London, 30 July 2018
Ten days or so ago, Tim Wainwright suggested we collaborate on a new project or, perhaps, a game. The offer was less cheery than it sounds. A few days before, he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, well advanced and widely disseminated. At the age of sixty-three, he had a few months to live, and knew it. Playing a game now felt like a Surrealist joke, not least because Tim embraced it with that hollow laugh I’d heard so often over the past twenty years. We’ll call it ‘Death’s Door’, he said.
Tim is a pictures man, I’m a writing man; our game would take the form of a two-man chain-letter, images begetting words and vice-versa. He sends me photographs chosen from ones he had made over the course of years; I respond to those pictures; he responds to my responses; et cetera.
Simultaneous clocks began to tick.
Some, their hands turning backwards, took us through Tim’s life and career, his face growing younger, his work less mature; through the decades of our friendship, the drunken confidences and odd sharp words (mostly mine); the innumerable texts we've exchanged each day for years. Other clocks ticked forwards, to a time I dreaded, when there would be no more texts; when you, who may also love him, will read these words.
How the camera got a reputation for never lying is beyond me, since it does nothing but. In freezing a smile, a bird’s wing, the flash of light on water, it suggests that these things are forever. And yet it’s the knowledge of that lie that lends photography its beauty. It is, essentially, a tragic form, and so a glorious one. The same might be said of friendship.