In an exploration of some of the possible relations between words and images, writers are asked to react to photos whose origins are obscure to them. The only guideline is that the text be somehow related to the images

Words by Giordano Tedoldi - Images by Enrico Natali

All images are from the series Detroit 1967-1970; courtesy the artist
A: Well would you look at that...
A: Well would you look at that...
A: Shameless. Completely shameless... Yes, it’s double-breasted, it’s tailor-made, do you understand? I didn’t buy it from Wanamaker’s. Do you ever go past Wanamaker’s? If they ever saw you near Wanamaker’s they’d spray you with ddt. Who knows if you even know what Wanamaker’s is, you look like you were born yesterday. I’m sure you don’t know the big organ at Wanamaker’s, as a child I used to go hear concerts on the big organ at Wanamaker’s, but my clothes are custom-tailored. You know what a tailor shop is...
C: There’s more assholes in this city than thoughts in my head.
B: Here’s the inevitable bum approaching... I’m not giving you anything pal...
A: Does he really have to... and today too, when it’s so... if he takes another step... he’s fucking wasted, he’s wasted.
C: There’s more cavities in my mouth than natural-born citizens in this fucking shit country.
B: There he is... There he is, he’s coming... right in front of us, iceberg ahead, man, with his shopping cart full of personal effects...
C: There’s more bums than cops, that’s a fact, a statistic.
A: Disgusting, it’s a woman. He was so dark, and dirty, and... hairy... looked like a man but it’s a woman. I can’t believe it... guys... that man’s a woman.
C: There’s more women who look like men than men who look like women, it’s a statistic, a reality.
B: There he is. There she is. There’s it. Incredible. I look at it and I can’t tell if that’s what I’m really seeing. One thing I do know: I’m not giving you anything sweetheart. Today you’re fasting.
C: We need to accept it. That’s how it is.
A, B, C: In the end, they think they can just come out of the sewers and touch you.
A: The collar.
B: The glasses.
C: The nose.
A, B, C: And in a split second, you’re just like them.
C: This
B: is
A: a terrible
D: disgrace.

His hand: What about the glove?
Her hand: What about the skin?
His hand: I wish she would hold me a little…
Her hand: What about the way I hold you?
His hand: Hold me tighter.
Her hand: Do you know the song?
His hand: What song, baby?
Her hand: Willie Nelson’s.
His hand: You just don’t hold me tight enough, I don’t… I really don’t feel like you would hold me close. Please hold me tighter. I still remember.
Her hand: You jerk!
His hand: What do you expect? I’m just a hand. I have no brain, I’m retarded.
Her hand: That’s why you…
His hand: I what?
Her hand: It’s just that you’re so… well… moist.
His hand: Moist, me?
Her hand: Well you are.
His hand: How can you tell that through the glove.
Her hand: Don’t be angry honey, I’m sweating too.
His hand: Where the hell are we going, anyway?
Her hand: Ask him. He should know.
His hand: Don’t feel like talking to him.
Her hand: Whatever.
His hand: It’s so hot.
Her hand: It’s a beautiful evening.
His hand: I would dip into a fountain if there were any.
Her hand: Just wait till we arrive where this party is supposed to take place and…
His hand: And what?
Her hand: We’ll have a bath together.
(His hand blushes)
Her hand: Anything wrong with what I said?
His hand: You mean like… me washing you and you washing me?
Her hand: I mean like I’m going to take off this glove.
(His hand coughs, then clears his throat)
His hand: Do you love me? Because I think I do more than he loves her.
(Sheholds Him tighter)

M: Relax, love.
W: Sure, with this headache.
M: Is it that time of the month?
W: Sorry I can’t hear you, it’s noisy.
M: I asked if it was that time of the month.
W: Yeah it is.
M: So maybe that’s why.
W: And you?
M: I what.
W: You?
M: I what?
W: Ok, now they’ve put some music on.
M: What?
W: What is it? You hear it too?
M: What.
W: My nipples hurt.
M: Where.
W: This sweater scratches.
M: Where?
W: I think we got our legs in the wrong positions.
M: How.
W: Mine are spread, yours are crossed.
M: It’s normal. They’ve always been like that.
W: You’ve always been so scandalously... relaxed. It’s indecent. In public too. Legs crossed. People will wonder: what does that guy have to be relaxed about? Is the world doing that well? Are these days so happy? Nobody’s got anything figured out and this guy thinks he’s the only one who does.
M: It’s really strange, this new technology.
W: It’s not technology, it’s a therapy. And anyway I liked it better when you were relaxed. Now my nipples burn. You think it’s a side effect?
M: Maybe. Maybe that and the fact that it’s that time of the month.
W: Do you love me?
M: I’ve always loved you. I’ve never called you by a nickname.
W: That’s true. Tomorrow I’ll talk to the doctor about the surgery. I promise.
M: You’ll be more awful than ever.
W: Anything, so long as you get out of my sight forever.
M: They sat us close to each other.
W: Hold me tight, during the surgery.
M: I won’t just hold you. I’ll suck you.

