Street photography by Eryl Shields

Yes No Please HELP…

Feeling a bit like a puppy in a snowstorm at the moment, excitedly trying to grab every flake. On Wednesday I made one of those breakthroughs I’ve heard other artists speak of (Picasso seeing tribal masks for the first time springs to mind), and I really want to just dive in and luxuriate in it.

I have my first solo exhibition in April and it feels like this discovery is the key to making it what I need it to be. I’ve been getting a bit hung up on the point of my practice recently. I see the images people moon over – beautiful people; spectacular landscapes; hyper-pretty old towns; rock bands… – and look at my images – a dead rabbit; a pepper on a chair; an empty street on a dull afternoon; an

Untold Authors

old packet lying in among wild-grasses.. –  and think, ‘who but me could be interested in these, and why am I?’ But in a live webcast from the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania I (virtually) met Erica Baum. She is also a poet who uses a camera, or a photographer who makes poetry, whose subject is the stuff that’s all around us in ordinary places, like libraries:

Erica Baum image from card catalogues
Erica Baum, from her Card Catalogue series. Image shamelessly pilfered from here.

When asked about her intentions she said,

I don’t think we can use the word intention that way because I’m finding things, I’m sort of finding things that are resonant, and presenting them in such a way as they would open up that question.

Suburban homes 1997
Erica Baum: Card Catalogues

And I think that, finding things, is what I’m doing. I don’t go looking for things to photograph or write poems about, I just become aware of their presence and get intrigued. I’m interested in what’s already out there, the thing I need to do now is work out how to present it in a way that shows why it resonates with me, and/or in a way that helps it resonate with the viewer/reader. This is something I could lose myself in for a long time.

But first I have a few looming deadlines, and several little tasks to get out of the way.

That said, today (Sunday) I had a little taster. One of my deadlines is for an anthology about the fishing industry, and one of the things I’ve written for it is a blues poem. When I read it last week to the other writers involved, including the editor, they excitedly said I should ask The Mr., who is a musician, to set it to music. So today he recorded me performing it, and got to work. It already sounds marvellous to me, but the real joy is in the process of attempting to frame a poem in a way that helps it connect with the reader/audience.

2 thoughts on “Yes No Please HELP…

    1. Thank you! You’re right paper is much nicer than a screen and there are so many different sorts of paper to choose from. New year will see me frantically trying to pick the right one for each separate image, can’t wait!


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