Dad’s Slideshow – Di Slaney
Stonewood Press, 2015 £4.99
Juxtaposition: now you see me, now you don’t
This is a lovely pocket-sized pamphlet – just right to take on a train or give as a present. The endpapers are printed with camera motifs, and the book is full of pictures, captured in words.
There’s something about all our lives in this approach, perhaps now more than ever when so much is experienced in the photographs we take of ourselves. But looking back at old family snaps can be, as it is here, a way of working out what was going on in the relationships. We are invited to ‘see’ what the pictures capture and what they inevitably missed.
I was fascinated by two poems next to each other, one from the point of view of the little girl (the poet when young) and the other from the point of view of her photographer father. The change in register between the two poems is expertly handled, and also heart-breaking. The two poems could have been presented with the father first, but no – the little-girl voice wins the heart before the colder and more analytical tone takes over. Here she is:
Little me with fuzzy hair,
nose first in a hedge,
clutching hold of bear,
peering low to spot – what?
She tells us has always had a knack for ‘seeing the small and fine / in focus’, which is what she goes on to do. The poem ends
Did you see me then, Daddy?
Do you see me now?
And the next poem shows what he saw: the red glow of the child’s cheeks mirrored by the colour of her cardigan and her ‘crimson wellies’, a ‘gift’ for composition, especially with the 'phone-and-postbox combination’. He didn’t notice how ‘rocks made her backside sore’ while he made her pose for the lens. He wouldn’t, would he? He was too interested in how he was structuring the event. He was in control. But now, in this pamphlet, it is his grown-up daughter who chooses her own focus.
So very much is said here by simply by virtue of juxtaposition. It is beautifully done, and says something about many father/daughter relationships, not just this one.