relationship of convenience.”
Hey, I never said this piece was going to make me look good. Why would I be any different than you or any other person? We are not all one thing, you know? Our redemption comes from looking back and understanding why we are not always the hero of our own narrative. Sometimes we are the student with no clue who mistakes bad behavior for control.
Whether you like it or not, those pictures you’ve been creating your whole life are silent witness to the very good and very bad things about you. Unlike most humans, those who document their time here on Earth have a poignant teaching tool at their disposal.
My pictures help me come to terms with memories I have tried to forget. These pictures of Linda no longer haunt me. In fact, I love looking at them and remembering what was good.
One of those memories is how Linda was always smiling. She was very rarely ever sad, and of course, some of those sad times are on me. That look on her face in that picture? I used to think it was a smirk. Now when I look at it, she’s smiling at me for finally getting it.
About Gerard Exupery
Gerard Exupery has been a New York-based Street Photographer for more than 40 years. He attended the School of Visual Arts and studied with Lisette Model at The New School. His first job was driving a New York City taxi. He has worked as an oil rig roustabout, photographer’s assistant, custom printer, motorcycle mechanic, audio engineer, video engineer and line producer. Through all of his varied experiences he carried his camera with him every day. In the introduction to Exupery’s first book ‘SUBWAY New York City 1975-1985’. [Official Website]
Mark McQueen said of Exupery:
“Gerard Exupery is one of those people who always has something to say. He has an uncanny talent for prying poetry out of the banalest of topics, inspiring you to look at them anew. This talent is even more evident in the visual realm. He has always managed to distill the chaos of life in New York down to concise, sometimes profound, but always original reflections on the human condition.”
In an article Exupery wrote, about coming to terms with his pictures, originally published on 35mmc.com, Exupery revealed:
“I look at all of these images. They span more than 40 years and are my life. A lot of the people I got to meet, the ones I made angry, and the ones I made love me are mostly all here. Also, my failed relationships, fear, and greed represented for your viewing and my contemplation. Of course, you don’t know what I know. That will eventually be gone. They will still be good pictures. I have come to terms with that, I think.
‘Women Hold Up Half the Sky’
Gerard Exupery’s New Book of Images and Stories
On Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 at 0000, New York photojournalist Gerard Exupery launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund his limited-edition printing of the highly anticipated “WOMEN HOLD UP HALF THE SKY.”