Many years ago, on a hot Summer day here in Austin, Ben, Belinda and I went out for lunch. We went to a burger joint called, Hillbert's, that had been on Lamar Blvd. for decades. It was toasty warm outside, the kind of weather where sandals and shorts are the order of the day. Inside Hillbert's two big window AC units blew icy air across the main counter and the row of swivel stools that line the front window.
Ben has always been an adventurous eater and loves the process of going out anywhere for food. I took along my camera, as I have for nearly thirty years now. At the time it was a Leica R8 fitted with a 50mm Summilux lens.
I took two or three snapshots during lunch and this is one of them.
I've always liked this image for a number of reasons. There is Ben's expression, of course; and the wonderful way the image falls out of focus in the middle distance and the background. I enjoy the flow of soft light coming in from the floor-to-ceiling window at the left of the frame, and I like the warm, not totally corrected, color that mixes yellow and red on skin with magneta and blue on the floor behind Ben and Belinda. But the one attribute I love best about this image is the twinkle and energy in Ben's eyes.
The image stayed with me and, when I wrote my novel (The Lisbon Portfolio) the image prodded me to write a few pages of reminiscence for my character, Henry White, who was in a foreign country, having a trying interpersonal experience, and missing his own child...
The image informed three or four pages of writing and provided a richer texture to Henry White's feeling of being unanchored and apart. I could extrapolate entire stories from visual reminders like the one above. And, in fact, many of the descriptions in the novel are verbalizations of images that tend to stay hooked in my mind, signifying something unfinished, yet not transient.
For some people photographs tell stories. For me I like to tell stories about the feelings and ideas that photographs can spark. I think there is a difference. It's not always one way or the other but sometimes it really is. Interesting to think about the links between our different creative processes...