It’s another beautiful day in paradise. Dark, and rainy. It’s one of those days that suggest the beauty of film. F-stop wide open, the darkness and grain, the feeling of an impressionist painting. It makes me think of being with someone I love hidden away from the world. There’s a bottle of Merlot we’ve been nursing, and we are creating images together. Clothing optional.
I don’t know how many days I have had like this in my life; I know the number is not enough. Those kinds of days are mostly remembered at my current age, the possibility of more dwindling rapidly.
I’ve been really pissed off at the universe lately. My lower back looking like Chernobyl and being unable to roam the city I love is one reason. Another is I still think like I’m 18, yet my body keeps telling me that I am 65.
For the most part, I am a realist. This is the situation, let’s deal with it and move on to the next. So, I have agreed with The Black Dog and the Universe to accept my age, my systems breaking down, and the inevitability of the power being turned off.
I escaped the yoke of organized religion exposed to both the Jewish and Catholic faith for a short time when very young. I remember only that these things were not like the others in my life of sleep, eat, toys, and cartoons, and everyone was acting way too seriously.
I don’t believe in God, and I am a cowardly atheist. I only pray when I am terrified or desperately want something. When my mother got older, she went back to the church after 50 years of being outside. I had no opinion other than it seemed about right for her. I never criticize anyone’s religion, as it has nothing to do with me. In fact, I have great respect for those individuals who have deep unquestioning faith.
I only have faith in human behavior.
I have always enjoyed religion’s mythology, though, and I know a fair amount about the more popular ones. I don’t have to believe in a God or any organized religion to apply its philosophy. My favorite being, “What would Jesus do?” He wouldn’t vote for God damn Trump, I can tell you that.
Before she died, my mother insisted I learn the Lord’s Prayer just in case I was wrong about this whole atheism thing.
I live alone, and I like it. I like being able to finish a paragraph in a book without having to hide in the bathroom. I watch the TV and movies I want to watch. I also stay up as late as I wish to write or working on my pictures or tending to my ant colony.
There are times, however, that I am lonely for the companionship of the opposite sex. I may have always been crap in relationships, but I sure as hell enjoyed the work.
Recently I asked God to let me fall in love one more time before my expiration date. A little while ago and seemingly in answer to my plea, I did. The details aren’t essential, but it did seem as if our Lord, be He Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin*, is a bit of a joker. I really should have been much more specific with my request.
Next time it goes like this: “Hello. It’s me. Not scared, but I do want something. Okay? Here goes. Just one more time before I do the dirt nap, I would like to fall in love. Also, I would like the person I fall in love with to love me back. Please, Lord, do not make her bat shit crazy like the last one. Don’t make her anti-vax, anti-mask, gluten-free, conspiracy believing, fortune teller going, and rabid Trump supporter. You know, like the last one. Thanks.”
They say God is in the details.
So after that short and rather unsettling journey into poor decision-making, I spent a lot of time thinking. Had I, in fact, reached my “best if used by” date? In my funk, I buried myself in the massive job of preparing a new layout for “Women Hold Up Half The Sky,” my new book.
PLUG: If you haven’t done so, please go to my Indiegogo page and leave your email address. UNPLUG.
Obviously, in the book, there will be images of women I have been in relationships with. Looking at each image elicits a different response from my head and my gut. One or two make me cringe, and one actually haunts me. It is an image of Linda.
See, she was in love with me, and I was even engaged to her at one point. At least until she figured out that I was never going to marry her and that I never loved her the way she did me. We parted company and stayed friends for a couple of years but eventually lost touch.
Over the years, I have looked at the images I made of her and realized that she was an extraordinary person—a realization due to my accumulating years of wisdom. Just wait, you will see.
Several years back, when I came across the image above, I Googled her name for grins and found an article about her Army service. Joining the Army seemed about right. She was fearless. She had become an artillery officer. That seemed about right too. The article went on to describe how she died from wounds received in Iraq.
That is when this picture began to bother me, began to haunt me. That slight smile, I took for a smirk. She was making a comment about what a twat I had been to her. I thought about how pretty she was and how much she loved me and how I had not loved her back.