A: I can’t see anything out of my right eye anymore.
B: So you can keep my left one company.
A: You can’t see out of your left eye?
B: It’s glass.
A: I’m sorry. How did it happen.
B: It didn’t happen.
A: What do you mean?
B: I was born this way.
A: What?
B: I said I was born with a glass eye. From my mother. From her belly.
A: You were born with a glass left eye?
B: Yes, why are you so shocked? Were you born with glasses?
A: No, moron!
B: So why are you surprised that I was born with a glass left eye? Were you born not seeing out of your right eye?
A: No, just a little out of focus, I think, for example...
B: Exactly. But do you really not see anything?
A: Out of my right eye?
B: Yes.
A: No.
B: But have you tried?
A: Like what?
B: Like left closed right open, then right open left closed. Maybe you can’t see out of the right because you can’t see out of the left either.
A: No, I see out of the left. For instance, now I see, in front of us, there, there’s a... no... a... girl... but who is she?
B: My aunt.
A: Your aunt?!
B: Yes, aunt Juliet.
A: But she can’t be more than fourteen!
B: Maybe younger.
A: Your aunt. What an idiot!
B: I’m telling you she’s my aunt.
A: I don’t think you see well.
B: Out of the left no, but right yes.
A: Have you ever tried?
B: Like what?
A: Like, you gouge out the left and keep the right, then you put the left back and gouge out the right.
B: No, I see out of the right. It’s aunt Juliet.
A: Will you introduce me? She looks like... no... Introduce me?
B: Yeah, but don’t act like an idiot, don’t tell her she looks like... I don’t know what. Lots of people already tell her that.
A: No, I’ll just smile. If you want I won’t talk.
B: There’s a good boy, eat your tongue, like the cat did.
A: Robbie’s?
B: What.
A: The cat, Robbie’s cat, you remember, she didn’t have a tongue. I didn’t know she ate it.
B: No you idiot, it’s an expression. We’ll never know why Robbie’s cat didn’t have a tongue.
A: No tail either, who knows why it was missing.
B: Either she was born like that, or it got bitten off by, I don’t know, Tommy’s dog.
A: Your aunt is leaving. Come on, introduce me, so funny, she looks like a... a little out of focus.
B: I told you don’t be an idiot! Now where’s she gone? I can’t see her anymore... it’s too late.

N0: Language exists on a communicative level, it exists on a poetic level, it exists on the level of conflict, it exists on the level of conciliation, language is like a house built on a hill, it rises to different heights, that’s what I’m trying to explain to my friends, if they want to be my friends, because I can’t understand friendship that isn’t based on a philosophical agreement, on a linguistic agreement, on a common belonging and a solidarity of thought, of affect, a solidarity of thought and affect that manifests itself in burglaries, in baseball games, in our ancestors’ struggle for rights, humiliated, chained, forced to listen to blues in endless cornfields, corn that pricked them and infected them more than the iron of their chains, and these are the things that I reveal, on a linguistic level, so that my friends might embrace them on an affective level, assuming of course that they want to be my friends, and not to betray me, shut me off, isolate me, stop giving me dope, in short, to treat me like a brother, with all the ambiguity of that word, the prejudices, the history of injustices and justices, which are...

N1: Look at him he’s still there rehearsing the speech.
N2: He’s always been an eccentric.
N3: No, the right word would be exhibitionist.
N4: What does exhibitionist mean?
N5: It means confession, martyrdom.
N6: He’s losing it because it’s getting dark.
N7: How many of us are there? Why are we increasing? And what does this idiot want?
N8: That’s the goal of the brotherhood.
N9: How many are we supposed to be?
N10: I don’t know, a thousand, two thousand, ten thousand, twelve thousand, a sufficiently high number to be able to...
N11: To... to...
N12: Again. Can we move on.
N0: … which are all fruit of the same tree. And that’s the really important thing, brothers, understanding that we’re hair on the scalp of history, of the nation, of Africa, of the origins, and so, brothers, going back to the source, going back up the river, until the dawn, the desolate dawn...
N13: Not again, dear God...
N14: He’ll never stop...
N15: He won’t rest unless...
N16: What?
N17: You know... natural death, premature, consumption. Septicaemia. The kind of stuff that founds a religion.

