My life in pictures ... with some commentary.
|When I was scanning in family pictures as part of the three-part family home movie DVD "box set" (wow, a trilogy!), I came across quite a few pictures of yours truly I'd totally forgotten about. I thought it would be fun to toss some pictures around without too much thought atop one of my favorite pictures--not even five years old, I'm peering out of a house my siblings and I made with sheets and clothespins in front of our real house on Oak Street. If you want to see a short film of me growing up, head on down below!
This is where your scroll button is going to be very, very convenient, as I will try my best to explain what those pictures are, row by row (starting from the top):
1. I am holding one of the puppies fathered by our family dog Frosty. The year is 1978. (Yes, those are the "electric bras" I'd referred to in my poem "Training Bra" from my book St. Michael's Fall!)
2. This was my Gallaudet University graduation picture. I graduated with the legendary Class of '88.
3. Phillip Ward took this picture of me in May 2006 when I was in New York. He's one of my favorite photographers. After each session I'm always surprised to find one or two that I like.
4. I am 11 years old in this picture. Lovely bowl-cut 'do, no?
5. This was my very first book photograph. Keith G. Mitchell took this one in my old apartment in New York in 1992. The woman in question is nicknamed "Edwina," about whom we know absolutely nothing except a twinkle in her eye. When this photograph appeared in the back of my first book Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader, some people thought she was a deaf lesbian. What a hoot! But seriously, I sure hope so.
1. Yes, your eyes are not fooling you--I am indeed holding a Kermit the Frog puppet in the summer of 1981 at Bay Cliff Health Camp. Earlier that summer I had unknowingly committed a sin at the age of 15 by sign-interpreting the Muppet Movie theme song "The Rainbow Connection" ... in Signing Exact English (SEE). But in those days as an oralist, I was desperate to learn sign language, and it didn't really matter where it came from. Now I know better. (Yes, ASL rocks!)
2. Philip Ward took this picture of me back in 2000. Part of the New York skyline is behind me.
3. I am four years old in this one.
4. I am ten years old in this one, and the summer of 1976 was The Summer of Biking. Once I learned how to bike (I had long been afraid of them), I felt invincible on those two wheels no matter where I went all over Ironwood.
1. My father had this tradition of having all of us nine kids photographed on or around our first birthday. Yep, that's the one-year-old moi, plopped down for all posterity.
2. I was 39 years old when a friend snapped this one across the street from my old apartment on East 11th Street in New York.
3. This was my very first photograph in which I posed as a "writer." I had won second place in a national contest for deaf high-schoolers, and this was a big deal for Houghton's Daily Mining Gazette. I was 16.
4. Remember the big orange happening that the Christos threw in Central Park a year or so ago? Yup, I was in a let's-see-how-long-I-can-grow-this-beard-before-someone-screams-"Cut-it-off!" phase in February 2005.
1. I shot this picture of myself in Paris the day before I turned 40. A little dream come true!
2. I was six years old in this one.
3. Philip Ward took this one of me in 2003.
4. Philip took this one again of me but in 2004. (Aren't you tired of snapping moi, Philip?)
5. Behind me are the glorious skies of Lakeside, Ohio. I was 30 years old.
6. Yikes! That's my high school graduation picture.
1. In February 2004 I stood high above the clouds drifting near the Muir woods near San Francisco.
2. This picture makes me gasp every time I see it--I'm standing in a pair of very skimpy shorts and a striped T-shirt while I make the sign for "success." I had just completed a three-week course in the New Signers Program at Gallaudet in the summer of 1984. (No, I hadn't come out then, but seeing that picture, I had to wonder why some of my friends had been so clueless about me!)
3. My friend Brian Lewis took this one of me in front of the Sphinx in Las Vegas. You could say that I was doing a little bit of facial fur scuplting; I sported a drooping walrus moustache with a sandpaper-thin stubble. This was taken in March 2006.
4. When my friend Alan Farnham gave me a sunflower, he wanted to snap a few of me with it. Of all the ones he took, this is my favorite. This was taken in August 2006.
5. The painter Andrew Hudson snapped a whole bunch of me signing and talking as he wanted me to pose for his paintings. This was in the summer of 1987 when I was studying a little bit of Buddhism (I had met him through a gay Buddhist group in Washington, DC). One of those paintings eventually appeared in The James White Review.
1. You can't even see the button on my shirt, but it does say, "Kiss Me I'm Polish." I remember my father giving me that one. I don't remember what my Halloween costume was at the age of ten, but I am definitely bobbing for apples at the Ryan School in Hancock, Michigan.
2. Ah, Robert Giard. He treated me like a king when he took a few rolls of me as part of his ongoing project to create portraits of GLBT writers. He had read my piece "Notes of a Deaf Gay Writer" in Christopher Street magazine and I was very flattered when he said that I could use this one as my second book photograph (used on the back of St. Michael's Fall). But Bob is no longer with us; even though I've met him only twice, I still miss his ability to put me at ease in front of his tender lens. My elegy to him, "Sweet Highway," eventually appeared in The Tactile Mind.
3. Still in my thick-and-long-and-OMG-bushy-beard phase, I am lolling next to Elsa in the spring of 2005. She loved it whenever I rested my back across hers. Even though I no longer live in New York, I miss her like hell.
4. I am fifteen in this photograph. I was then enduring the hells of Ironwood Catholic High School, which I later wrote about in St. Michael's Fall.
5. In late July 2006, I shaved off my beard (what?!?) and left my stache alone. To commemorate the occasion, I looked away from my digital camera. Then I added a little tint and shadow in Photoshop. Voila!
Finally ... while I worked on the DVDs of my family home movies, I asked my mother if I could excerpt certain clips of me growing up for a Web short film called FRAGMENTS: Raymond Growing Up. Well, here it is! (Those cursed with both a creaky dialup connection to the Internet and a short temper are advised to skip the silent show--it's 6.4 MB in size.)
Hope you had fun seeing how I've changed over the years. As of August 11, 2006, my stubble is already turning into a full-tilt boogie beard. At this rate, it'll probably take me another 40 years before I get around to doing another photo collage like this one. Who knows what the Web will be like by then?