The One Facing Me

Photograph:  Clive and Strangers in the Mona Lisa Room in the  Louvre, Paris, France

That’s my brother, standing a little from the center of the photograph, wearing the black jacket, camera in hand, his body to the camera: his is the most important figure, the one who seems to be aware of this photograph being taken, the one that reacts.

The other figures do not notice my camera catching their light: they are caught up in the routine activity of tourism. Unresponsive, they go about taking pictures, checking phones, and making sure that no one steps too close to one of the most infamous paintings in the world. Even the Mona Lisa sinks into obscurity. After all, she is a mere mile marker in this race for artistic awareness. Winged Victory, check; The Seated Scribe, check; Mona Lisa, check; Venus de Milo… the woman with her back turned to the camera, purse tucked tightly under her left arm (“BEWARE OF PICK-POCKETS“), makes a mental list of the most important pieces of art in the Louvre she must see in order to make this trip worth the money she spent. She is unaware of this photograph, immortalizing her calculations.

My brother is the punctum. My eyes are drawn to him because he is reacting — he takes a photo too. Immediately, I am overwhelmed by the desire to see this photograph. I ask him to send me his Paris photographs so that I can find this image. As I search through the files, I look for a girl wearing a red plaid flannel shirt, taking a photograph. I briefly wonder if I’m centered. Impatiently, I scroll through all the photos from the Louvre.

I can’t find it.

I go through the photos a second time. Then a third. I call him up before I suffer through a fourth search. My eyes burn from staring at the computer screen as I ask him where my photo is.

“What are you talking about?” he asks. “The photo you took of me taking a photo of you,” I reply. “Go to ‘Paris Film’ folder three, image seven.” After what seems like an eternity he says, “I’m not taking a photo of you. I was turning off the camera to conserve battery power.” “What do you mean-” I pause and notice for the first time, the Timberland boots that he would never wear.


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