musing on the power of a photograph
WHEN I CAME UPON THIS IMAGE BY CHANCE the other day in the Library of Congress online photo archives, it stopped me still. Who is that boy, and what is he planting? (And will you forgive a total digression from our usual topics of discussion, since I am about to stray?)
The power of photography has been making itself known to me in multiple ways this last week, actually. I watched the astonishing British television movie “Shooting the Past,” a Stephen Poliakoff masterpiece from 1999. It’s the story of a massive, eccentrically managed photo archive threatened with closure—and the potential destruction of many of its images—when an American company buys the rambling mansion it’s housed in.
(The clip continues for another couple of minutes at this link.)
It was another photo-driven plot that led me to “Shooting the Past.” Over Thanksgiving, I watched Poliakoff’s 2001 “Almost Strangers” (called “Perfect Strangers” in its original British release). Its story centers on a family reunion, and not millions of photos but really just two: one of a young boy dressed as a dandy of a period Italian prince, the other of the boy’s grandfather striking an uncharacteristically comical dance pose in the garden.
I recommend you watch them both—and so does my dear friend the doodler Andre Jordan, who I have since learned is a big Stephen Poliakoff fan.
SO WHO IS THE BOY in the photo up top, and the little slideshow below? He is Quentin Roosevelt, youngest and supposedly favorite son of President Theodore Roosevelt, planting a tree at Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, Long Island.
It was taken circa 1904 by Edward S. Curtis.
Quentin was just 3 when his father became president, so he grew up in the White House. As a sophomore at Harvard—and a promising writer, apparently—he left college to join the Air Force. Despite the promise in that photo, Quentin did not live to see the tree reach maturity: He died over France during a combat flight on July 14, 1918.
More Hopeful Moments
CLICK ON THE FIRST thumbnail to begin the show, then toggle from slide to slide using the arrows beside the captions. Enjoy.