Graeme Mitchell quote:
Possibly this picture risks being a mediocre stock photograph: something that’d exist almost imperceptibly under the heavy text on the back of a young novelist first and last book, under-developed and hyper-reflexive, a book that will go unread for years at a time at the county library, a book titled “Summer Dreams,” “The Swimmers,” or something as such. Maybe it somehow reconciles this risk though by stepping without perfunctory gimmick into more: To childhood. To brothers. To best friends. To moments of the wonderment and inculpability- before anxiety and heartbreak and fucking and what all becomes ubiquitous baggage – to innocence, I guess.
Scott, Benjamin, Ian, respectively left to right, standing below a railroad bridge on some hot evening that nobody can pin down anymore on a river that manages to run with such stories. They’re probably hungry and tired, and yet completely uncaring of it. They’re relaxed and confident, jesting with the bridge they’d leapt from. And, Christ was it ever high, like 65, no 70 feet (I imagine measured with string and a pair of dangling brass knuckles to weight it). Some other kid broke both his shoulders and arms the week before, another had drowned or so the stories went. Or so the myths were built. We though, unscathed, were drunk on it…I tell you: it was as romantic as hell.
Benjamin was that remarkable best friend you have growing up. The one too tremendous for life who gets the girl but doesn’t care, the one who never got the grades but who was never bothered about it anyhow, the one who knew neither deliberation nor regret. He who stands on the verge of infinite possibilities, an ever awaiting crescendo that is just about to pique but never does. And there he is, gorgeous, laughing, shrugging, mocking everything that is and everything that lays beyond. That naturally cocky, audacity that lights fields on fires and evades punishment and injury through some unknown force. Then, Scott, on the left, my younger brother, looks up in what is I think an unlikely contemplation and is more likely some motion tied to a snide and shocking vulgarity. The long scar on his shoulder represents the many: he was small, pretty, agile, and absolutely without fear. I think he did a double gainer off the bridge that day. Leaping out and falling through the center of the bridges skeleton, past 15 feet of steel, then into the open air, and finally into the still water, only the baited breaths of us looking on disturbing the air, and the sounds of our hands tightly gripping to the sun warmed rust. He who you may catch now with a waitress in a dirty restroom out back, the guy who got in more fights in a year than most people will see in their life: not even fights as much wild brawls that were more tests of recklessness than anything personal. Then, on the right, Ian. You can’t see much of him, but this is fitting. There is only his curly blonde hair, then his discerning feature, and his natural quietude as he looks on. He is the youngest brother. The quiet one. The one with immense intellect and character that is almost wasted on a world that he doesn’t quite play into. He is looking to Ben, probably for clues… I can’t remember if Ian even jumped that day, or if ever. Not that it would have mattered. He never needed too. The energy was vicarious. Nobody cared. Really, I’m not sure if Ian could even swim. It’s likely he would just wade by the bank, hanging to the rocks, keeping conversation with us by yelling over his shoulder up to the bridge…
It’s possible that all this is fiction, just bits of imagined and hoped histories. But there’s the impression. The self-consciousness of age can’t infringe on that. They all may have ran the road to mediocrity, developed drug habits, got old and ruined overnight, moved away to not be heard from again…but somehow past any possible prejudices there’s still this moment, this glimpse, this hopeful impression burned deep into the image, past the silver into some unknown construct of the film. I hope, just maybe, this can affect some sort of sympathy: you know, some sort of profundity that shows what a picture can become.
Photo: © Graeme Mitchell 2006