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Screenshot 2023 02 08 at 9 54 43 AM


Strapless—Rochelle does a double-take

Strapless — Rochelle does a double-take

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” Aaron Siskind

Larry Sultan’s brilliant play Pictures From Home, is currently running on Broadway. The play portrays Sultan’s ten-year photographic and video exploration of his parents, and it was his hope that it would help him make sense of himself. In the movie, To Leslie, Academy Award nominee, Andrea Riseborough delivers a poignant performance of a woman trying to retrieve herself. Through it all, she desperately holds onto an envelope stuffed with photographs from her past. 

Fifty-seven years have passed since this picture was taken. It has haunted me, and I was never quite sure why. I thought I looked good. Thats me, second from the left. Im wearing a classic George Stravopoulos silk gown, standing like the goddess he intended the wearer be, long swan-necked, fifteen minutes of slim, on the arm of my prince charming at that moment. All great. So, why am I turned away from the camera? What was going on?

This photograph is one of many taken at my nephew Bruces Bar Mitzvah. Hes the big, handsome guy on the far right being celebrated at a very fancy event. It is the mid-1960s. My brother-in-law, Bruces father, Marvin and my nephews, Alan and Barry, are in white tuxedos following the instructions from my sister, mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy. My mother, sisters, Debby and Renee, and my sweet niece, Ivy, are dressed elegantly. This is the standard, family event line-up picture — each group at the party documented, so guests could look back years later and talk about who was there and what they were wearing and tell their remember when” stories.

So why am I so upset looking at this picture? Everyone is looking forward, and Im not. Was I thinking Id mightlook better photographed in profile? Am I the shy girl wanting to escape? The young adult rejecting my family? So, I search the picture for clues, like a forensic photographic archivist, hoping to understand why I consider the picture a disaster. I mentally check off the names of all the people in the picture, check the date of the event and then answer my own question. It isnt who is in the picture that is upsetting me. It is who isn’t in the picture?

My father. He had died shortly before Bruces Bar Mitzvah and yet the event went on. That is what my family did. But even with my smile and goddess posture, I am not present. Grieving can be well dressed. I guess it was good to be together to celebrate, but as a family we changed after my father died, and I hadnt caught up. Did my mother and sisters? For a while after this, we continued to have holiday dinners and showed up for significant events like marriages and more Bar Mitzvahs, etc., but it wasnt the same. It couldnt be. As each of us in this picture grew older, we formed new groups, attended new occasions and posed for new photographs. Now, there are more people in that picture that are gone, and I am grateful that I have that picture and to see them and remember.