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Nostalgia is a Kind of Mercy
Iyanuoluwa Adenle on 3 photographs in the Tender Photo archive.
Here is a deserted room. Except it is more than that. Reimagine how people must have occupied the six chairs in the room before the dust gathered and the cobwebs took form. The room is preserved in new memories in the minds of new viewers like you and me. What did the room look like before now? Was it a happy one? Did thunderous laughter and cautious anger swell or burst out of the room? Did the previous occupants leave in a rush? Did they know they were there for the last time? How is the room viewed and preserved in their mind? Who left a book there? Was it a calculated abandonment?
A held-up photograph of two people from a different time. If there was anything spontaneous about the poses in both frames, it is not obvious. Observe the couple's pose in the first frame; observe their hands resting lightly on their thighs; observe their darted eyes. Both photographs are a deliberate attempt to hold onto a memory. Even though the first photograph looks like it must have been staged, the second photograph acknowledges that memory. What is the relationship between the couple in the first frame and the hands in the second frame? I bet there is a date written on the back of the first photograph.
This takes me back to a time when I am younger than the lady in the picture. I am holding up the ludo board even after many warnings not to move it from its appointed stool. The tear in the red sofa is familiar and it will be made wider than that with my restless hands. The dusty center table and the discarded plastic bags that make this photograph reminds me of my mother’s potential annoyance when returned home from her shop. Nostalgia is a kind of mercy.
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This is the #12 edition of Correspondences, a pop-up series on Tender Photo, published every Saturday from March 4–May 27, 2023. I asked a few writers to find “correspondences” between 3 photographs from the archive, chosen without constraint on style or genre, and to write short commentaries on their choice. The goal is to open up Tender Photo’s editorial and curatorial process to an engaged group of readers, broadening the diversity of responses to the varied work featured so far.
Tender Photo is a bi-weekly newsletter on African photography, published Wednesdays and Saturdays. See the archive for more features on early to mid-career photographers. If this newsletter was shared with you, consider subscribing, or forward to a friend. Please whitelist the newsletter to ensure you never miss it.