David Hornback in Bilbao
Where the hell is Wichita?
I am writing this in the autumn of 2019. Forty-two years have passed since I took the first of these photographs. My parents have passed away, my brothers and sisters are living across the US, and I am living in Europe. The Wichita house was sold and now another family with seven other children are living in it.
The photographs I took in the late 1970s are a passage into another world that still exists for me. I look at them and I am there. I remember the details. To me it is not the past, but rather a special, delicate present moment that is still alive and just as real. I can enter in an instant, falling into my other world like Alice through the looking glass. It may be a world seen entirely in black and white, but for me it is just as real. My family and friends live, eat, sleep and play, as eternally young, as they had, as they always will, alive, breathing, talking and relating to one another and to me, but all trapped between the years of 1977 and 1980.
I took these photographs as a teenager and when I look at them I am still the teenager. I haven’t yet cracked eighteen years. Mom, Dad, Anne, John, Paul, Joe, Liz and Patrick _I can hear their voices, I can talk with them and they respond. We are all still young. We are all still innocent. I am fifteen. Then sixteen. Then seventeen, but never quite eighteen.
As a teenager I don’t question it. My future? No idea. My only interest at the moment is sneaking around like a hunter on a safari, appearing quietly, shooting, and
then fading back into the jungle of our home or yard. Capturing fleeting moments is my obsession. It is my private game.
My parents, my siblings, our cousins, my friends and neighbours, even the pets, they all worthy prey for my camera. I want to freeze the moments, capture them in those precise instants, but instead of killing as other hunters do, I have somehow given them immortal life. They live on. You can still see and feel them. You can sense what their lives were like _no, what their lives are_ like. My older sister Anne, before the mirror, before a date. Mom in the kitchen, with the late afternoon sunlight, talking to me about quilt-making. Dad coming home from Cessna and falling asleep in front of the TV. Patrick and Liz, forever playing in the house and in the yard as one always does since they don’t yet know internet and smart phones.
We have all split into two; except for my parents, my siblings and I now exist in two places at once. We are trapped in a beautiful and naive world of black and white, forever in the late 1970s, and at the same time are also trapped in the brutal train of time, now in 2019, rushing endlessly towards a merciless future of growing older, feeling loss, watching our children obsess with tiny phone screens, wondering where the quiet beautiful moments of innocent play went to.
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