I’ve tried to avoid the topic for a full year, because I always feel like I’m short on words when it comes to the subject, and also that grieving should be done privately. But:
When my friend died, I felt nothing. I don’t mean I didn’t care, I mean, I jumped straight from panic and disbelief into numbness after a matter seconds
I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream; I shut down.
I booked a plane ticket home for the funeral as soon as his grandmother sent me the formal announcement. I packed my shit up about a few days later, including my then relatively new Pentax 6x7, and got on the plane to Boston, then the bus back to Portland. I gave myself an extra day because I knew I didn’t wanna miss it, in case my flight got cancelled, and I had to reschedule. I can’t remember the last time I was in Maine during the fall proper. Early in my college career -- I think the one year I went to Drexel, I came home for Thanksgiving, but that’s long after the foliage, and once all the leaves have fallen. It was a bit of a surreal experience.
I got in late on Thursday night. I must’ve slept till 1PM the next day, and I visited “the photo store from another dimension” --if you live in Portland, I’m sure you’re familiar with the store in question -- and bought as much medium format film as I could humanly afford. A lot of 220 film, mostly portra of various stripes 400, 160, NC VC. After stocking up on film I headed into the East End to do some shooting. Then whipped back to Falmouth, near my father’s house, to finally shoot a bridge that I’ve driven over most of my life, and the area around it. I think that afternoon was the longest golden hour I’ve ever seen. But I still felt numb. All I could focus on was taking pictures. I hadn’t fixed the meter in my camera yet, so all my exposure was done by eye.
I went to the funeral the next day. It was long, and the longest section was in Polish, which made it extremely hard to follow. Aside from Matt’s mother, I swear I was the only one crying during bits of it, and I stopped really quick as soon as I realized people were looking at me. I felt bad for breaking in public. A couple of friends from high school who I’d lost touch with and I went for drinks after the service. We went to the same Irish bar where Matt and I had last drank together. I didn’t get that drunk, and a burger later, I walked back to my car and headed home.
The next day I met my mother to go on a hike. We spent the better part of the afternoon walking through Popham to Morse Mountain and down to the beach. At the top of the “mountain,” about halfway through the walk I swapped out lenses, and took the prism off the Pentax 6*7 to check the ground glass. When I reconnected the prism, I found that the meter was working.
We finished up the walk, then went home. I visited with my grandmother who joked about dying.
I ended up spending my last day effectively marching from one end of Portland to the other in a de-facto funeral march. I think the photos are “alright” but they’re half in 120 and half in 35mm and not super consistent.
These are my photos from those main two days of shooting -- the beginning of a year of grief.