chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: photography

faces and voices

photography by Dean DavisIn April 2018, at the wonderful Inland Poetry Prowl in Ellensburg, Washington, the photographer Dean Davis quietly set up shop and proceeded to photograph and record many of the poets in attendance. Now you can see the results of this ambitious, unheralded, and unpaid project at Pictures of Poets. Click on ALL POETS and you will see many familiar faces. Mouse over the photos to see the poets’ names. Click on a poet’s photo and you will be taken to a page with a short bio and Davis’s recording of the poet. Here’s an example.

A selection of 12 large-scale prints from this collection will be exhibited at the Burgin Center for the Arts in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, from March 21 through April 14, 2019, and selection of 25 of them will be exhibited at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington, in fall 2019, dates TBA.

selfie

1980s DAK self sketchMy mother wanted to be a photographer. Not as a profession, but literally to “take” pictures — to bring home with her the abstractions of color, line and form she saw everywhere.

She struggled with one camera after another. My father patiently showed her and wrote cues to help her remember the sequence of buttons. He gave her his own camera, which looked so easy and which she was sure she could master, and when that defeated her, he found her a simpler one. But that, too, was just an incomprehensible box of buttons that she eventually stuck in a drawer, giving up the idea of taking photographs.

Dorothy would undoubtedly have found a cell phone equally daunting, but she would have loved the idea of selfies. In fact, she created hundreds of them, with pencil and brush, pastel and ink. If they did not provide the instant gratification she hoped to achieve with the camera, they left a record of how she saw herself, stripped of artifice — a harsh beauty seen through an acute and unforgiving eye.

what we make…

DAK drawing rock-potato-chickenThe sketchbook is old, the once-yellow cover torn loose from the spiral, page edges furred. My mother’s name is written on the cover, her surname that of her first husband. Sometime in the 1940s she made these pencil drawings, probably in a class, exploring perspective, light and shadow.

Most of the drawings are recognizable, precise: an onion, a book of matches, a lipstick, a trashcan. But this one is a mystery. Not quite a potato, not quite a rock, sometimes it looks like a raw chicken lying on the hard platter of its shadow.

The local library, along with its catalogued holdings, houses a row of bins in the basement where visitors can leave, or claim, magazines. I frequent the bins in search of images for collage and the quirky combinations of words that turn into found poetry. I carry away piles of magazines and later return them with small rectangles excised from their pages.

I recently picked up several 5-year-old copies of a large-format photography magazine. The photos are crisp and well-composed, each capturing a moment’s vision; a few are very fine photographs. As I browsed through them, I saw an absolute parallel with poetry, with music: we set out with our tools — camera, vocabulary, notes — and from the infinite possibilities we attempt to capture something unique. Tell of sunset, chickadee, voyage, grief, in a way not quite envisioned by anyone else.

Occasionally we succeed. We find the narrow window, the slash of light that turns our vision into something recognizable, something that resonates. More often, we fill the air with dust, scratchings, rock-potato-chicken.