Walbrook, thou shouldst be living at this hour

Shirtless young man, in profile. Shaved head, with earring. Obese hairless body, with perhaps a dozen tattoos plus several ornamental keloids. If the creature is looking at anything in particular, it’s been cropped out of the image. If he has any particular expression on his face, it’s inscrutable. Caption: “James on the bank of the James river, Richmond, Virginia, 2012.”

The monochrome image, from Vanessa Winship’s book She Dances on Jackson, comes to us online from a blogpost by the Australian photographer Gary Sauer-Thompson at


It’s followed by this comment (by Winship? by Sauer-Thompson?): “The loneliness and melancholy in American life is created by the pursuit of the American dream.”

Perhaps the comment might be more fastidiously convincing if its verb form were corrected from is to are. But what it fundamentally lacks is an audio. The pronoun “You Americans” is required by cliché tradition in a caption like this one, and it should preferably be spoken in a Viennese accent through a cloud of cigarette smoke. In my ideal fantasy the speaker is the late Anton Walbrook, speaking as he immortally spoke in The Red Shoes: “Vun does nut keh to prrhectice vunce rrrrhelichn in an atmosphère such ez ZIS.”

Accompanied by language such as that, both the caption and its image could get interesting.

In the meantime, however, look. Look, see, and revere the emblem of the term obiter dictum, with Moira Shearer immortally reflected in its shades.