That picture became one like maybe you have. You look at it, and you wince. Mostly because of how you acted or what you said or what opportunity you lost. That feeling you get is karma reminding you it’s real.
After my recent exsanguination, perpetrated on me by bat shit crazy object of my affection, I had come across Linda’s picture again. Of course! Of course, my recent blood-letting was the Karmic Slap Back of how I had treated her. And for all the other relationships in which I was the only one who knew that it was a “relationship of convenience.”
Hey, I never said this piece was going to make me look good. Why would I be any different than you or any other person? We are not all one thing, you know? Our redemption comes from looking back and understanding why we are not always the hero of our own narrative. Sometimes we are the student with no clue who mistakes bad behavior for control.
Whether you like it or not, those pictures you’ve been creating your whole life are silent witness to the very good and very bad things about you. Unlike most humans, those who document their time here on Earth have a poignant teaching tool at their disposal.
My pictures help me come to terms with memories I have tried to forget. These pictures of Linda no longer haunt me. In fact, I love looking at them and remembering what was good.
One of those memories is how Linda was always smiling. She was very rarely ever sad, and of course, some of those sad times are on me. That look on her face in that picture? I used to think it was a smirk.
Now when I look at it, she’s smiling at me for finally getting it.
Linda With Kennedy Assassination Evidence Images
*National Lampoon “Deteriorata”
Help Me Print “Women Hold Up Half The Sky” my Second Book.
My book ‘Subway New York City ‘1975-1985’ is available on Etsy.
Gerard Exupery Website
Gerard Exupery has been a New York City Street Photographer for 40 years, He attended the School of Visual Arts and studied with Lisette Model at The New School. He has also worked as an oil rig roustabout, a photographer’s assistant, custom printer, motorcycle mechanic, audio engineer, video engineer, producer, and Mr. Mom. Exupery also drove a New York City taxi which he considers his post-graduate work.
My first book ‘Subway” is available through ETSY Here
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27 thoughts on “When You Pray, Be Specific – By Gerard Exupery”
It’s unfortunate to have to hear opinions about Donald Trump every time I scroll through something that might otherwise be interesting.
That one particular line is what you’re commenting about? Since I wrote it, I pretty much get to say whatever I like, and generally speaking, I don’t really care if someone doesn’t like what the character in the story said. I am firmly convinced that Jesus wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump. It would be interesting to read a piece explaining why Jesus would vote for him.
Yes, you do get to say whatever you like. You wrote a beautiful piece of prose otherwise. I’m not defending Trump, just tired of hearing him interjected into nearly everything we consume lately. As for Jesus, I don’t think any of us know what he would think about Trump. Render unto Caesar, you know.
Thank you. After I wrote my snappy reply I was thinking that perhaps I was a bit more energetic than was necessary. I agree with you in that I wish things weren’t so toxic. I’ve only been writing a short time and I think as I do it more I’ll get a little better at nuance.
I think his name, and others, come up so frequently because it’s scary. And it’s on our minds all the time.
“Render unto Caesar” refers specifically to paying taxes – the Roman money having his face on it, and all. It is not meant to be taken as a blanket excuse for the evils of contemptible men. And with four gospels to draw from, I think it’s not all that hard to get a general sense of what Christ would’ve thought of Trump, you know? Or, at least, what a Christian would think of him. Too bad there are so few of those around these days.
On a happier note, I was pleasantly blown away to find a reference to “Deteriorata”. I had a copy of that on one of two National Lampoon compilation tapes I found in a bargain bin as a very young child. Despite only understanding a very small fraction of what was on them, their sheer enticing strangeness helped get me through some of the worse times in my childhood. Thanks for the reminder! I’ll have to find them again, see how well they’ve held up over the decades. Or how well I have, maybe.
The magazine cover of National Lampoon (The magazine) with a gun to a dog’s head and the caption “Buy this magazine or we’ll kill this dog. Good times.
If you think it’s unfortunate to have to read Trump’s name as you digest your daily dose of culture-as-text, you should try suffering him as the face of your nation as he promotes ignorance and violence on a daily basis for four long years. Talk about unfortunate.
Keep ’em coming, Gerard. You’re a breath of fresh air.
