Saturday, September 26, 2009

Numbah one son

Vinyl Freak, Oakland, June 2009.

My son is Zoolander. To photograph him is to be subjected to an array of gestures and facial expressions, each one more inauthentic than the next. We have tried to work around this minor inconvenience: he makes his faces, and I go nope ... nope ... nope ... maybe ... nope. Then I say "we're done," his face returns to neutral, then I take my shot.

I have photographed my son, Miguel, throughout the many stages and ever-changing hairstyles of his young life. One of my favorite photos of all time was taken at his high school graduation (left), an important milestone for him, but meaningful to me for having captured him as a young adult among the company of friends who have remained close to him through the years.

They say boys are easy, girls are hard. Maybe, maybe not. Miguel has an easygoing charm about him that he uses like a "Get Out of Jail Free" card to get himself out of trouble. He may annoy or frustrate, but one can't stay angry with him for long. Underneath his cultivated sophistication and fancy jargon, he is a naif with a good heart; distracted, yes; all over the place, yes. A work-in-progress, most definitely. But I'm convinced that in time he will attack life like the creatures in his beloved Monster Hunter, and triumph.

The picture on the left was taken in Greece in the island of Spetses. The villa on the hill is reputed to be the Villa Bourani in John Fowles' novel, The Magus. This picture was taken during a quest, aided by cryptic clues, to find the villa; it is a proof document of their successful search. In Fowles' novel, the villa is inhabited by an eccentric recluse who opens up a world of mysticism and mystery to the protagonist, and transforms his life forever.

The road to adulthood for Miguel is akin to finding Villa Bourani and discovering what it has in store for him. Like Spetses, it will be hot as hell, prickly, and may require body rolls on the dunes. But finding the villa can be a sweet moment, indeed. Now all he needs to do is get back on the boat and begin his new adventure.


  1. Most cherished possession you can give your children are your photographs. They are priceless.

  2. Hehe, I like the analogie of "Villa Bourani" for one owns "house". Im sure in literacy there are plenty of words or metaphers or pictures for this house or this state of mind or ones unbreakable believe. I think I can say, Villa Bourani is not necessarily just heaven on earth. There can be a lots of shadows and deamons from past (fathers and mothers and surely more) lifes in there, but, what makes me confident, if one has learned to make other people happy by showing them nice things from the villa, shadows have no chance to win. Looking at your photos makes me sure Miguel has learned this.