1/ The Road Accident
2/ The Collector
1/ The Road Accident
The phone rings and when you answer a man gives his name.
You do not know the voice, you have never met the man, but you do know the name. It belongs to the boss of the company your daughter works for, drives for, and those two words conjure up so many images, so many layers, one on top of the other, moving and blurring like some kaleidoscope of light and colour.
A baby leaning forward to look over the settee’s edge is caught mid-tumble by your waiting arms.
A small child cries to see her knee bleed, not for the pain but for the blemish, for the revelation that she is not indestructible, that her body is fragile and may be damaged.
Now grown up, she drove: early in the morning to reach schools for the meeting before the day started, late in the evening to get home when the after school meeting finished. On motorways, on country lanes, in small towns, in cities. So many places to be crushed or maimed. Her boss is calling. For what purpose than bad news?
She is not badly hurt, but badly shaken. Can you go and get her from Banbury A and E?
So some of the images recede into parallel universes where they stay locked away. Others still flash and fade, flash and fade for the hour’s drive towards her. On the way, you pass the car, in a near vertical position on the bank on the side of the motorway, miraculously stuck in a hedge at the top which prevented it from rolling back down into the path of other vehicles, the way most such accidents end.
The images stop rolling and become one, your daughter shocked and grey and stiff, but whole.
You swear you will always remember, always be grateful, but you don’t, it is too much to carry. Only sometimes a chance word will part the screens for just a moment, to let in the scream from those other worlds where an accident is still happening.
2/ The Collector
Martin was a small boy with ginger hair and glasses when he started collecting stones. It was clear from the start that it was the act of collecting which was important to him, rather than the objects collected. He lived on the outskirts of town, right by the allotments and not too far from the countryside, so stones were within reach and free. He was not going to win friends and influence people with a lot of stones, but if they were cleaned and polished to reveal their true colours, if they were carefully displayed to maximise their differences in size and shape, if they were catalogued to the most minute detail of when and where they were found, then he was in control. The only problem they eventually presented was one of space, but by that time Martin had trained his parents well in the art of pleasing him, or rather in being careful not to displease him. They retreated to the kitchen, saying he was a good boy and deserved to have the few things he really wanted.
His parents were able to reclaim some of their home when Martin received a camera for his 14th birthday. He quickly realised that photos took up very little room.
It was not long before he took a bold step out of his comfort zone and started to photograph other things. He had a few difficult months disengaged from the life around him, as if he might float away and lose all connection with the real world. Luckily he found a particular area to focus on. He discovered that he liked images of pain.
This occupied him happily for some time. Pain was as varied as the people who suffered it and everybody suffered some sort of pain. At first it was physical pain that attracted him and he found plenty in the young males around him, who combined a lack of awareness of danger with the urge to fight. There were also girls who fought and as he studied his photographs of them, a new vista of emotional pain opened up before him. He saw that girls suffered more from an insult or being ignored than they ever suffered from hair pulling or a punch. An infinite variety of pain was all around. Hope held the seeds of despair, love looked forward to loss. Martin discovered the moment at the end of laughter when one had to find a way back to the mundane. He found that the jagged edges cloaked by anger were perhaps the most painful of all.
He became a photographer for the police. Most of his work was done at crime scenes where the subtleties of blood splatter and displaced furniture introduced new dimensions to explore. He never tired of photographing a dead body. Nobody knew how many photos he took for himself, to pore over in the night hours as he sought the back story of fear and loss and punishment in the physical surroundings and distilled the last vestige of agony from the rearranged bones, the spilt blood, the distorted features of the grimacing dead.
The collector is the expert in his field. Only he can envisage the possibilities which have yet eluded him and continue his search for perfection. Martin had never given control to a third party, be it time, money, proximity or chance, so it was up to him to push the boundaries.
This prompted the arrival of a serial killer in Darlington. He had an expert’s eye for the well-crafted crime scene and Martin’s photos achieved a new artistry.