I remember the whole thing with clarity. The week of helpless worry, wondering why phone calls weren’t being returned; the moment of shock when the phone jangled and Laura dashed from the room. The leaden haze when I approached to embrace her knowing that no matter how hard I squeezed it couldn’t take away her pain. I couldn’t undo what fate had done. All I could do was hold her and let her know that I was there even though Chris was not.
Laura’s brother died several weeks ago and in the weeks that followed I’ve done what any person does when someone near them is grieving. Which is to say, I’ve stood by and reassured but in the grand scheme, I’ve been a helpless onlooker. Grief is a dense and murky cloud. Those around you can shout directions until their throats are sore but ultimately you have to walk out of the cloud bank on your own.
Chris left many legacies. I can’t say that I knew the man well but I knew enough of him that I wish that I had had more of a chance to. He spent his life traveling, connecting, getting to know people in an easy and friendly way that I can only fathom sufficiently to be envious of. Everyone he met was a friend and a chance to learn something and a chance to give something of himself. His travels were wide and free. He was the sort of person one really wanted to know (and be more like if possible) but who passed all too quickly from our lives.
You may be wondering, about this time, what ANY of this has to do with photography. Well, one of Chris’ legacies was a large number of photos. From the mid 80s on he accumulated hundreds upon hundreds of snapshots of his travels. Recently when Laura’s family was all eulogizing, the topic was broached of what to do with the boxes and boxes of photos Chris had accumulated. Being ever game for a project of epic proportions, I volunteered my services to digitize the choicest of the lot. Since that time I have devoted some part of each day to sorting and scanning and posting the photos of a man who I never knew nearly well enough, sifting through the experiences of someone else while the family looks on in anticipation.
In some ways it feels macabre, thumbing through these dusty relics trying to piece together someone else’s life. In another way it feels a marvelous tribute to another person. As a photographer I hope that when my time comes someone else will do me the same favor. The threads of our lives are so delicate and tenuous. Without care and tending they are cast upon the wind and lost forever. It is my hope that I can tie enough of those threads together to make a strong and lasting tribute to the man who was Chris Castell.