James turned the page of the album. "And this?"
"Ah, these snapshots were taken at Galveston Island," the professor said. "I took Bobby on a tour of the Texas gulf coast. This is the Sacred Heart church."
"Looks like it could be in Africa."
"Yes, it has that feel. It's a pastiche of Romanesque, Moorish, Byzantine, and Gothic elements. But that wasn't what got me excited when we encountered it. As I recall, I was immediately struck by that statue atop the onion dome. See?"
"That figure holding a cross?"
"Yes. With great enthusiasm I explained to Bobby that this was a replica of the famous monument of Christ of the Andes, which I stumbled across as a young man, on a long dusty drive through the Uspallata Pass, between Mendoza, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile. I told Bobby about the tablet at its base, and its inscription. I recited: 'Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Argentines and Chileans break the peace…' But I stopped because Bobby was rolling his eyes to heaven. He hated my lecturing him."
"Kids are kids, eh?"
The professor was silent a moment.
"For a long time I believed," he said, "that the distance between my son and me came from the trauma of divorce, and of course my ineptitude as a father. But I finally understood that it went much deeper than that."
"It's an awfully simple thing. As they grew up both my son and my daughter slowly realized they just didn't like me, largely because we have such different temperaments and interests."
"Well, yes, it is. I never thought such a thing was possible. But all I have to do is think of my own father. Even if he hadn't been such a drunken abuser we still wouldn't have ever gotten along."
"The Bishop's Palace, directly across the street from the church. It's another grand pastiche, of which Texans seem to be fond. Literally tons of pink granite and red sandstone, a combination of French medieval and New Orleans wrought iron. The mantle in the front ballroom won first prize at the Philadelphia World's Fair in 1876, or at least that's what the tour guide told us."
"And these odd carvings are outside the palace?"
"Indeed they are. Which brings to mind something I found very intriguing. You're familiar with T.S. Eliot's objective correlative?"
"I am," James replied. "To produce an emotion in the viewer, the artist simply accurately reproduces those things that created strong emotion in himself."
"Exactly. Now, when Bobby and I were wandering about the grounds it occurred to me that a variant of the concept might be found in the act of raising a camera. Even for an amateur like me."
"This is getting interesting, Harold. Go on."
"I knew this was up your street, lad. My idea was that when taking pictures you might unconsciously select those subjects that best represent the mood you happen to be in at the time. As dreams contain symbols of unspoken longings."
"You're saying that if you're despairing you'll take pictures of things that evoke despair."
James studied the images.
"Yes, I believe that's how it works," he said. "And these ARE pretty sad."
"Thank you, lad. I'm happy you think so."