Today’s item is probably my favorite photo and one of my favorite pieces of visual art. It has a pretty thorough title, After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue by Jeff Wall.
Not the The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells with an actual invisible man but Ralph Ellison’s amazing story of an unnamed black man whose has essentially been rendered invisible by society at large and its inability to do right by the African American community. It was one of my favorite books that we read in high school, so much so that I may have stolen my school’s copy of it. I have since donated said book to a local library. Well, I didn’t donate it, my mom decided that all my books were taking too much room and donated a good portion of my book collection to the local library. While I understand why she did it, I am still a bit upset about it. I gave her permission to get rid of my test prep books, not my book books but you know I am going off topic.
Anyway I loved this book. Stories that take place in the past (or in the future, or an alternative reality, the present is overrated) are my favorite, whether they are historical fictions or just books written long before I was even a thought. The past is a wonderful teacher. I was blessed in that I had gone to schools that had us read at least one piece of black literature a year, but usually just one. And this one was probably my favorite, I wanted to jump through the pages and protect the narrator. I knew in theory he would be okay, but the things he went through felt like too much to bear. I could go on and on about my love for the book, maybe I should give it re-read and do a post on it but today is about this beautiful piece.
The reason I knew the narrator would be okay is because the book starts with our unnamed narrator describing his current living situation in the prologue. He is living in a basement on the outskirts of Harlem, apparently stealing his electricity, for the 1369 light bulbs he has. I remember trying to imagine, this room that held this person I grew to care and worry for, who frustrated me with his terrible choice in women, whose life I feared for. I knew he was fictional, but I am a fiction writer and the characters all feel real to me. Anyway so this room was hard to fully imagine and then someone told me about this photo and there it was, the room. The magnificently lit room courtesy of Monopolated Light & Power, and it just felt right. I wish there was more to my love for this photo, I am not well-versed in the language of photography, but art is supposed to make you feel and this photo. I think my favorite part of the photo is that it took this invisible man and made him visible.