Also in Prose:

shoot me pretty
Photo from the author's archives
Yasha Spektor. Shoot Me Pretty

On Saturdays, the Facebook feed overflows with snapshots of friends’ escapades from the night before. It’s a parade of parties, eateries, gal pals’ gatherings, strolls in Central Park. “Hey girls, let’s do a photo!” Instantly, all turn towards the lens’ gaze, adopting angles honed through countless similar freeze-frame moments, their smiles wide, brimming with joy…

Now, you might think I’m about to rant at those feigned grins or rail against Instagram’s filtered dessert plates, or wax nostalgic about our days of football in the yard versus their lives of scrolling at the screens? No. Rather, let me share a little thought:

My granny, she had just two photographs – her wedding pic and one from a photo studio in Kislovodsk, a union-sponsored trip marking her retirement. In each photo, granny’s poised, hands neatly atop her lap, staring straight at the lens. Her look? Think State Assembly yearbook. A figure tense, composed, confronting the camera’s black eye, which, with a single blink, performs something unnatural – cuts out a two-dimensional ghost from the fabric of time, a cardboard echo of its warm, breathing, aging, living counterpart.

Granny’s gone, but those few photos linger. As befits specters, they gaze at the living with an unblinking, dead stare – a gaze she’d never own in life. It’s a blessing, really, that only a handful exist – just enough to remember what she roughly looked like. It’s good that they look as if they escaped from an “Employee of the Month” stand – it’s harder to believe that these images could truly capture her – alive, breathing, flowing with the current of time.

All things shall pass – from her to us – gagarin, internet, instagram. Every Saturday morning is rich with photos taken the night before, a single night’s catch outnumbering what granny saw in her entire life. “Hey girls, let’s do a photo!” Each girl has amassed thousands of them – two-dimensional specters, cardboard cutouts, claiming resemblance to their living, warm, breathing owner. She assists them: with a flattering angle, a fine-tuned genuine smile. Thousands of frames where she looks as authentic as possible, thousands of micro-slices of weekends, vacations, just ordinary days – and from these emerges her doppelgänger, almost three-dimensional, nearly lifelike, insanely similar to the original, smiling at you with a wide, happy Facebook smile. And once she drifts off with the current of time, this photo-phantasm will brazenly claim that that’s how she always smiled, that all these parties, restaurants, insta-plates was all that there was of her life.

And, he will probably be right.

Self-translation from Russian

About the Author:

yasha spektor (1)
Yasha Spektor
Philadelphia, PA

Yasha Spektor was born in the Soviet Union in 1978, lived in Georgia (the country), and moved to New York when he was 13 years old. Studied History at NYU; then – dark arts at Brooklyn Law School. Writes short stories in Russian and English, but mostly in Russian. Lives in Philadelphia with his wife and 4 cats.

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