Godspell, 1993/2008
Solitude, © Beth Block
Wonder Wheel, © Beth Block

A week ago today I was shocked to hear that my high school classmate Emily D'Ancona was killed in a car accident on her way to work as a kindergarten teacher. Emily and I hadn't kept in touch since graduating fifteen years ago, but had started to form a friendship as seniors when we sang a duet together in the musical Godspell. She was an extremely genuine and kind person, and always struck me as someone who seemed very much at ease with herself. I'm very saddened by her loss, particularly when I think about her family and close friends.

The day after I learned of Emily's death I found out that a School of Visual Arts graduate school classmate was also killed in a car accident that same week. Beth Block was a fellow photographer, and though I didn't know her well, I do recall how passionate she was about her work, which you can see here. I'm struck by the sense of light and intimacy in her photographs, and it's tragic to know there will be no more beautiful pictures added to her various series.

In thinking about Emily and Beth I find myself ruminating in particular on the the nature of memory and loss. I have a box of random photographs saved from over the years, and I kept a snapshot of a scene from Godspell. It's somewhat blurry, which only seems to add to the sense of nostalgia and totemic import that this image now holds for me. I'm in the middle of the frame, arms stretching toward Emily as she's looking down with a quiet expression on her face. I photographed the snapshot the day I heard of her death as a tribute to her, and as always used the act of image-making as a means of processing my emotions. For that moment, as I looked through my viewfinder at her likeness burned onto the paper, I felt myself almost reaching back in time to try to connect with her seventeen-year-old self. "Tethered" has now taken on an even deeper meaning for me. I feel tied to my past in a way I don't think I have before.

I'm also struck by the strangeness of the idea that the memory of a person can live on in the intangible space of the Internet. I suppose photographs function in much the same way: as a memento and reminder of a person after they're gone. But somehow the interactive nature of the web makes it feel that much more significant, particularly in the sense that there may be people clicking through Beth's photographs who have no idea that she's gone. I think it's fitting to close with a sentence from one of her artist statements: "Somewhere is here, there, in between, now, then and anywhere."


somestratt said…

I came across your blog today, searching for info on Emily. She was my sons Kindergarten teacher. I have been surprised at how deeply her death has affected me. I suppose it could be partly due to the closeness of our ages and the similar impact we had teaching my 6 year old, however, more than that it was because of the superb person she was. I am glad to see others, many others, who have similarly morned a wonderful person. Good luck with your photography and little ones. I love and completely agree with your profile line. Young children is a job you just can quit, even though some days it seems like a great idea!(I have 3 ages 6, 3.5, and 14mo)

Your Friend

Thanks for writing to me. I feel the same way you do about Emily--I've also been surprised by how much her death has affected me. I think it's a testament to how wonderful she was that here, 15 years since I last spoke to her, I've been so sad about her loss. I can imagine that it must be really difficult for you and your family, especially your six year old as good teachers have such an impact on our kids. It made me so sad to think of all her little students not really understanding what happened. I'm happy at least to know that she had kept all of the wonderful qualities I remember so well. Thanks for your comments on my profile line, it means a lot coming from a fellow mother. I also had a look at your blog--your kids are adorable, and your post on Emily was really moving.

Thanks again,


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