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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Bl Pawelek is the jack-of-all-trades artist. His work has been featured in places such as Blood Lotus Journal, Curbside Splendor, Prick of the Spindle, Monkeybicycle, LITnIMAGE, decomP, and Dogzplot. Over the past few months, he has worked hard to craft the photographs and prose featured today at Plumb Blog. Below, he opens with an amazing shot of an oak paired with amazing prose.

Bl Pawelek

one definition of ‘plumb’ – ‘a weight at the end of line’

the plumb oak
the shortest route: a five-mile hike to get there. The last mile,
fields and stream. He is at the end of his line. I feel the weight on
me.

I have visited about every month since I moved here, sang him Leopold
songs and fed him purple coneflower dust. He gave prizes in return.

Deer Creek slides along, small trout in its water. On sunny days, I
hide still, jump and dive, splash about in the water. Come up with
nothing in my hands.

Dinner the found fruit. Nothing more sour, tart and delicious than a
not-yet ripe wild apple. Nothing as sweet as wild raspberries.

Dead branches, black lines in the sky I sleep under. I ignore the
memories of Maryland’s black rat snakes, waiting in trees.

Parts of him will stay on the line after winter. Others will drop off
the end. Like the movie, I rub the bark, whisper, “you can, you will.”

In addition, Bl Pawelek snapped a few other photos on his journey to that beautiful oak tree.

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Bl Pawelek

Mr. Pawelek has given me the opportunity to to a bit of Q&A with him as well:

What came first? Writing, painting, photography?

Honestly, it all started with hiking.

I started to take hiking seriously in 1997, and everything else started to branch from that. I brought a camera with me everywhere I went; started to read books of places I hiked (Desert Solitaire, Wilderness Journals of Everett Ruess, Death Valley and the Country, etc); and started my hand in writing and painting what I saw. Most of my creative effort is still centered in that world.

You often pair photography and other artwork with a few lines of poetry. What is your process? Do you have a muse in mind that you seek out when you go out and snap photos? Do you write first then pair?

If I pair them, the artwork definitely comes first. The artwork is more intricate, takes longer and there is plenty of internal critique before I think it is “done.”

The lines that I typically add to them are based generally on the theme/tone/thought of what was happening during construction.

You have an MA in literature. How do you feel that’s shaped your literary voice and style?

Props to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles!!

Although the university did not have an MA in Environmental Literature, I did my best to weave as much as I could. The professors allowed me to bring in texts from Carson, Eastlake, Stegner, Snyder while taking some “deep dives” into Thoreau, Muir and Emerson.

As for the “voice and style” – I was (and am) horrible in the technique and mechanics of writing/editing/critiquing. I am sure that I have some sort of voice and style, but hell if I could describe what it is. Maybe Ben Tanzer said it best …

“Poems of isolation and detachment, punctuated by blasts of color and a longing for nature.” – Ben Tanzer, author of You Can Make Him Like You

What is the best independent novel you’ve read?

I could never do one! How about these best ones of the last year-ish:

We Take Me Apart, Molly Gaudry (the writing is so elegant)

Normally Special, xTx (the writing has zero fat)

Inconceivable Wilson, JA Tyler (the story is only the tip of the iceberg)

Whose releases are you looking forward to this year?

I am checking my mail every day for: Finding Everett Ruess (The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer) by David Roberts.

Your kids are drop-dead adorable. Do you find that they are a source of inspiration in your art?

Sidebar: Many times I have been asked if writing or artwork was a “passion” of mine, or something that I felt I was “meant to do.” I have always said “no.” I have always felt that I could simply “stop” and move on to something else.

However, once I started a family, I knew I was meant to be a “dad” – nothing else.  So, my wife and kids are the cornerstone of everything. They influence everything. Sometimes they are included in different pieces that go public, but mostly only my Facebook family and friends get to see my dadliness.

You’re a very active member in the literary community. What are a few words of advice you could provide aspiring writers out there? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since jumping in?

I cannot say it any better. Aspiring writers should start with this – http://htmlgiant.com/behind-the-scenes/22-things-i-learned-from-submitting-writing/

If you could pair these marvelous images with a brew of your choice, what would it be? Why?

Take a long hike, get lost, get worried, pray frequently, get bitten by an animal and try to bite back. Forget your phone, your map, your way home, your watch, bug spray, sun screen, sun glasses. Forget to tell your loved ones where you were hiking, forget to tell anyone.  Thankfully, you remembered your journal and pen. Forget food and water, drink water from a stream, drink rain water, lick it off the plants. Try wild fruit, eat cobwebs, try to catch a rabbit.

Hike quickly at night when you can’t see a thing; hike slowly through the desert feeling the water leave you. Jump cliffs, balance on rocks, climb tall skinny trees. Get hurt, lose blood, get worried again and pray more frequently, do not see another person for days, and then remember the one beer in your pack. For me, it was a Boddingtons.

