It’s not the photograph that disturbs you it’s you don’t understand what photography is. Photography is disturbing said Geryon.
Photography is a way of playing with perceptual relationships. Well exactly.
But you don’t need a camera to tell you that. What about stars? Are you going to tell me none of the stars are really there? Well some are there but some burned out ten thousand years ago.
I don’t believe that.
How can you not believe it, it’s a known fact. But I see them. You see memories!
Have we had this conversation before?
Geryon followed Herakles to the back porch. They sat on opposite ends of the sofa.
Do you know how far away some of those stars are?
Just don’t believe it. Let’s see someone touch a star and not get burned. He’ll holdup his finger. Just a memory burn he’ll say
then I’ll believe it.
When Herackles discusses photography with Geryon, we begin to understand his ideas about memory and reality. Geryon has a difficult relationship with perception and throughout the book we’re forced to consider what it means for someone who’s considered a monster to interact with the rest of society. Geryon is physically marked with his wings and his skin as ‘other’ but he also has a different relationship with learning and with words. Photography speaks to him because it’s a medium which he can understand and control and manipulate in ways he isn’t able to do with words and language.
While re-reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think about the poem we read in class by Adrienne Rich, Diving Into the Wreck. Rich brings up ideas about longevity and mythology, and she really hits the audience with thoughts on memory and belonging. She begins the poem, “First having read the book of myths, and loaded the camera…” before diving into the ocean to explore, and the journey to the ship wreck she begins preparing herself with what she thinks she’ll need, and it’s only after beginning her journey that she realizes that she’s not looking at the wreck from an outsider perspective, but rather she is a part of it and has to confront it within her own perceptions. She ends the poem,
We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
our names do not appear.
Geryon develops through the story in similar ways to the narrator in Adrienne Rich’s poetry; by diving up close to the wreck, he’s forced to consider how he fits into his own story, rather than viewing his role in his own story as passive. His own mythos is only clear to him because of his work with the camera.