When Love Was explores memories that haunt our bodies, our muscles, our bones, our breath, and our blood. Memories that cling to our souls. The fragmented narrative follows two characters, an unnamed man, who carries the pain of his past experiences and the pain of the loss of a woman he loved, and an unnamed woman, who carries the uncertain knowledge of something that happened to her in her childhood. Both characters are imprisoned by the traumas of a past that never disappears. Throughout the book, the stories of these two characters are interrupted by philosophical reflections on the nature of photography, time, and memory. Photographs, which accompany the text, reveal desire and beauty that is still possible and remains visible even when carrying the trauma of the past.
When Love Was will transform your understanding of time and memory and of beauty and love. While most of it is autobiographical, Doug Rice writes most often in the third person in order to see into desire and longing in ways that complicate his own way for thinking of the world. Taking photographs on the streets and capturing unguarded moments provided Rice with new ways for reflecting on trauma, on how it stays even after we have “forgotten” or “forgiven” the places and people who caused such pain. When Love Was is a pillow book in the tradition of the Japanese pillow book.
Rather than being a narrative, When Love Was is a series of musings and observations. It is designed to be read slowly as singular moments of time captured by poetic language. A remembrance of things past and a hope for new experiences. Like the traditional pillow book, When Love Was should be read one page at a time before bed to awaken the reader’s dreams. The paperback version of the book is unpaginated so that readers can decide on their own order for reading each moment. The photographs throughout the book were taken by Doug Rice in Paris, Stuttgart, the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Pittsburgh, Lotus, Berkeley, New York City, and San Francisco. Price includes tax & shipping.