My sincerest thanks to Bl Pawelek for devoting the time and efforts to this Plumb feature. You can find more of his amazing photography, art, and writing over at http://blpawelek.wordpress.com/ and he can be reached at blpawelek(at)gmail(dot)com

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It’s easy to discard the photographs Shelby Lee Adams has collected for the past thirty years in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  Some would say they are little more than the flat, black and white, unruly children of a man who held out the worst of his people for a judgmental world to see in order to gain profit and recognition.  Others defend Adams, saying his approach is pure, even if his subjects are staged and not the most presentable (whatever that word might mean in this context) examples of his neighbors.  I hold membership to neither of these schools of thought, but it does force me to realize something about his neighbors, who are very much my neighbors also.

As a former newspaper editor in the county, in fact, the town in which Adams grew up, I look at his subjects not only with the interest an Eastern Kentuckian might bring to such examination, but also an insight beneficial to understanding Adams’ approach.

Hazard, Kentucky – the modest Perry County town where Adams was raised and the town where I worked as managing editor of the Hazard Herald – is a place where suspicion beats steadily through the thick blood of kinfolk and friend alike.  You are met with this instantly if you spend any amount of time asking questions or trying to wrangle an opinion from anyone who might live there.  And if they agree to talk, answer questions, or, say, pose for a picture, they change before your very eyes.  They stand a little straighter, they talk differently, they never take their eyes off you.  The relaxed demeanor of mountain people that each person from this area genuinely possesses without effort or notice will be stuffed beneath their hat as soon as you pull out a notebook, a pen or a camera.  You lose them and every unique quality each one gives off naturally without otherwise being aware it even exists.  The subtle speech patterns, broken and beautiful, become hurriedly polished and as out of place on their tongue as patches of hair.  That which replaces it is a blend of Midwestern dialect possibly mimicked from the trained anchor on the evening newscast, or, more likely, from a cousin or uncle who visits two or three times a year from Michigan or Indiana.  They become guarded and suspect the worse, arms crossed and as stiff as wood, and that’s if they agree to take part at all.  And it doesn’t matter at all if you’re a local, as is the case with Adams.  In many cases, this can make the task at hand that much more challenging.

How then is a person supposed to approach such subjects with objectivity?  As Adams said during an interview for the documentary made about his life and work, The True Meaning of Pictures, there can be no objectivity because, as he said, “these people are not objects.”  Many argue as to whether or not Adams is a documentarian (taking snapshots of what he observes as an outsider) or an artist who places each stroke, each pose, exactly where he intends.  The argument, although interesting, matters in no way I can immediately figure.  I don’t believe Adams feels he has any choice but to stage, at least to some extent, certain photographs, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Each image Adams has captured during his summer trips to Perry County has unabashedly has this staged look – a boy gripping a fighting rooster and glaring seriously at the photographer; a proud father, chest stuck out, holding his child firmly in his arms beneath a makeshift canopy constructed from a discarded satellite dish, smiling into the camera lens; another of two young girls standing side by side on a front porch flanked by the rolling and soft curves of the Appalachian Mountains, hands braced confidently against boney hips, their faces strict and hard, nearly, but not quite, masking the playful mischief at the corners of their mouths, just behind the eyes.

Adams says he has an agreement with the subjects of his photographs in that he offers them family photographs freely and then asks them to pose for some for his own work, which they quickly agree to do.  I read about this to a certain extent and spent a great deal of time looking at his photographs before actually getting the chance to watch the documentary, The True Meaning of Pictures, by filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal.  The documentary gave me a great deal more insight on Adams’ motivation, but, like any good snapshot of life, really only led me to more questions, particularly about Adams’ relationship with the three families he has photographed over the years.

The Perry County native seems to have an honest affection for these family members.  Most memorably Selina Childers, the mentally challenged, full of life and laughter daughter of the Childers family.  Selina seems to honestly enjoy Adams’ company and likewise, Adams’ seems to be caring and considerate without pretension in dealing with her and her family.  However, there are points to be made for any or all of Adams’ pictures as far as interpretation is concerned.

When you know the backstory with these families and Adams’ close ties to them, his pictures take on a different quality; you can see that humanity there between the hard lines of a face or the dropped eyes of what appears to be a saddened child.  But those backstories may not be found in the pictures alone, no matter how hard Adams tries to bring that across, which is, I believe, part of what he has been trying to do for three decades.  Instead, the New York or Los Angeles or Urban-wherever critics brings to the table, no matter their best effort, generations of stereotypes that have the potential to simply blast from the photograph and into the very forefront of their collective minds.

It’s unfortunate.  Baichwal’s documentary cannot run on a big screen television in the art gallery where Adams most recent show is being considered, picked over, smiled at or frowned upon or taken seriously.  The art collector or enthusiast will not have the story behind the photograph unless they can see through the stereotypes and truly see and understand what Adams is trying to show them.  Because make no mistake about it, the most pure form of humanity is there, and it’s there because of subjectivity rather than objectivity.  It’s present and recognizable because these are photographs taken of friends by someone considered a friend.  There is a trust there that has developed for Adams over the course of thirty years that is valuable to everyone involved.  Without this trust and respect, Adams would have nothing to show the world.  As it is, he has taken the people in his area who many feel should be hidden away from the public eye and said to hell with stereotypes all together.  Stereotypes should not dictate whether these decent people are photographed or not.  He has said to us, in no uncertain terms, judge people for who they are, not as how the world has narrow-mindedly invented them.

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