Saturday, October 4, 2014

That Nun and those Devil Horns

I love this photo immoderately, and feel no shame in adding to the number of shares it's received worldwide in the last few years. Great art asks more questions than it provides answers for, and this snapshot has entered the realm: Who took this photo, and when? And where? Is this an actual snapshot, or a fraud created recently via Photoshop? Is the poor sister in on the joke—such nuns did exist, I can assure you (though a painful memory of my years at Saint Andrew Apostle grade school: singing along in class with the words "happy and gay" and guffawing as Sister Joy naively, and merrily, mimicked our limp wrists. Or was she in on the joke?)—or is she the fool? Whose horns are they, the girl's on the right, or the girl's to her right? Did students outside the frame know how much power the offending girl had in creating among her classmates crushes, fear, and unhappy or liberating memories of subversion, that this image wouldn't need photographic evidence to ensure that it remains in the imagination? An image is shared as often as this and it enters myth: the number of those nodding at it gravely, or with queasiness, or who claim I was there! or I snapped this! or We did this too! multiplying exponentially.

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." Diane Arbus
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