B: Did you read him the indictment?
A: Half an hour ago, maybe more.
B: What did he say?
A: That we don’t know what we’re talking about. That it’s all false.
C: I don’t think he’s got anything to do with it.
B: Maybe. But can we afford the risk?
C: I really don’t know, maybe we should vote.
A: Vote, the three of us?
C: Yes.
A: Anyway, even if he’s innocent he definitely knows more than he’s saying.
B: What makes you say that?
A: Today it looked like he lowered his head, like this, you know like he was bending over to pick something up, and then smiled. Like he was thinking about screwing us over.
C: I didn’t notice anything, he always looks so out of it.
A: I watched him carefully.
C: I didn’t see anything.
B: I have to go back up there soon, and this time it’s gonna be a while. So, what are we doing?
A: I told you, if you ask me we can let him go.
C: I’m not so sure anymore.
B: Shit, now you’re making me have doubts.
C: What can I do. The way he lowered his head, you know, as if... it’s not like there’s anything there on the ground, in front of him.
A: Where.
C: In front of him, on the ground. Maybe he was really looking for... or picking up... something.
A: What do you think’s there, the pavement.
C: Nothing else?
A: No. There’s the tiles. The tiles. There’s nothing, nothing at all.
C: Then... why?
B: Why what?
C: The smiles, the looking down, the shielding.
B: Shielding?
C: He knotted his eyebrows, to hide his gaze, it was very distinct.
A: I was looking at him the whole time, he always seems so out of it.
C: Not when you read the indictment.
A: No, that’s true.
C: That’s when he bent over, hid behind his eyebrows, shielded himself, and smiled.
B: I’m going up, let’s wait a little longer, we can’t let him go if he’s involved. I’ll try to come back in an hour tops, I’ll invent some excuse.
C: I think it’s the right thing to do.
A: It’s true, I didn’t look at him when I was reading the indictment. Strange, but natural.

S: I hold my staff, my magic staff, and I am going to cast a very powerful spell. A spell so powerful that the whole world, as we know it, shall come to an end. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, and not even with a knock. Of all the powerful ends of the world as we know it, I have chosen end number five. You could ask me why end number five, and not end number seven, or number twelve. Well, it’s just that my magic staff, the staff I hold in my right hand, my black right hand, my white, shining, wooden staff inscribed with runes, runes invisible to the uninitiated eye, this wonderful staff that I hold with my ebony hand, my basalt hand, it’s just that this staff and this hand together decided for a spell so powerful, so mighty, that it will end the world as we know it, just following the ways of the end, so to speak, of the end planned in the magic spell book, and that is end number five, which is the most apocalyptic of all ends, the most definitive, that one that ends it all forever and ever, never to begin again, not with a bang, not with a whimper, not even with a knock. Light turns off, darkness turns on, that’s spell number five, just that, and everything is going to end, even my staff will be annihilated, even my hand, even my hair, my eyes, the whole of creation, light becoming darkness, darkness becoming light, the opposites destroying the opposites, thoughts against thoughts, words against words, nothing capable of adding up, everything a subtraction, but not gradually, all of a sudden. So this is the answer to your question, why end number five, and why I’m going to cast the spell that follows the ways of, so to speak, end number five: because it’s all of a sudden, that’s what my hand and my staff and myself wanted: all of a sudden, not gradually, not slowly. No, not slowly, you won’t even have time to… not even… it will be… all of a sudden. Not… not… slo… wly but… eaten… in… one … mouthful.

Enrico Natali (1933) was born in Utica, New York. He started taking photographs in 1960. In 1972 he published New American People, a book of portraits, and, in 1991, he collaborated with fellow photographer Mark Sandrof to create the volume American Landscapes. In the late 1960s he began a meditation practice that eventually became his primary focus and culminated in his abandoning photography, until the year 2000. The photos presented here are from the series Detroit 1967-1970. 

Giordano Tedoldi was born in Rome in 1971. He made his fiction debut with the short story “Steinbeck,” published in the anthology La qualità dell’aria (minimumfax, 2004). This was followed by his collection Io odio John Updike (Fazi, 2006), the story “Antinoo” in the anthology Padre (Elliot, 2009), and the ebook Deep Lipsia (Amazon, 2012). In 2013 he published his first novel, I segnalati (Fazi).