I’m sitting deep in a public whirlpool. I’m up to my neck, nursing sore muscles after helping my sister move three truckloads into a new house. It’s quiet in the Wellness Center on a Sunday afternoon, and “Super Freak” by Rick James is playing on the sound system with all the bass and treble removed.
I’m staring across the competition-sized pool and out the picture windows. An older lady slowly strokes at the pool’s glassy surface. It’s windy and partly cloudy outside, making the shed on the knoll glow sunny and dim at random intervals. If this were a film, it would be a scene by director Todd Haynes or Michelangelo Antonioni. Had it been a photograph, it wouldn’t have taken 80 words to describe it to you. As an art photographer, I regret that I didn’t have a camera in my swim trunks.
Later that evening, in the near movie palace that is the Marcus North Shore Cinema, I saw Everlasting Moments as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival. Set in turn-of-the-century Sweden, it imagines the more intimate moments from the true story of Maria Larsson. In the story, Maria is a mother of many children and the wife of a troubled drunk and philanderer. It also spans a ten-year period in her life when she discovers her raw and keen eye for photography.
In a trunk, Maria rediscovers the Contessa camera she won in a lottery years before and decides to sell it for the needed money. A kind studio photographer, who eventually maintains a long, restrained relationship with her, insists that Maria try it out first. That’s when something magical happens behind the lens. Everlasting Moments is a sweet, heartfelt tale of someone whose artistic ability goes mostly unnoticed, yet the passion and pleasure remain even in the face of adversity. It helps that the film’s cinematography becomes a terrific series of photographic moments of its own accord, too.
The film is also a definite period piece. Photography is seen as a quiet, careful procedure. But anyone who has a Flickr, Facebook or Photobucket account can attest to a more frenetic and instantaneous world now. Technical proficiencies of equipment make even the most novice person’s photos look professional. Even the adept can mimic or even outdo the likes of Ansel Adams. In fact, there are thousands of online artists now begging for attention and filling up virtual containers with an endless supply of images.
This is not a criticism, really. I am part of this majority that revels in images for emotional value as well as any Eggleston or Weston photograph. It’s not a matter of jealousy either. I’ve just come to realize that my own vision is much more important than what expensive equipment can capture. My quibble here is to bring back a singularity of vision to those who have fallen into a bulk-sized Costco or Sam’s Club mentality when in comes to picture taking; more is not always better. As Maria finds out in the film, you have to go inside yourself to a quiet place before looking out and capturing a piece of the world.
Everlasting Moments will screen two more times during the Milwaukee Film Festival: Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 4:45 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 1 at 4:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre. Consult the Milwaukee Film Fest calendar for more information, or get ticket information by calling 414-727-8468.