roll of film I ever developed was from a dead man.
digital cameras reduced photographs to pixels - images that fly
through cyberspace like Captain Kirk beaming back to the Enterprise
- a young man lived in our house. This nineteen year old, a boy
really, moved in with us so he could teach grade school kids about
his country, Israel. Ilan came for a year, leaving three younger
brothers and Russian parents behind, but never quite out-of-reach,
with telephones and email connecting them like the strongest of
day he moved in, Ilan was worried about his proficiency in English.
"I don't want to be a..." he started, then grabbed his dictionary.
"An encumbrance." I knew right then that I'd have to bone up on
my own English vocabulary.
tall, with straight black hair he'd gel to a high sheen, Ilan began
each day standing at our kitchen sink, sipping instant coffee -
black - nibbling on toast and staring out at the surrounding landscape.
He loved our property - set on a river - with clusters of trees
rising from the opposite bank. "Whoa - this is so cool," he'd say
of everything, everyday. Then he'd snap a picture.
life through a lens. He kept his Olympus with him at all times -
never knowing what would inspire him. It could be a frolic in the
woods with his friends. It could be first snow covering our lawn.
It could be the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at night.
Or it could be me, goofing around with my son's ski mask.
sat by his side when he plowed his car into a guardrail on a snowy
January afternoon. Unlike Ilan, it emerged unscathed.
called me first, and I rushed there to find Ilan unconscious, on
life support, his black hair still perfectly coifed. Twenty-four
hours later, after his bereaved parents had flown over from Israel
to find their first born warm to the touch but brain dead, I decided
to go home and comb through Ilan's things. I needed proof that up
until the day of the crash, Ilan's mind was fully engaged in life's
miracles, however small. And I knew I'd find those miracles in the
coils of negatives still undeveloped.
four rolls of 36. I took them to a local One-Hour-Photo lab.
told the story of Ilan's life in America - the life of a mature
teen seeing the humor and simple beauty of a new culture. There
were Michiel and Yifat making silly faces on the train to New York.
There was Leor pushing Daniel down in the snow. There was Ilan with
my oldest son flipped over his back - being a cool "big brother."
There were pictures of his students and photographs of autumn trees
blazing with color. He took shots of houses outrageously festooned
with Christmas lights. And shots of snow falling on stark trees,
right outside the window of his room.
the piles of photographs to the hospital and gave them to Ilan's
parents. They shuffled through the stack, crying and smiling, still
in shock. How could these pieces of paper be more alive than the
body in the next room breathing only though machines? .
the very last rolls of film I ever developed. Since then, I've been
taking digital pictures that remain, for the most part, flashes
of color inside my camera. There's something earthly and real about
the results from old fashioned 35mm film . Digital photos are ethereal
- belonging to the spirit world. Ilan must have taken thousands