Pages from My Notebooks

Et ignotas animum dimitt it in artes.  Ovid, Metamorphoses

So I mentioned in my last post that I’ve really used the last 6-8 weeks to edit some older and lingering projects.  Among these is a new book/portfolio/album I call Pages from My Notebooks.  The pictures were all made about 4-5 years ago, and were originally made for a few different projects – mostly photographs made of my family and around my home in Ithaca, combined with some pictures I made working collaboratively with a model I met with several times over a stretch of 18 months.  The two sets of pictures were made simultaneously, but never conceived of together (though increasingly the elasticity of photographic meaning has been a large part of my practice).  These pictures are then combined with some writings pulled from some journals I kept between 1998-2004.

This is really the first piece I’ve finished in which text and image are given equal weight, and was in part pursued because of how much positive feedback I’ve received about the text/image relationships created here on my blog.

The writings pulled from these journals are really of two sorts – some early musings on photography as I was putting together my philosophical base, and writings about love, young love, when one is first experiencing it in all of its beautiful and vexing forms.

I call myself a poet, I have to invent what I practice.

Jeannette Winterson, Art Objects

An overdose of reality gave way to the miasmic longing for flight into the safety of dreams.

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Seeing is speaking, deep consciousness, deep listening:  Feel what you see; seeing is feeling.

In those days before email, I also kept letters I wanted to save folded into the back pages of my journals.  A few of these are scanned and printed out, letters from heroes and friends, galleries and curators, and postcards from former students.

I was born when she kissed me; I died when she left me; I lived a few weeks while she loved me.

Dixon Steele, In a Lonely Place

I remember the first time we spent any time together.  It started at school that afternoon.  There were some Nicholas Ray films playing at the Brattle in Harvard Square, and she asked if I was still planning on going (about a week before, we started a conversation about film – a shared enthusiasm of ours – and I told her about the Nicholas Ray and In a Lonely Place).

Yeah – of course, I said.

Are you going this afternoon or tonight?

Tonight.  I teach this afternoon.  How about you?

I don’t know.  I was thinking this afternoon.

Our conversation ended there, and I hurried off to class.

She wasn’t there when I first arrived at the theater.  I sat by myself just a few rows from the front.  I kept looking back over my shoulder to see if she would come.  At that point my attraction was simple; I was eager for her company.

She arrived shortly before the films began, just about 10 minutes in.  I could see her looking around in the dark, and I knew she was looking for me.  We made eye contact and she came over.

Can I sit with you?

Of course.

She wore a peach-colored overcoat, and her hair was cut short, just coming to the bottom of her jaw line.  Her cheeks were round and soft, and just a little red from the cold outside.

During the previews, we made short conversation about the films and about school.  I asked her for some chapstick.

Together we sat through a double-header, In a Lonely Place and Knock on Any Door, the two films Humphrey Bogart made with Ray.  We left together, catching the same train home.  Conversation was simple and easy – questions about families and names and hometowns – but it came without any effort, naturally and with an air of inevitability.

The pictures, writings, and letters are all housed in a handmade wooden box with a plexiglass lid, sequenced like the pages of a book.  The photographs are all original silver prints of different sizes and colors.  I like to think the real subject lies between all the different images and words, really a feeling they suggest together.  One pulls the pictures and writings out of the box, pealing them back like the layers of an onion.

*The quote at the top of the page – And he turned his mind to unknown arts – comes via James Joyce and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  Joyce’s autobiographical novel ends with excerpts from his own journals, indication of his first steps as a writer.


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