Mother0001 © 2012 Jacob Balzani Lööv. All rights reserved.

The last picture


I remember that I brought my mother swimming that day. It was a little quay on the Orta’s Lake, which I discovered that summer thanks to a friend. From time to time I was asking my mother what she wanted to do and then I tried to realize her small desires. She had a big one though, going to Patagonia and  I was really hoping we could have realized that as well. But it didn’t work, she never managed to see the land she dreamed of while reading Bruce Chatwin.

That sunset was in the early summer, eight months before her death. This is the last picture I took of her. My mother, Bibi, she is swimming, frog style as she used to, close to the daughter of her daughter, Bianca. My mother watch her granddaughter, while Bianca she’s watching me while trying to be afloat and holding one of her sandals. I would not say it is a beautiful picture. The film which capture the reflected light of the moment, by fixing it for a longer while in its molecular surface, was a Fuji Velvia. I was using that film just because I red somewhere it was a cool pro-like film to use. This explains the strong saturation and the reddish skin color. My mother smiles, while watching her granddaughter and seems to have forgotten her liver cancer. Feeling lighter because of Archimedes’ spell she was feeling stronger. I like the concentric waves emanating from her and mixing with her granddaughter ones: it seems the waves of Bianca are full of energy and chaotic as young people are. I like waves because I believe they are the simpler form of memory: whichever action release energy in its surrounding environment. This energy is then absorbed in many different ways, and it travels through it to reach faraway places. That’s why is so beautiful waiting for a wave at the boarder of the ocean and being lifted by it. The very same wave is just the product of winds, other winds and still meets you on its path before squashing the earth.

In the same way the light reflected by my mother skin smashed into the camera film altering its structure but for me that was enough. At the time I was not a photographer, I was mostly trying to finish my studies at University to make her happy and the idea of documenting her last days didn’t even came into my mind. I remember that once one of my sister told me that you can’t be part of the place, to live a situation and take a picture at the same time. I choose to live it. I was just sleeping few meters away from my mother’s room, just to be close to her, believing that this could have diminished her sufferance. It didn’t.

This picture doesn’t bring my mother alive anymore, it tells me she existed and that for a little while she interacted with the film. She’s not in that film, she went further. It would be arrogant to believe that memories remain forever, things are, things were but after a while they all become that undistinguishable background noise of the Universe. As I wrote 10 years ago, after contemplating the most beautiful sunset ever on the day of her death: “Why you cannot be here anymore? I trust that you really were in all these things. In the color of the Sun, in the peck of the ducks, in our thoughts. In all this your energy has not been lost. Only happened that your body, the part of the world that formed you ceased to be a subject, the one of you, and has become object. This is not a bad thing, it has always been like this, for everyone. It happen. We are just vibration of thought, we exist in moments. All what you have thought and done still exists and it will forever, maybe will be diluted a little in the time and the space but wanting to pick it up or stop it in our remembrances it will be forever there by our hands like a propagating wave.”

Leave a Reply