The photographer Edward Cochems was born in Chicago in 1874. In 1902, he married Emma Glaser. In 1904, their daughter was born. He moved to Santa Ana in 1915. He lived there for thirty years.
He faces his daughter from five paces,
she gazes towards him with her hands in her lap.
He stands by the camera,
she casts a shape on a painted scene.
To photograph is to confer importance:
who would disagree?
Over one hundred unidentified subjects
are among the thousand photos that he left.
This one was taken in the year
after the outbreak of the Spanish flu.
His body—in a suit—blocks the view
of the camera on which his hand rests
and equidistant from them both
a diffusing screen reads pure, empty white.
He had a nervous breakdown—that is,
he was unable for a time to work
while he was supporting his family as
a salesman in Los Angeles just before the Great War.
He might have made one of Paul Strand’s
pedestrians raked by morning light in a canyon of commerce
if he had put on spiritual defeat.
Instead at nearly age forty he began the work
he would later call “How I Won My Way
Back to Health With Photography.”
As he wrote about the stream
that wends through the arroyo of Aliso Canyon in 1933:
Truly a wondrous spot somewhat hidden
on the unbeaten path from the eye of the tourist.