Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.SA.12.1.11 | PDF

This image is neither decorative nor strictly available for simple denotative description. Our project rejects captions altogether. The spirit of this project is very much one of uncertainty and imagination. We hope that anyone with visual impairments will glean information from the written compositions.

The anx­i­ety of antic­i­pa­tion: pro­duc­ing new work with text with­in a two-day symposium.

When I was asked to par­tic­i­pate in the sym­po­sium, I imme­di­ate­ly agreed. I thought, why not? I have a good antic­i­pa­to­ry expe­ri­ence com­ing up as I was hap­pi­ly look­ing for­ward to my retire­ment from teach­ing. As the date approached and I received more and more infor­ma­tion, I began to have seri­ous doubts about what I could pro­duce and what would be good enough. My biggest wor­ry was if it could stand up to pre­vi­ous work. The struc­ture was so unlike my usu­al approach to projects that on aver­age take at least two years and more to com­plete. My usu­al work­ing method is one of long, slow thought, graz­ing through texts that may have some periph­er­al con­nec­tion to the sub­ject, think­ing and think­ing about the sub­ject mat­ter, search­ing out the sites to pho­to­graph, ques­tion­ing, doubt­ing, wor­ry­ing about how com­pe­tent I will be with all the tech­ni­cal demands of pho­tog­ra­phy, and then final­ly find­ing my ground and pro­duc­ing the work. It is exhaust­ing and I am not sure why I feel I have to make it quite so ago­niz­ing, but if I don’t then I feel I haven’t put every­thing into it and how could it be any good if I haven’t come close to sweat­ing blood?

As the date approached, I began to think about how I had to emp­ty my office of all the paper and books and that I could pho­to­graph that process. I bought box­es and I prac­ticed pho­tograph­ing my office. I tried adjust­ing light­ing, close-ups, open draw­ers any­thing I could think of. The results were very dis­ap­point­ing. I couldn’t pos­si­bly show any­one. It was com­plete­ly visu­al­ly bor­ing and con­cep­tu­al­ly nowhere. Still, I didn’t want to let go of the idea. I sat in my office for hours. I thought about my teach­ing career and all the stu­dents that had passed through my class­es over the past thir­ty-plus years. The idea of motion, of mov­ing through, struck me as a place to start.

I began again to pack the box­es, pay­ing atten­tion to the move­ment of tak­ing books from shelves, sort­ing them and pack­ing them. I put the cam­era on a low shut­ter speed and mim­ic­ked that move­ment with the cam­era. After three hours of pack­ing and pho­tograph­ing, I reviewed the results and was more sat­is­fied with the images. I felt they worked both visu­al­ly and con­cep­tu­al­ly. But I was still uncer­tain and feel­ing anx­ious about pro­duc­ing work so quick­ly. I con­sult­ed with oth­ers (some­thing I had nev­er done before) to choose the final five images. This sense of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty was not pleas­ant. I also had to find some words to accom­pa­ny the images. In two pre­vi­ous bod­ies of work, I had used image and text—terse nar­ra­tives to ampli­fy and direct the image inter­pre­ta­tion. Of the work pro­duced for the sym­po­sium, the one that stands out for me is the sto­ry of “Hock­ey Mar­jorie.” Of all the stu­dents of all the years of teach­ing, her sto­ry stands out—maybe because the words that accom­pa­ny this image are such a small part of the expe­ri­ence of teach­ing her.

They called her hock­ey Marjorie

Hock­ey was her only sub­ject until the team banned her from the rink

She dressed as her Moth­er for a week, with make-up made bruises

The por­traits were raw—the sto­ry more so

She was nev­er referred to as Hock­ey Mar­jorie again

I can recall still her face.