Of all the photos recently sorted and scanned from family archives, this one is my current favorite. It tells a story — one that the viewer can form (dance class, museum) and elaborate upon: (What are they viewing? What caught the attention of the young boy?)
I tweaked the tone balance and sharpened it a bit in Photoshop. The side lighting and unique pose of each figure captures elements of documentary photography and classical painting.
Noticing only as I write this, looking more closely at the image than before, is another trope seen in classical paintings, albeit perhaps unintentional in this example: the artist is in the image. Just at the right, balanced against the group, we can see the reflection of the photographer.
Memory and photography is a tricky thing. I suppose that we remember things from our lives because we have seen a photo from a particular time — but our brains might store that away incorrectly, leading us to a memory we think is from the moment. Here, I have no memory of this instance, not unexpected as I was still toddling about as the 1½-year-old in this image.
Indeed, my recollection of this photograph only comes from last week yet, fondly, the image does reflect some of my earliest memories. While different in this case, when my sisters would go to dance, my mother and I would go to the art museum.
Wandering galleries of classical paintings hand-in-hand, my mother would recap allegories and tales of sainthood. More importantly to me, it was at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut where I fell in love with modern works by Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Donald Judd, & others.
Such is the strength of those moments that our family name Calder, shared by many as last or middle name in our family tree, found its way to my son’s birth certificate — not just as a gesture to our family lineage but also to my early admiration of the artist.
To this day, every visit to an art museum returns me to those days.