Tara Polansky - Artist
You wouldn't die from that today
2010
Archival digital print of photograph of drawing with digital manipulation
11 x 15
The title You wouldn’t die from that today originated from something my mother said, probably when we were looking at pictures together. There is a collapsing of time that happens when looking at snapshots. We see a photo of a person taken at a particular moment and sometimes, rather than serving to jar a memory of the experience that was captured, it acts as an indicator of the person. For example, “This is Grandma Ettie.” And then we can talk about her whole life and, of course, her death. So looking at a photo with this kind of hindsight, my mom might say, “There’s Grandma Ettie. She was so young. Her hair was just the same color as yours. Those reddish highlights.”

And I might ask, “who is she with?”

And Mom might answer, “I have no idea. This was before she got sick. Probably before I was born.”

Me: “When did she get sick?”

Mom: “Not long after I was born. Hodgkins. You wouldn’t die from that today. Now it could be treated much sooner.”

The morbid title, probably oft repeated when referring to that generation, is shorthand for that conversation and a nod to the breakdown of linear time that photographs can produce. How strange that a viewer can look at photograph and know things about the subject that s/he didn’t yet know at that moment (like their cause of death). In a photograph of a person taken at any given time, a viewer can envision their childhood, their prime, their death. And maybe for the pictured person, there was a time the picture was just a specific reminder of the time they walked over the bridge to Brooklyn with Frida and Chunie.