Photos Without Answers

I hardly remember this woman, but her picture begs for a story. …

by Brandy Simmons, photo by Daniel Beckman

What could she possibly be photographing in that outfit, standing on the side of a mountain in gray, rocky scree?

I can tell you she’s probably wearing fire-burned hiking boots, but there’s a chance she’s freed her tired feet to a pair of dusty leather sandals with a hole wearing itself under the left ball.

A deep, green bruise marks the protective left forearm she threw out beneath her camera as she fell to avoid a pack mule on a steeper portion of a similar path. That might have been weeks or months before this moment.

By now, she’s walked off several of her toenails.

She’s tired, but in the joy-soaked way of someone who lives in her destination.

She’s been through hell, but this isn’t it. This time, instead of leaning into the image in a half-crouch of intense focus, she’s resting back into the photograph, admiring the subject.

Her face works away at untangling the scene beyond her lens. What she sees, however, I’ve let myself forget.

Of the thousands of pictures my partner and I took during this months-long expedition, this one conjures nearly infinite stories, all of which might be the truth.

Therein lies the art: Were it to have only one story, it would just be a photograph.


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