woods photo by cara davis

The current issue of Garden & Gun (Aug./Sept. 2011) includes a feature about Wendell Berry, a prolific American writer who was awarded the National Humanities Medal in March by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Berry, who has more than 50 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction to his credit, is known for his connection to place – namely a farm in rural Kentucky where he lives and works, not many miles from where he was born. But Berry has traveled the world and influenced many in it over the years with his writing and ideas.

In the article, Berry, now 77, jokes with friends while bird watching about starting the “Slow Communication Movement,” in response to a culture of instant messaging and the “Society for Preservation of Tangibility” – a barb directed at society filled with digital avatars and electronic friends.

His witty take on the pitfalls of ever-advancing technology are rooted in a career known for its contributions to the subjects of conservation and land stewardship.

His writing studio features no electricity, but a large window that overlooks the river and allows natural light to flow in as he writes lines like this recent one from a recent poem:

It is a room as timely as the body
As frail, to shelter love’s eternal work,
Always unfinished, here at water’s edge,
The work of beauty, faith, and gratitude
Eternally alive in time.

The feature writer commented on Berry’s work: “In tumultuous and uncertain times, it is worth being reminded that these fine things – beauty, faith, gratitude – still lurk eternally beneath history’s dark veneer, and that an artist working alone in a room beside a river may catch a glimpse of them and render them into a lyric poem, a short story, or an essay.”

To that list I’d add “a photograph.”

Do you have spaces in your life that reconnect you to beauty, faith and gratitude?

Posted on Jul 28, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

eudora welty photographs

There’s a fantastic photo book published in 1993 featuring the work of Eudora Welty – mostly known for her fiction. (Her first published short story was “Death of a Traveling Salesman” in 1936.) Eudora Welty Photographs shows how she documented life in the South during the Great Depression.

The introduction of the book features an interview with Welty in her home in Jackson, Miss., in 1989 and serves as a retrospect of her career. There are some interesting insights when it comes to storytelling and photography:

Welty was a self-described “shy” person who took “daring” photographs. When asked what the circumstances surrounded the images she captured and published in her book One Time, One Place, she said: “I was never questioned, or avoided. There was no self-consciousness on either side. I just spoke to persons on the street and said, ‘Do you mind if I take this picture?’ And they didn’t care. There was no sense of violation of anything on either side. I don’t think it existed; I know it didn’t in my attitude, or in theirs. All of that unself-consciousness is gone now. There is no such relationship between a photographer and a subject possible any longer.”

When asked why, she explained, “Everybody is just so media-conscious. Maybe it’s television. Everybody thinks of pictures as publicity or – I don’t know. I wouldn’t be interested in doing such a book today, even if it were possible. Because it would assume a different motive and produce a different effect.”

(Keep in mind her comments were in 1989 – and sound like they could have been spoken today.)

Welty said she never posed people or imposed upon them with her photographs. She took a handful of shots and went on her way. “My pictures were made in sympathy, not exploitation. If I had felt that way, I would not have taken the pictures.”

Many of her subjects had never had a picture taken of themselves, and had never owned one. This is what she said about those: “They had so little, an a photograph meant something. And they really were delighted. It didn’t matter that it showed them in their patched, torn clothes. They wanted the picture. They were delighted at the evidence of themselves here – a picture was something they could hold.” (emphasis added)

Welty said her images constituted a statement of reality. “It wasn’t needed for me to say, ‘Look what a bad thing.’ Or, ‘Look how these people are facing it, facing up to it, meeting it, hoping as well as enduring it.’”

The photos spoke for themselves.

“I wasn’t trying to say anything about myself in the pictures of people. I was trying to say everything about them, and my taking them was the medium. The photographs are saying what I saw. I was just the instrument, whatever you want to call it.”

Click here to see a slideshow of Welty’s photographs from The New York Times.

Posted on Jul 18, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  No Comments

What’s your biggest fear?

What’s your greatest dream?

These are the two questions Help-Portrait founder Jeremy Cowart and a group of friends asked while on a road trip across the country.

“The result was magical,” writes author Donald Miller on his blog.

“The greatest stories are lived in the desert,” Miller writes. “The great lives are lived in the places we most fear.” Click here to read more from his post.

Visit fearsvsdreams.com to read some of the responses. You can leave yours here or tweet them with the hashtag #FearsVsDreams.

Posted on Jul 11, 2011  |  Category: Inspiration  |  2 Comments
  • ryan ryan

    Fear: Never to discover my true purpose. Dream: To discover my true purpose.
    ryan | 11/07/2011 9:35 PM

  • Emily McIntyre Emily McIntyre

    Fear: that the rapture will happen before I can live my life to save people by God's love. And losing my love. And also my dad dying an alchoholic and never getting his faith back and as a result going to hell... Dream: saving the world and maing sure the whole world hears about the Lord. And also saving my dad. Persuing a career in music. And who could forget, marrying the love of my life. --sorry if its too long...
    Emily McIntyre | 22/07/2011 6:30 AM