Creating a photographic image is profoundly autobiographical and will yield a succession of interpretations that will reveal much of one's personality. Which is what some psychologists say about dreams--i.e., they are important messages from our unconscious to our conscious, but are of necessity hidden in metaphor and symbol.
A similar process occurs when we attempt to interpret the images created by others. No useful information about the author will come to light because we can't get inside another's head or heart. But then, invariably, we'll find resonance in our own life, our own story.
I remember going to an art gallery on Isola d' Ischia a few years ago and taking what I thought were casual shots of the sculptures. As I was shooting I was going for the color, the light, the beautiful detail. I wasn't aware of any emotional or personal component.
That is until a few weeks later, as I was looking at the images. One stopped me. I suddenly realized it was a perfect representation of the most significant and formative event of my life: being abandoned by my mother shortly after I was born. For many years she and I were imprisoned in completely separate boxes, as were these tiny figures.
James Joyce famously referred to amor matris, in its subjective and objective genitive forms. "Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world,” he said, “a mother's love is not"
For me the concept had been turned upside down, inside out, nullified. Apparently for most everyone else, yes, that’s the only true thing. But for me? Forget it. Her abandonment tells me: You aren’t good enough. You don’t deserve to be loved and cared for. This kind of early trauma makes it almost impossible to have a normal relationship with another person. Just ask Sylvia Plath.
Now, I am fortunate—blessed, actually—that my reunion with my mother eventually led to a peaceful resolution. She felt tremendous guilt for having left me, and I eventually learned the circumstances, and of course I had to write a novel that proved even the most awful acts can have a credible motivation, even one that is noble and honorable. She turned out not to be the evil bitch, the whore, my father always claimed she was.
When my daughter was born at Lenox Hill Hospital on 7/7/70 I called my mother and congratulated her on becoming a grandmother. I told her it would be great if she would come to New York for a visit.
She wept. “After the horrible thing I did to you,” she said, “you still want me to come?”
I felt absolutely no enmity for her, even though it was true that her leaving me in the care of an abusive drunken father was hardly a pleasant experience. “It’s water under the bridge,” I quickly told her. “So come and see your granddaughter.”
Before she died, she suffered dementia and did not recognize anyone, but I was deeply grateful that we had come to peace many years before, so there was no unfinished business between us.
As for the sculptor, she was Liselotte Wahl. She lived in Ischia for a long time until her death in 1996. "Lilo remains in Italy until the end of her life," says a biographical note. "After years of wandering between cities and islands at the end she chose Ischia...[hers] is a sunny house, opening outwards, which she built piece-by-piece wrenching it from the dark and gloom of a suffocating historic centre...In this Ischia she lives to become both a legend and a local habit: many in the centre's streets still remember this 'Signora' always dressed like a Hollywood Star with coloured caftans and turbans, driving a small threee wheeled Ape van. Many remember her dogs. Others remember her kindness. Almost all, at the end of her life, judged her a little eccentric and if at the Bar in the centre someone says 'crazy' it's no wonder."