Photography by Adrian Harris

thinking through seeing

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Confessions and Memorials

Our need for relationship is perhaps our most essential quality and without it we cannot survive. That powerful need can sometimes be expressed in curious ways; the need to confess, for example. We don’t all have access to Catholic confession, so what do you do if you have a secret you can’t hold anymore?

“I am stealing …”

Whoever scribbled this graffiti had a need to confess and chose a means that is both highly visible – it was on the wall in a public building – and utterly anonymous. The relationship between the person confessing and the public who might read it is an odd one. If the confession isn’t seen by other people it’s pointless, but the person behind it remains invisible. It’s a controlled, ersatz kind of relationship, like viewing someone through a one-way mirror. Technically this is a poor photograph, but there’s something compelling about it. The image provokes my imagination and all kind of unanswerable questions come up. Was this confession enough to ease their anxiety? Did they keep on stealing? Did they get caught?

RIP

This is a much more honest sharing, this time of grief and celebration. To some degree it’s another anonymous expression, but many local people will know who painted this and share the sentiment. This memorial graffiti, though to my eyes much more beautiful than a gravestone, is transient. Even if no-one paints over it, it’ll fade and peel in time. Maybe that’s part of what make it special. Like the life it celebrates, it’ll fade away. Meanwhile I like to think of it as a community memorial to a much loved Dad.