Spencer Worthley is a documentary filmmaker and photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. The Lead Photographer for both Cinema Eye Honors and the Camden International Film Festival, his work has appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone and Filmmaker Magazine. Spencer has also instructed at the Maine Media Workshops + College and photographed for clients such as Field of Vision and James Taylor.
Most recently, Spencer worked as a cameraperson for the IDA Documentary Awards nominated series NomiNation by Vanity Fair/First Look Media, as well as the Fusion series Primaries, both of which documented the turmoil of the 2016 presidential race.
Fancy Meeting You Here
Fog would drift from the sea, through the pines to our weary faces graced by the dull, blue light of morning. We once blindly followed these billows of white along unfamiliar roads, until the air was burned clear by the sun and we stood somewhere foreign amidst the hills. You reminisced then how you were born at that time of year—when the snow has mostly melted, except in the mountains, and the dandelions have begun to bloom. I looked quietly to the passing road as you spoke, intently listening though unable to respond.
For a brief time we lived apart from reality hidden along the coast of Maine. In the yard stood a treehouse, a collection of stones forgotten atop its weathered boards beside the severed foot of an unknown bird. In the bay bioluminescence was secretly aglow, appearing only as we thrashed our limbs about the frigid water, our laughter echoing across the darkened harbor. At night we often slept in the yard as we stared into the stars within a cacophony of frogs and crickets.
Through these days you read aloud passages from books on the Arctic. Poignant quotes were copied from their pages, left aside wildflowers for me to find as you shared your excitement of plotting future forays into these distant lands. I recall a map spread across the twin bed of your humid room, one afternoon in July. I lay with you as you traced routes with your index finger, explaining their significance and what you expected to find.
You seemed constantly to dream of somewhere further, colder, darker than there despite the glowing, summer sun—an act I was in awe of despite your uncertainties and my mounting misgivings about our permanence. In an attempt to reject our time as fleeting, I asked that you not disclose your date of departure until it was absolutely necessary, a foolish request which you humored. Nonetheless, with each polaroid I took, I felt as though I was both celebrating your presence and prematurely mourning your departure.
And yet we lived with a ferocity in which we drained every ounce of life from each arriving day. We lived in lakes and sunsets that echoed through hours of twilight, our feet stained dark by dirt and trampled fields of blueberry bushes. Once, in the lake, you swam up behind me and wrapped your arms around my body, shouting with exuberance, “Quick before we sink!” I clasped my hands to yours, laughing in our embrace, as we fell beneath the surface of the lake. The world drifted above in near silence until our lungs yearned for air.
I drove you to the airport, one day in early August, though I don’t remember our goodbye in a sense on which I can elaborate. I do recall the attempt to clasp on through distance, the act of endlessly re-opening envelopes marked par avion, and the slow realization of our stalling the inevitable—a final phone call some months later, the ambivalence of watching your endless travels from afar…
Two years later, we stand atop a roof in the depths of Brooklyn, an unexpected encounter after a year of minimal contact. You tell me finally of your epic feats that were once a dream shared across a distant summer—those frigid, magical ventures now, too, but a memory. I recount my remaining years in Maine, my less varied moves, attempting to tell you of my inherent inability to have, through that time, let go.
We speak softly, leaning above the street. Manhattan flickers like a constellation in the distance, the stand-in for a bewildering night sky.
The next morning, a familiar excitement passes over us as I take the old polaroid camera from my suitcase. A single negative now remains, having sat in wait through years of tormenting light. We return again to the roof, to the deep humidity of July, and decide upon our last collaboration. Time stands still for us for a final instant until we pass the exposed image back-and-forth, laughing again like children.
Moments later we descend to the street and take a train to the city, running the final blocks to my bus—a farewell amongst crowded passengers overwhelmed with luggage and heat, all of us briefly in between realities. You are gone from sight before I reach my seat, the bus lurching forward as I forgo my search. Outside the city I find the memory of shyly smiling at one another in public before we had made up our minds, my always stating “fancy meeting you here” each time our paths would cross.
To see more of Spencer’s work, please visit his website.