"See, that's the thing about a photograph- it can't tell you lies.
But that doesn't mean that it'll necessarily tell the whole unvarnished truth either.
Police call photos evidence... it's, dare I say it, far closer to the truth of what a photograph is, as opposed to what a photograph means.
On a technical level, a photograph is a time capsule of light, a concrete memory, if you will, of how photons bounced off some scattered particles over a few nanoseconds. The way that light was absorbed or reflected by materials of various textures and shapes, the blurs that depict movement, the spots that show when the sun is in the frame.
These pictures are two dimensional. They're only small, with your average snapshot being about the size of a person's wallet, so they're limited in scope...
I see you yawning, there at the back, yes, you in the black scarf.
You want to stand here? No?
Then pay attention.
As I was saying, these pictures are mere fragments of a memory.
They don't tell you stories, simply fragments of stories.
Xavier, could you hit the lights please? Thankyou.
Take this one for example. On first glance it's your average family photograph. An old print, to be sure, and the photographer was amateurish, so the focus is imperfect.
Observe the setting. Sand, with a crashing surf behind that, the angle of the sun causing these little spots of light in the corner. The children are smiling, happily pulling faces at each other, as the parents stand behind them, the expressions on their faces a mixture of pride and amusement.
You'd never guess that this photograph was the last one that captured this family's happiness.
The little girl there? That's Rissa. In the photo she's five years old, and ready to start school in less than a month. You'd never guess that six months later, she was diagnosed with childhood leukaemia.
The younger of the two brothers. See how free and ridiculous he appears, yet, only a few minutes after this picture was taken he almost drowned. His name is Jareth, and even though here he appears to be perhaps six, he's much closer to nine. Jareth broke his neck diving into a sandbar, but his mother saved him. He's in a wheelchair now, and works as a university lecturer.
What like me? Well, you could say that, I suppose.
Do you see any wheel chairs around here? Of course it isn't me!
Jareth was never really interested in photography anyway. He was far more taken by the physical application of his thoughts, but after the accident, he was forced to remain on the theoretical side of the drawing board, so it was a surprise to no one when he chose to study engineering.
And that is not the end of this story.
The happy couple? Well, now they're still happily married.
To different people.
Turns out the wife was having an affair with an ex-boyfriend, and the husband had reached the point where he didn't care.
They separated barely a year after this, not long after Rissa started to go into recovery, and now are on amicable terms.
A photographer is a historian, after a fashion. He or she takes a snapshot of a moment that is past, and allow people to interpret it as they wish. It means something to the photographer, something different to the people in it, and something different again to whomever might view it.
And none of their interpretations are false. Well, not completely anyway. Truth is not a tangible thing after all- it is fleeting and ever mutating as the same stimulus is viewed through different paradigms, which simulataneously raise new aspects and disregard others that they consider not vital.
I'll tell you now about the other boy pictured. Matthias is his name, though few enough people seem to remember that these days.
Nowadays most call him Captain Shard of the IceBrakers.
Yes, I'm talking about the band.
No, he's the bass player... the one who is always wearing that bloody bandanna. No not literally... ah yes, now you have him.
It's ironic that you confused him with the singer.
Why? Well he's mute, believe it or not. He was born that way. Never stopped him from communicating though, even before any of us became fluent in sign language, we all understood what he wanted.
How do I know him?
Now you've reached one of the most interesting aspects of photography.
The photographer takes a time capsule of events, but rarely do they show their own part in them.
Perhaps you'll see the occasional, inadvertent images of fingers, feet or shadows. These pictures generally don't make it to public display though, funnily enough, as the ones considered the best generally have the photographer completely absent from the little world he's frozen.
But he should never be disregarded, beacause all photos are taken with an intent, and it is only when you place yourself behind the camera to try to duplicate some of these shots that you can have a chance of understanding this. If you can somehow replicate the headspace of the photographer, be the individual an official, an activist, a historian, a person who feels attached to the subject, an artist, or a little of all of these, then, and only then, do you have a chance at guessing at the whys, as opposed to just the hows, the whos, the whens and the wheres.
Of course, the photographer might not tell you if you asked.
We might not completely know or understand ourselves. We're artists and historians, not psychologists.
But sometimes, every once in a while, we can archive something, a little moment of importance or truth, no matter how contrived it might be.
The one who took the photo in this case was the fourth child in this family.
Who was he? Why, me of course. The ten-year-old version of me anyway.