Ann Carson is inventive in Autobiography of Red through Geryon’s visual art. The photographs Geryon takes and the focus placed on them in the chapter titles are examples of excess of language. The photographs are innovative because they describe Geryon in a way language cannot. Throughout Autobiography of Red Geryon has trouble communicating, so his photographs are a way for him to express what he is unable to express verbally. For example, the photograph of the guinea pig lying on her right side on a plate (139). This photograph illustrates Geryon feeling like the guinea pig, on display and the little “beast” everyone is waiting to take advantage of (or in the guinea pig’s case, waiting to be eaten). This is not something Geryon can describe in words, it’s a feeling he has and captures when a fitting moment presents itself.
Geryon’s photographs exemplify his feelings, and the pictures altogether help make up his identity, which he continually searches for, “who am I” (57). The photographs give the reader insight towards aspects of Geryon’s identity beyond his appearance. The photos allow us to see beyond his monstrous looks and see his emotions and self-perception. Herakles’ grandmother said “people think it’s a black-and-white photograph of course nobody knows / how to look at a photograph nowadays” (66). This statement reiterates the purpose of the photographs by saying that people see things as black and white, no one looks beyond the picture for the hidden meaning, or looks beneath perceived appearances of people. Identity is often assumed from appearance, but identity is not one thing or another, it is not black or white, it is complex. The statement from Herakles’ grandmother verbally indicates the purpose of Geryon’s photos, hinting for the reader to look at them for more information about Geryon’s identity by looking deeper than the surface, past his appearance and past the initial photo. The photos Geryon takes are a part of his autobiography and should be paid attention to in order to follow his self-discovery of his identity.