Diane and Mike, March 2009

I would often stop and talk to Mike and Diane as they sat near Joy Ann’s Bakery for a cup of coffee and a cigarette. I had seen them together for at least a year before I approached them. Mike’s speech is slurred, so my side of the conversation is mostly nodding and responding to what I think he said. Diane spoke very softly and so there was very little give and take in our few words.

At some point Mike said they had been together for 20 years, and I made a few photographs of them, and gave them copies the week after. I was able to understand that Diane really liked them, except that she would have preferred Mike to be clean-shaven, and he laughed and said there was no way he would shave his beard. Soon after, Diane stopped coming to Main Street. It has been at least a year now, and Mike doesn’t seem to know where she is.

One of the photographs of them I really liked, and submitted it to the annual open juried exhibition at the Richmond Art Museum, and it was accepted. I told Mike, and he thought that was great, and I thought Diane might enjoy knowing that she is in the Art Museum too, so thought I would look for her.

I started at a nursing home near Downtown, and they referred me to another care center who basically introduced me to reality: if Diane were staying with them, they were prohibited from telling me. If they knew where Diane was, they were also prohibited from telling me. I don’t know Diane’s last name, I am not related to her, and Mike isn’t either, officially, and the staff asked if I knew her family? I don’t, and then thought what if Diane doesn’t have family, and because of privacy issues, whoever is taking care of her is prohibited from telling anyone?

If we do not have a family, do we just vanish?


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