Lumière

“Illusion plays a capital role in all branches of human knowledge”
–Auguste Lumière, Preface to a Practical Manual of Illusionism and Prestidigitation, 1935

Autochrome
Cinématographe

 

Grains of colour coalesce. A patch of grass joins into focus, spiky
Crank
blades tipped against the lace rim of a dark blue velvet skirt.
turns, film
A hand firmly holds an orange rod, regal like a sceptre
rolls, gates open.
that blossoms into a parasol; the other extends
Workers in their Sunday
back, supports my daughter’s fleshy weight.
best leave in a measured mess.
Madeleine’s hat bends like the mouth
A lag, a gap – the ladies dash, a man
of a poppy, a thick puffy lip. She
swings the wrong way, bumps into a lad and
leans in to listen, her nose
stumbles back in line. The dog chasing a boy gets
as sharp as Andrée’s is
cut off by a bike, returns to hog the hungry lens. A girl
round. But there’s
pulls another’s skirt, and it spills, the crowd separates both
no sound.
before she gives like for like. The world mirrored in the tongue
Zero
of the reel, drained to black and white. Could it be real? The spin
in, adjust
is unsteady, my hand stalls. Time skips and the workers jerk
the lens. Her
forward faster than a beat. Do not blink. Motion breaks
face dissolves to
into successive stills, the sentence once more sliced
specks, red, blue, green,
to words. What brings together a factory full of
lampblack – eyes of peacock
folk? An endless procession hurried by an
feathers glued in pitch. The image
unseen director, faces clear but names
morphs back into words flecked from a
stripped by time, jumpy for their
pen. In one sixtieth of a second, I can shoot
turn at the exit. One second
a bird in black and white. In sixty, the oil sheen
to stare into the eye of
of its luminous plumage is mine. Eight years on, all
history, and flash
that I have caught are these: the mellow muted colours
an uncertain
snatched back from time, still clear, unmoved, and unmoving.
smile.

 

Winner of the the Francis Bergen Prize judged by Peter Cole.