Wow, what a poet you are! i miss you over at f but I continue to follow you here and wish you well. This piece and especially that top photo (it and she are so beautiful) made me feel a lot of things regarding my own life and my deceased husband who died tragically a couple of years ago as you may or may not remember. Keep up the fantastic work. It is a real treat to see your photos and read your words–it puts soul to the images and makes me want to continue learning about my own (so inferior) photography and life. Your words always ring true to me and your photos portray your memories of a moment in time splendidly.
Thank you Jeanne. It is wonderful to hear from you and I am so pleased that you liked the piece.
This is an incredibly moving piece. It truly speaks to me. Your work is extraordinary.
This piece truly moves me. As always, your works speaks to me. This is an extraordinary work of art
I love your articles, you really have a way with telling your life’s stories. Thank you
Thank you, Holly. When I was younger after some near miss or barely scraping by or getting it all wrong I would think “This is going to make a good story one day.”
…it is a good story…and one I can find myself so much in it…
I am far of having the wide spread talents you have..
But the thoughts and feeling I so much share with you..
I am 70 now and can look back at the most amazing life one can imagine..
Or better, one cannot at all…
I have been blessed with an amazing and recent deep love lately, the first real one ever..
I am curious what life will present to me further on..
I will keep going I guess; life is too fascinating to pack for the final trip..
But if I have to go, I will go with flying colours…
He up there was and is good to me..
Many thanks for all of your openly disclosed thoughts and feelings here…
Stay safe Harry
I think it is easy to feel like we are on a solitary journey but we’re not. Countless others have preceded us and I’m not sure I want to get too bent out of shape by something so common as ceasing to exist. Eddie Van Halen died the other day. He was 65. Holy crap. I know how real and unplanned life influences our creative endeavors, the pictures we make, or the writing we do. This winding down stage may be harder to do with grace what with colostomy bags and all but grace is what I’m aiming for. I clearly see this era in my life as the one in which I thought a lot about and even considered wasting less time. 🙂
I’m glad you liked the article.
Gerard, the last one… when did you find out she was bat sh-t crazy? Before or after you fell in love with her?
We have been warned, and we warn others, but we rarely listen. Because, well, you know.
As for religion, I highly recommend pastafarianism.
Oh, I always knew it. There are so many things to despise about this woman but so many things to love too. I am ever the optimist.
Beautifully written, and a beautiful angle of approach to life and many of its wonderful paradoxes – thank you!
And the line about Mr T – as well placed as all the other lines, and in the total posession of the writer.
Thanks, Peter. I got very defensive about that line when I should have taken a step back. That’s when I realized that perhaps I care more about this writing thing than I thought. I’ve lived my life looking for wonderful paradoxes. I’ve got a few more pieces posting over the next few weeks. So buckle up.
That is one heck of a beautiful photograph. It’s a prayer all by itself. Please forgive me if I copy the style someday. And in the future I will be much more careful what I pray for!
Great read. Catchingly cathartic, THANKS Gerard.
Brutally honest, so it seems. Looking forward to your new book.
Once again, Gerard, you’ve knocked it out of the park. keep them coming, you have the gift.
Thanks Ted. When I go back and read what I have written very often I wonder who the hell that was that wrote that. Very much so in this case. I’m glad that you liked it.
I usually come here to see some beautiful pictures and some nice story behind them, but this was different. This post although displaying just a couple of pictures, was indeed very rich in graphics in my eyes. Thank you sir for the wonderful writing and insight about life, politics and photography!
I am astonished to still see people refusing to take in any political opinion just because it doesn’t align with theirs, forgetting that politics are a huge part of our life nowadays. I know, being a liberal atheist myself I might be a bit biased, but I think we should respect each others point of view anyway, not obstruct it, and above all not cherry picking on it.
Thanks again for the beautiful article, I hope to see/read more from you!
Great piece! Regarding religious upbringing: My family was Catholic, but I like to refer to myself as “exposed but not infected”. The antibodies are there permanently, and I like to think they’ve protected me from most sorts of true-believerism.
Interesting thought: Ever notice how so many bad boys and girls of the art world, those who have made a career of being “transgressive” (yawn), had a strong Catholic upbringing? Lookin’ at you, Mapplethorpe, Joel-Peter Witkin, etc. etc. Just sayin’…