Holly Tavel

(All Photos, except for:

Photo #119-a007,
Photo #46-a124,
Photo #122-a009,
Photo # 334-a001

© John Foster, see [website]. The four listed above are Tavel's.)

Let us now turn our attention to the matter of Philo S.

The following photographs represent a random sampling of the inventory we have at our disposal. The evidence has been mounting—

Q: for how long?

We were just about to get to that. Patience, if you please. The number of appearances, or manifestations, of Philo S. has been increasing at a steady rate for at least several decades, possibly longer. While we have been unable to conclusively pinpoint the first appearance of Philo S. in other people's photographs, there is evidence to suggest rudimentary manifestations in photographs taken as early as 1900.

Q: what are the variables of Philo S?

Philo S. does not haunt; he possesses no special powers or supernatural characteristics; he is not, as some have believed, a practitioner of alchemical metatransference; he is not treacherous; he does not travel lightly. He is not a metaphor for summers of glory and shame. He is rarely seen in photos taken at zoological parks. He has never been, to the best of our knowledge, in any way affiliated with the mafia (Italian or Russian), or with shady business dealings of any sort. He has never, again we must reiterate, to the best of our knowledge, ridden the rails with hobos across the great sad sinking middle of the United States. He has, we believe, as many as seventy legitimate and illegitimate children. He has never appeared as a spokesman for any advertised product or foodstuff. He has never dug a hole for the purpose of sitting inside it. He has never held public office; his edges do not tremble; he is no friend of the sun; he does not slide easily into divots; he has never appeared in any photograph taken in the Pampas or the Klondike. But it is easy, perhaps too easy, to say what Philo S. is not.

Q: is Philo S. an ordinary human being?

Yes, of course. What else would he be?

Q: have there been any attempts at Philo S. classifications?

Occurrences of Philo S. in other people's photographs have been identified as taking four distinct forms: Importunate, Indelible, Crepuscular, and Radiant.

Examples of each are presented forthwith.



Photo #117-a4-23 (Importunate)


It has been noted that Philo S. manifestations occur at an estimated 4:1 ratio in photos of children, or in which children are the primary subject matter. As can plainly be seen, Philo S. appears here disguised as a bear.



Photo #119-a007 (Indelible)


We could use words like invasion, encroachment, gradient, escalation; we may (not now, but at, perhaps, some future date) find that words like cranny and crepitation fit, as does slurry. Words we would not use to describe the manifestations of Philo S: lurk, lurking, loom, looming, crackerjack, bollix.



Photo #3223-1654 (Crepuscular)


A superlative example of crepuscular. If you have been paying close attention, you will have begun to identify certain patterns, static constants, certain repeated methods of ingress and egress, shifts in the topology. Philo S. appears here as if from the edges of a dream.



Photo #46-a124 (Indelible)


Philo S. sometimes appears as a mere susceptibility, as can be seen here.



Photo #221-a723 (Importunate)


Q: does Philo S. represent an augury, bodement, portent, or harbinger?

An excellent question. In our estimation Philo S. represents neither foreshadow nor forewarning, neither angelic runoff nor ghostly arbiter of chance. While manifestations of Philo S were initially believed to be of super- or supranatural origin, later findings indicated that in fact Philo S. is no less than an exemplar of the quotidian, a leakage, if you will, in the substrata of the supermundane. We believe it is most useful to think of Philo S. as prototype and antecessor, as visual equivalent to words like mere and fluff.



Photo #122-a009 (an idea of Philo S.)


This photo presents us with an opportunity to introduce a fifth classification of Philo S. manifestation: what may be termed an idea of Philo S. This classification encompasses all photographs in which Philo S. was present just before or just after the photograph was taken, but not at the exact moment captured within the photograph's boundaries. The idea of Philo S. classification has as might be expected engendered no small controversy, and many argue against its inclusion as an official classification. For that reason it is suggested that you view the above photograph as a potential fifth classification of Philo S. manifestation, until such time as the controversy regarding the fifth classification has been resolved to the satisfaction of all interested parties, and that you moreover refrain, to the best of your ability, from discussing the fifth classification in mixed company. Violent rages leading to anarchist uprisings have been provoked over far less.



Photo #AA-5640: Importunate


Q: When we were children we sometimes sat in dark spaces and thought about jigs. We imagined that our shadows preceded us into the world, and that they knew better than we did what the world was made of. We sometimes imagined a tall man with dark kind eyes and face under hat bending, then bending over backwards. Stooping, possibly. We never, when someone called out "look behind you!" looked behind us. If we had, would we have found our true destinies?

On the subject of destiny, we are prepared to say this:



Photo #176-b41 (Radiant)


Radiant manifestations of Philo S. occur with the least frequency among the four classifications of Philo S. manifestation heretofore identified. In going over the compiled data we have reached a conclusive hypothesis: in order for a radiant manifestation to occur, it is necessary for the photographer to be thinking of Philo S. at the precise moment the photograph is taken.



Photo # 334-a001 (Indelible)


Q: Can Philo S. be thought of as a containment, subterfuge, purlieu or verge?

In the past Philo S. has often been thought of in this way, and there are those who still hold this opinion. Although we would suggest replacing verge with contingency.

Q: Where is Philo S. now?

This is a question for which, we fear, there is no easy answer. It is not, as might be understandably but incorrectly assumed, simply a question of determining the present whereabouts of Philo S., but rather a question of whether the term whereabouts can even be properly applied. While we are not yet ready to propose a definitive hypothesis regarding this matter, given the available evidence we feel reasonably confident in asserting the following: each manifestation of Philo S. in someone else's photograph results in a lessening of the corporeal existence of Philo S. Each manifestation of Philo S. can therefore be thought of as a reduction, so to speak, or, if you like, a transference. Over time, the manifestations of Philo S. have in themselves become the true essence of Philo S., having effectively replaced whatever physical form Philo S. might previously have inhabited. Philo S., and again we would like to state for the record that this is not an official hypothesis, has become, so we believe, his own representation.




I've noticed that when images are used in fiction they tend to be used in an illustrative capacity or as ancillary to the text. I wanted to try to do something where the images and text were interacting in a different way. I'd collected some found photos and thought I might try to do something with them—but when I came across the Foster Archive I was really blown away. The photos embodied a tension between the utterly mundane and the extraordinary that was to me very compelling. It seemed to me that there was already a lot happening with the images narratively; I approached the text as a way to draw out the narrative that was already embedded, so to speak, in the images themselves.