Shock, Recognition


What does it take to recognise someone you know?

I wonder sometimes about this - about how little information you could be given about someone, and still know them; from a description, a sound, a gesture they always use, a certain way of doing things.

And it’s what I find I miss about people when they’re gone, too.

The way my uncle Bill used to read over top of his glasses, while sticking his jaw forward; how my aunt Jean used to start a story with “well, now, Rob…” in her particular tone; the twist of my uncle Ted’s smile, when he was just about to win a game of bridge - especially if you’d fallen into a trap he’d carefully laid for you.

And I think that’s true of everyone; we all remember each other differently, different stories from different times about our friends and family. But when you go looking for those things in others, in people you don’t know, you start to fill in details of the life they must have; the things their closest connections will remember about them later.

  • She always sat on her own, just there, before her shift started.

  • When she was on the phone, she’d still talk with her hands - as if the other person could see her.

  • He never put anything in the mailbox without checking, three times, that it had gone in safely.

  • She never just pushed the button for traffic lights, she always held it down until the light changed - even though she knew it wouldn’t make a difference.

  • He was always playing chess at lunch, in his pin-striped suit.

  • That way she used her hands when she sang, like she was conducting a choir.

  • Even on a hot day, she’d always wear that jacket.

We each have a way of being; a gait, a gesture, a habit, a place we go back to, a thing we do that makes each of us distinct - and when we’re gone, it goes with us.

And, ironically, that’s what makes us all the same - that we have these human things in common, and that we all remember them about each other is what connects us.

Every one of the fifty people in Christchurch had their own way of being; and, somewhere, they’re being remembered for it, by someone who noticed where they sat every day, how they held themselves, their individual expressions and idiosyncrasies.

We are them; they are us. We are one.

He hau matao ka tokia te kiri

Ma te arohanui, ka ora ano

A cold wind chills us,

love and goodwill restores us.


As salaam Aleikum; peace be with you.

Robert Catto

I'm a Canadian-Kiwi photographer in Sydney Australia, specialising in performing arts, live events, editorial and corporate / commercial work.