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Translated by Patricia Seta
“In Blow-up I used my head instinctively!”
“In the centre of the picture, just under the surface”
Margaret Atwood, This is a Photograph of Me
You see an amusement park. In the background of the picture there’s the big wheel and part of the metal structure of a rollercoaster. The carousel is a mixture of fin-de-siècle animals and plastic imitations of pop characters—Winnie the Pooh riding a bike, Bugs Bunny canoeing, Knight Rider, etc. [private]Although this is a still image, you can feel the movement, in both machines and people: human bustle emanates from families with balloons tied to buggies to stop them flying away; blurred images of kids running around, street vendors selling popcorn. And don’t forget the man with the furry costume histrionically waving his arms. And there, right in the centre of the photo, you see a dark-haired girl running towards the camera.
Because of the poorly contrasted colours, the jumble and the apparent banality of the scene, you reckon that it’s an amateur’s picture: the frame is tilted a bit to the right, and also the photographer has failed to wait for the plane to fly out of the scene so it appears cut in half by the photo’s edge.
As it is a digital photo, the date appears in the frame: 6/6/2006. A Saturday, to be more accurate: the day that Laura G., a six-year-old girl, disappeared from the Tibidabo amusement park, although she was accompanied by her father.
The photograph is part of a series of snapshots her father took in a six-second period: the time it takes Laura G. to climb down from the little horses and run over to cling to her father’s legs. Laura G. looks straight at the lens. Her lips are full and open. It’s not hard to imagine her shouting to her father something like: “One more time!” Or “I’ll go up once more and then I’m done!”.
Experts say that a good photograph, besides containing a fragment of the world, portrays its author – including his or her passions and phobias. In this case, it renders the father’s obsession with capturing his daughter’s gestures, perhaps to preserve the child’s innocence from the passage of time. And besides, you might register a certain perverse degree of spying, half-obscured by instrument of the camera, in the manner in which this father abandons himself to his child’s attraction. Of course, to deduce all this, one must be very observant. That’s important. Anyone with a capacity for observation, who bothers to compare the six photographs in the series – perhaps enlarging them up to 200%, will arrive at a persuasive coincidence: in all of the pictures appears, in the background and slightly blurred, the figure of a slender man with long hair and thin-rimmed glasses, dressed in black. He seems to look – despite the red-eye effect, which can be corrected – at Laura G., or beyond, at the photographer; and this is certainly curious, because all the elements of the composition are progressively in motion through the series, but this figure is still.
This aroused suspicion among the police, now looking for a man, aged twenty to forty years old, with glasses and long hair, all because I had the sense to get that brunette wig and the glasses that mother uses when she does her patchwork or when we kill time solving sudokus together. Mother needs my company, more than ever now that she’s at home and in a delicate condition; we cannot think of better ways to beat boredom on a Sunday afternoon.[/private]