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Old woman of Goražde

A photo taken long ago

· people

Power. Fame. Wealth. Giddy position. Sure, they fascinate. But I’ve never been that moth. The thin veil, as membranous as a moth’s wing, is the ribbon of life that drew me. The taut tissue stretched between our humanity and our savagery. The small brutalities that people practice on one another at every turn in bog-ordinary life (offices, and organizations can be the worst, where communal violence is often organized, and where you expect people to be better), that – with a twist, the turn of the dime, an inattentive political moment-in-time – become big brutalities. I took this very bad photograph of this very beautiful woman almost 20 years ago. She was in a centre for people burned from their homes in Goražde, Bosnia. She had dignity, courage and, my! how she must have endured, stoic woman. When I went to photograph her she pulled her darn to her lap, jutted her chin, and looked squarely at me as if to say, “I’m not going anywhere, boy. I occupy a place, and purpose in this life.” Nope, it’s not having things that define you, or being a thing. It’s when you are stripped bare, to your penultimate breath that you impress… It’s when you are brought low, and yet pick up darn and begin knitting, or knead bread, or turn the earth. When you occupy place and time with your born dignity.

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