everything. everyone. everywhere. ends.

i’m not quite sure why, but i’ve been thinking about the final episode of hbo’s six feet under a lot lately. in fact, one scene in that episode stands out to me as the defining moment of the entire series.

bound for new york city, claire fisher says a tearful goodbye to her family and then pauses before leaving to take a photo of everyone. as she looks through the viewfinder, her dead brother, nate, appears and whispers in her ear,

you can’t take a picture of this. it’s already gone.

what really gets me is that, after nate has his say, claire takes the photo anyway.

taken out of context, the exchange might not seem like much of anything, trite and chichéd even, but within the framework of the series and the characters, it is such a powerful moment. in fact, that scene made such an impression on me that i’m still considering it’s implications three years later.

perhaps nate is right, the essence of the moment has passed and is gone forever — it’s futile to try to capture it in a photograph. then again, perhaps claire is right, the moment will live on forever in her photograph — it’s foolish not to preserve it on film. i don’t really know. i think, perhaps, it is this dichotomy that makes the scene so poignant.

we are all aware, on some level, that everything around us is ending. it seems to me that as we each move closer to our own ending, some of us hold on to things, people, memories, that give us comfort and a sense of identity and permanence in our otherwise ephemeral existence. after all, a lifetime is just one fleeting moment after the other until there are no more; the things we collect along the way tell our story, become our story.

claire’s story ends in a home filled with photographs. i think, perhaps, all things considered, mine will as well.


How sad! You’re right, Heather, it does make a big impact on a photographer. I’ve never seen this series, but what do you think Nate’s intention was? To make Claire feel bad?

Posted by fightingwindmills on 18 July 2008 @ 10am

fw, your comment has me thinking again. i’ll be writing more about this very soon, stay tuned! enjoy the moon tonight.

Posted by heatherdyan on 18 July 2008 @ 9pm

I’ve never seen the show, but this seems the essence of change, and how we deal with it. Living in the moment, as the buddhists talk about, seems to make the most sense, even if it is difficult to accomplish.

Without knowing the characters, just going by what you’ve said here, my guess is that nate was getting at that. Like maybe from his perspective he knew that it was more important to simply live each moment fully in the present, rather than worry about what we remember or making sure we remember things a certain way later.

At the same time, there is a lot to be said for photography being it’s own kind of meditation, forcing us to really see things fully, living in each moment. It is hard to notice the world around you fully if you are thinking about what to make for dinner that night!

I have a book that you might find interesting – The Tao of Photography by Phileppe Gross and S.I. Sharpiro. Sort of ties into some of that.

Posted by Deb on 18 July 2008 @ 10pm

deb, i think you are absolutely right — nate’s character was very much about living in the moment. i really like how you point out that photography can be it’s own kind of meditation, i hadn’t really thought of it in that way before. i’ll definitely look in to that book — thanks so much for the recommendation 🙂

Posted by heatherdyan on 21 July 2008 @ 9am

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