Momento Mori

A curious thing happened to me not too long ago. I was in a small village in Korea, photographing the rice harvest. It was a beautiful Autumn afternoon with a clear sky and a warm sun. After the field was cleared of rice I asked for the family of the farmers to pose for a portrait just outside their house under a persimmon tree in a shaft of golden sunlight. I was enjoying the day immensely. After the family had posed for a shot I was asked if it would be possible for me to take a portrait of the grandfather on his own. Of course I happily obliged. He sat in a chair on the road and I took two pictures.





It was then explained to me that the reason they wanted this photograph was that due to his age and general health they feared he was going to die soon. They had no photograph to display at his wake.

He must have known this. It was a strange feeling for me. I felt both honoured and disturbed at the same time. It is a reminder of our own mortality and an indication that photography is a way of recording that which will eventually disappear, a way of holding onto memories of a person, a time and a place. Eventually even the recordings too will become swallowed by time.

I have another photograph of him, or I should say I have another photograph with him in it.

I took a shot of the landscape surrounding the farm. In it he appears as a tiny figure, following a track down to the freshly harvested field at the end of the day, no doubt inspecting his son's handiwork and turning over thoughts and memories in his mind.

He passed away in his sleep this weekend, aged 92.

1 comment:

griffineyes said...

Lovely photo Tom and a touching story. I'm sure he was proud to have a photo of himself taken by you.