CLEARING cabinets, I found old pictures. One photo was taken in the Silver Studio, squeezed in among the automobile spare parts sold in Leon Kilat St.
The woman wears denim pants and T-shirt, the latter bright red in memory but, in the black-and-white photograph, is almost bleached of color, blending with shadows cast on the wall.
Dwarfing her head are marble roses thrusting out of pots flanking the seated figure. The monster blossoms compete with the large crystal patterns of the rug, on which her dusty loafers rest.
Scrutinizing this younger self, I remember tilting my head a bit to the left, pulling back slightly the right foot, as directed by the woman who took my order and payment in the front office and then that photograph in the studio.
Decades ago, my Yaya gave me a picture taken at the same studio. Within the fringed borders of her photo, Yaya stood like a caryatid, one foot slightly in front of the other, reminding me of sculpted women holding up temples.
Or perhaps photographers just like how the eyes follow the slope and fall from shoulder to bust and hip.
I entered the Silver Studio, wilting from the downtown heat. I drooped on the stool, making no attempt to imitate Grecian statues.
If the woman thought I was incongruous with the overblown flowers and woven snow crystals, she did not let on. Her last instruction before clicking the camera was to remove my eyeglasses.
Scrutinizing now the cupped hands in the photo, I see these are empty. Where did I keep those eyeglasses? Is this why my hands cup air, a last-minute subterfuge to hide the spectacles beneath in a pictorial that did not happen as I imagined it would?
Photography is more simulacra than mimicry. As Baudrillard writes, the simulacrum is not an imitation but the truth hiding the reality that is not true.
According to the studio receipt, I paid on Dec. 9, 1996 sixty pesos for “JR” photos, which I claimed on Dec. 12. The receipt bears my married name. I recalled I was a coed when I attempted to mimic Yaya’s Silver Studio memento. The yellowed slip proves I was a college instructor when the photo was taken.
Aside from worsening astigmatism (slowed down but uncorrected by the spectacles), the woman in the photo read and wrote at dawn after inventing stories for a three-year-old son took over bedtime rituals.
Or did the stranger hoard herself for dawn, before the domestic and the academic imposed their demands?
Studio props are fakery that is true: larger-than-life roses and snow crystals in the tropics setting up the viewer for the more elusive illusion, the creature who tilts and smiles but will not say where those eyeglasses are.