Tuesday, December 23, 2008

light coming back: Jennifer Durham

A couple of years ago I got email from a reader telling me she'd enjoyed Stay, and how it resonated for her. I wrote back and said thank you, and explained how much it means to me that a reader who doesn't normally write fan letters would take the time to sit down and look me up and send me email showing how and why, exactly, she liked my work.

I don't remember what else I said, but I know I meant every word. The reason I have a website, the reason I run this blog, the reason I do readings and (occasionally) attend conferences and conventions is to meet the people who make my life possible--who buy the books; to thank them, to give something back if I can. And also because it's, y'know, a blast. And I get to meet interesting people. (Also some exceedingly weird ones, but we'll skip over that for now.)

So that's how I met Jennifer Durham. Over the months I learnt that she is a commercial photographer and that she was beginning to dip her toe back into the scary notion of photography as art. Art, she was smart enough to know, is risky; creating art, being willing to open oneself to the world, changes you forever. Yes, I said, and Fuck it, do it anyway. (I always say Do it. People on their deathbeds rarely whisper, Oh, I wish I hadn't done this or that. But they do say, Oh, I wish I had done thus and such.) And so Jennifer did, she took the leap, and sent me some of the photos, and I was absolutely blown away.

Here are some of the ones I like particularly today.

Path to the Light, Jennifer Durham

I see in this a study in light and texture, and a story waiting to unfurl just around the corner. It makes me want to write a novel, just so I can have this on the cover. This is currently Print of the Month on Jennifer's website--at an amazing price.

Oregon Coast Study, #89, Jennifer Durham

Again, there's a story here, possibly a moody screenplay. I can hear the audio: low tones off-screen, the wet scrunch of sand underfoot, the sound of gravelly sand gritting and sliding on a shovel blade. Somebody's world is changing...

Trees in Ledig Meadow, #3, Jennifer Durham

Aud would like this. It feels like a photograph a hunter who no longer kills might take: a moment stolen from the unsuspecting.

The Pier, Jennifer Durham

This reminds me of how I see in writer mode: a willful focus on something to hand, and a simultaneous refusal to ignore the context. It also feels very Japanese. All it needs is a touch of cherry blossom.

Slice of Light, Jennifer Durham

I'm delighted to admit that Kelley and I own print #1 of this photograph. It hangs in our living room. When I look at it--which I do often--I feel limitless.

I think Jennifer Durham's work manages to do what I aim for every time I write fiction: epic scope with a delicate attention to detail. It's pretty, too, of course, but it's so much more than that. It's about scale: the immensity of the world, its boldness, its fragility, and our place in it. It's also calm, and transparent, and delighted by light--light in her work is liquid, always on the move. In that sense, it reminds me of April Gornik's paintings. (See particularly The Wave and Light Spill. And Kelley's post about Gornik's work.)

Jennifer also took some incredible photos of the protest in Los Angeles after the passage of Proposition 8. (See Stand on a Question of Love.) She keeps a blog--daily snapshots and music to go with them--Light Coming Back here.

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