I looked through two boxes of studio portraits today, most of which are mounted in folders which make for a different picture-viewing experience than the straight-shots I prefer. When it's in a folder there's a certain level of anticipation and almost always inevitable disappointment. I'm considering selling this part of my collection for this exact reason. I also realized today that the portraits I once felt connection to are often just not doing it for me anymore. I think that perhaps I used to have some ability to see someone I missed in the faces of these strangers, and either I am resolved or have relinquished the role of that person in my life now, so the photos have lost their charm.
I have several photographs that seem spitting images of people I know today and when I look at them I can do nothing but think about that person. Once I made the mistake of emailing an image of one of these photographs to their contemporary alter-ego, someone I briefly entangled myself with in college (a relationship that ended so strangely that it's hard to say if I'll never really know what happened). She emailed me back, thanked me for the image but disagreed that it looked like her at all, though "winsome." Now I don't really think about that person when I look at the photograph anymore... I think about that last email exchange and how strange and disappointing it was to realize how maybe I had never really known her.
It's hard to look at a portrait and not recognize anyone. By this I don't mean a literal sort of recognition, but a more fluid one. The photograph above looks like no one I have ever known, but I recognize her middle-parted long brittle hair and her wide thin-lipped smile. I also recognize the tautness of the elastic bands holding the picture in place and the sandy feeling of the paper undergoing slow decay. This may be a visual relationship that is impossible to articulate through small black marching text-- this recognition of someone who isn't anyone.