When I first became aware of “Open to Interpretation,” I was immediately intrigued. As a publisher/poet/photographer I was very interested in marrying poetry/prose with photographs. When I received a copy, I have to admit that I didn’t open it promptly. I was in final preparations for a month-long trip. Tying up loose ends required that I focus, focus, focus, so I could at least remember to grab my passport.
While I was on vacation I remembered the book, Water’s Edge, that “Open to Interpretation” had sent for review. I located the email of the publisher and begging forgiveness, I vowed I would put the book at the top of my list. So, here I am with book in hand after going through it this weekend, and I have to tell you that I find Water’s Edge compelling and full of wonderful imagery, juried in by Douglas Beasley and thoughtful, poignant poetry and prose, which was selected by Anastasia Faunce.
“Open to Interpretation” was begun in response to questions put forth by many when they viewed the images of Clare O’Neill, the photographer. It didn’t take long for the self-proclaimed entrepreneur to put two and two together when she discovered that many viewers had completely different interpretations of her prints.
“The comment I heard most often regarding my work was ‘the image tells a story’ but I was never sure what story it was telling,” she wrote on her site. “When I started to ask I realized that people had their own wildly different interpretations of the images. “Open to Interpretation” was the name of my first solo exhibit. There were 12 images and 24 different stories and poems. Friends wrote some of the stories and some were written by people I had never met before the exhibition opening.”
It is fundamentally human
to treasure the ephemeral,
a coincidence of things
that should not be,
to know it is beautiful,
and hold it deeply,
and gladly spend a lifetime
hoping to find another.
Many critics have foretold the demise of the printed book, some would swear on a stack of bibles that it will happen in little more than five years. Humbug! I find nothing more intellectually and emotionally rewarding as have a printed book in my hands. As a book reviewer I receive a fair number of books in the mail, and I have to say that when I open the wrappings of my latest “treasure” my heart beats a little faster when I can still smell the ink on the page. O’Neill apparently shares my delight.
“I’m a tactile person. I love having something to touch and hold. I love books. Beautifully designed and produced books. I find there to be physical connection with the work that doesn’t exist when viewing images hanging on the wall. It feels more intimate with a lasting appeal,” she writes in her bio. Obviously she has struck a similar chord with others who share her love of books and the combination of words and images reflecting each other on the printed page of Water’s Edge.
“I have always loved writing that responds to art and was especially looking forward to a collection that concentrated on photography, prose, and poetry. I wasn’t disappointed! Water’s Edge, the first in the “Open to Interpretation” series, is a breath-taking collection, and, having mused one of the photographs into a poem, I appreciate how much creative energy connects its images and words”. Joyce Sutphen, MN Poet Laureate
Perhaps the best accolade, however, comes from the keyboard of future juror, George Slade, a well-recognized curator and writer: “The influence words have on photographs, and vice versa, is of perpetual fascination to those who love the dance of meaning inherent in both types of writing—that is, with letters and with light. To witness them together, as in ‘Open to Interpretation’s’ entrancing first volume, Water’s Edge, is a unique thrill. I am excited to be part of this project as a juror, and am looking forward to my own dialogue with the photographs submitted under the wonderfully open-ended topic of the next book, Fading Light.”
A Dissection of Faith
One half relies on the details
a religion of chlorophyll and light —
the other half is
held up by oceans.
A leaf, a stepping stone, leading flesh
to air, focusing the mind’s eye.
See, an entrance to a tree knot,
the scent of sweet sap
circling like a catacomb.
Whether you pick up Water’s Edge as a writer or a photographer, I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed with either treatment. There are many images that linger in my sub-consciousness, and many words still reverberate in my soul. I certainly don’t envy jurors Beasley and Faunce for having to sort through the submissions. The examples illustrated herein are only the tip of a very tall mountain.
I selected the inserted material randomly from the book. It will be up to you to match the works when you have the book in your lap.
Photographers featured, in order: Seamus Mullen, Agnieszka Sosnowska, Mark Jaremko, Elizabeth Brooks Barnwell, Colleen Leonard.