A Bit Like Memoir Writing, or Blogging


To be in an intimate relationship with a photojournalist is to acquire a catalog of your life— much of it raw, since they hate clean, posed shots. This catalog becomes an interesting thing: you watch yourself in all its incarnations, hoping you are growing as much as the attractive photographs suggest, and that your insides are not as degenerative as the photographs you’d like to burn. I cannot begin to count how many times a year my photographer ex-husband used to aim his Nikon or Canon or Leica lens at me. When I was not sleeping or facing another direction or partially eclipsed by someone else, I always squirmed.

One night, as I sat working in my office, a small corner off the kitchen, he was busy in our bedroom, scanning negatives into his computer, toning them, and printing the keepers on 8½-by-11-inch sheets of matte paper. I heard him howl with laughter, but chose to ignore him.

A few minutes later his footsteps moved toward me.

“Guess who?” he said, sliding a print onto my keyboard.

I jumped up, shocked. “No! Oh no, oh no!”

It was a color photograph of me– in the nude. I was looking in the direction of the camera, clearly, but appeared to be completely unaware of my nakedness, my vulnerability.

In the photograph, I was dancing—I remember the moment now—but it looks as if I were in a warrior pose, my right arm raised to form a V, my hair and facial expression wild.

I ignored this show of strength, pointed out my flaws.

I would have held in my lower abs; I would have run a comb through my hair (it was still in an Afro); I would have wiped the oily sheen from my face, softened my expression.

“If you ever show that to anyone, I’ll have to hurt you.”

“But look,” he pointed out, laughing, “at the way the light is hitting your skin, and the polish of the wooden floor.”

Both attracted and repelled, I studied my body’s contours and varying shades. I examined this version of me— the inward curve of her spine, the deep, bent arches of her feet, the wide diamond shape of her face, the pinkish-brown pucker of her mouth, the white marbles of her large eyes, the black circles staring back at me from the middle of all that white.


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