Thinking About Photographs and Creative Projects

I spent yesterday morning taking pictures of explorer Eric Larsen at Riveredge Nature Center. Due to climate change, he’ll likely be the last person to ski to the North Pole. That’s a strange feeling, sharing company with someone who will be the last to do something – and he’s not old. Right now, Eric is currently traversing Wisconsin via foot, bike, and kayak, while raising funds for Riveredge summer camps, a venture called WisconsATHON.

I took the above picture as Eric was getting his equipment together to begin paddling the Milwaukee River. In the morning I took photos of Eric on his bike, with him art directing where I should be located, which angle, what to focus on, the differences between placement due to light and shadow, et cetera. This was a really interesting experience, as he spends a lot of time setting up his own shots when he’s out solo exploring. I appreciated hearing the reasons behind his choices.

I’m not a photographer, but I would say I dabble, mainly to provide visual support for my words. As a person who sees stories and ideas and tries to render them, one really separates genres to their own peril. We have so many storytelling options available: words, pictures, audio, video, that they can all work in concert if done well. That’s part of the reason I consider myself a multimedia journalist, although I often tell people I’m a writer for sake of simplicity.

I mentioned to Eric my disappointment that a publication decided to pass on some of my researched fact-based poems. These pieces are a combination of journalism and poetry – not the familiar confessionalist works consumed by a writer’s feelings. The response was the usual “Oh it’s poetry and we don’t publish poetry – unless you’re a poet laureate.”

I’m not surprised, getting anyone to read poetry is never-ending missionary work – so many people have a lifelong aversion due to the reading they were assigned in high school. Also, in creating work that straddles genres, many people will not immediately join you for the ride. Humans seem to like placing things into neat compartments, classifications. Until something becomes its own genre, its own compartment, many people don’t know what to do with something.

“The only thing better than a ‘no’ is a ‘yes,” said Eric. “With a ‘no’ at least you can move on to the next thing.”

A great point, a “no” means the waiting is done. On to the next.

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