Saturday, 14 June 2008

trans - sylvania

Copyright David Foster 2008

I am travelling on an eight hour train journey where the carriages are separated into compartments, a type of train I have not travelled in since childhood.

In my compartment a foreign conversation ebbs and flows between two women. I try to catch words of their conversation. It is difficult to establish if they are colleagues or strangers who have met on the train.

The train climbs along the base of a sheer walled valley before opening out into rolling, verdant hills. With the heat of the day and the rhythmic lullaby of the tracks we all drift from reading to gazing out of the window into sheets of sleep.

I am watching the woman opposite curled up with her eyes closed. Is she sleeping? Should I take I photo of her? Would the shutter wake her? Is it wrong to steal the moment? Will the photo really retain the moment? Perhaps my memory will retain it without the need for a photograph.

The moment reminds me of a Cartier-Bresson image of a young couple sleeping in a train carriage. It is one of my favourite Cartier-Bresson photos because it voices the paradox of stolen intimacy. Intimacy is further confounded by the man’s grasp of his partner. Is this affectionate, protective or tyrannical? The image offers us the prospect of intimacy but conceals its true narrative.


In the compartment I sit in the combination of the afternoon sun outside and the shady interior will make the moment impossible to capture. I take separate photos of the exterior and interior with the intention of stitching them together later.

Here I am working away at the image trying to recover the memory. But as usual my haphazard post work botches the job. The memory reasserts itself in the unlikely cleave between the two layers. The final image does not co-here. It has the logic of a dream.

The Seats Opposite, Romania 1975
Courtesy of Henri Cartier- Bresson, Magnum Photos

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