Friday, May 9, 2008

A Flickr Romance

For hundreds of years literature has brought us romances that grew by letter. Actually the tradition goes back thousands of years, with correspondences between lovers of all genders since the glories of Greece, Rome, Persia, China, India...

So modern long-distance romance a la the Internet is not so unusual - the medium is just updated. Or, as Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Last night I was looking at photos on Flickr, a place of inspiration for paintings and daydreaming, and found this one. I've seen this one before in my rambles - it's a well fav'd photo on Flickr, and for good reason. As a painter I find this compelling because of the composition and the square format (my favorite in my own work, you may have noticed) but even more because of the painterly quality brought on by the lighting and the soft quality of the photo. The subject matter is also exceptionally beautiful - beautiful woman, affectionate intimate pose, masculine looking man, lovely background and furniture framing the figures and the entire photo.

So I looked into John's photostream more, and principally the set about Tamara. I then got completely lost for an hour or so, following his photos and hers and the comment streams beneath them. Both are photographers and camera crazy (their Flickr areas are organized around their camera models!), working with all sorts of unusual and beautiful old equipment, producing lovely results that look like they are from another world, another time. And in a way they are, as many of the shots are from time spent together in Paris and Moscow - he's from Britain, living most of that time in Paris, she's Russian, living in Moscow. The main reason I got lost, though, was that through the photos, their captions, and the comments beneath them, a romance was painted. I pieced together the way it unfolded over more than 18 months, from learning of each other on Flickr, to a chance opportunity to meet for one day in Paris (no romance - read comments under photo, though), to a photo where it appears the two of them discovered their deeper feelings there in the commenting! (and that they wished they'd said something in Paris) to spending as much time together as possible in trips and vacations after that, lots of playing around with cameras and photographs, to talk, ultimately, of a wedding...

It was not just the story that enchanted me for an hour, but the winding way it presented itself to me as I wandered through their photos, going back and forth between their collections on Flickr. I knew they were in love from the start; I found that he planned to marry her early in exploration, and I found out how they got together only gradually, as if in flashbacks. Like many good novels. That presentation can't be reproduced - I couldn't take that path again or set it up for others - so the whole experience is ephemeral and therefore even more wondrous to me, and I was aware of that the entire time I read and looked last night.

The difference between this medium and letters is not just that it allows visual and emotional content not possible in words alone, but that the romance unfolded, at least in part, in the public eye, amidst a community of on-line photography friends. It was lovely to behold. It was a gift to be able to share it. I wish them great happiness and long life together.


DebD said...

Wow. That is just beautiful.

Have you ever listened to the book on tape Griffin and Sabine? It is one of the best. The book is good too, but somehow the audio captures the mystery and romance better than the book (although the book is worth having for it's beauty). This story you've told reminds me a bit of my husband's and my own experience listening to and discovering Griffin and Sabine on a long car ride.

Steve Emery said...

Deb - I haven't heard of it, but I'll look it up. And from your comment it sounds like it would be best to get it to hear, so that's how I'll try to find it.