‘All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability,’ Susan Sontag wrote in 1977.
When I was small, on some Saturday nights when my family wasn’t entertaining people from the church with barbecues, we’d beg to have a slide night. We’d crowd into the lounge room, close the curtains and ooh-and-aah at my father’s pictures of us, his family.
Looking at photographs is a bit like reading books; they invite such acute feeling, where you reveal yourself in the most intimate of moments. Whatever that feeling is, they illicit desire. Here, the word ‘illicit’ spelt with an ‘i’, as a verb – because in my family desire was illicit, like alcohol, like dancing.
Francesca Rendle-Short, ‘Illicit Desire: On love, shame and family slides’, Overland, #188, Spring, 2007
Image: Francesca and Angel going to church, Durham Street, St Lucia, photograph by John Rendle-Short, c. 1964.
From a collection of family slides referred to in this essay, also in Bite Your Tongue.