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Q: Angelica, as we were reviewing pieces for Volume 10, I could tell – almost instantly – which photographs were yours. Somehow you are able to give your work a recognizable personality. Is that intentional – something you plan out? Or is it something that just occurs naturally?
A: On the field, things happen so fast that I certainly don’t plan my photos out—I just whip my camera out, frame shots, quickly check aperture and shutter speed, press the shutter button, and keep moving—so I’d say that this ‘recognizable personality’ that you observe is mostly unintentional. I don’t consciously try to reproduce a certain style…I think there’s different mentality at work there. At least for me, when I started to view photography as an exercise on capturing my own observations of a place or an event versus merely recording it for memory’s (or obligation’s) sake, I’d notice upon reviewing my photos that I excluded or misinterpreted some element of that place or event. For me, those exclusions and misinterpretations result from failing to capture the geometry, movement, and/or light that describe that place or event in the way I perceived it. So as I kept taking photos, I must have learned along the way to sharpen my subconscious preferences of those characteristics, resulting in photos that tell stories of how I saw that place or event.
Q: You’ve had a lot of really great pieces be published in Ink. Is there one that means more to you than the others?
A: As the ‘parent’ of my photographs, I’ll be diplomatic here—I find great joy in all of them but for different reasons. I’ll just pick one and discuss it.
Last year, my ‘Ramon Rosales’ photo essay was chosen for publication. It was a hot morning in a little town in the Dominican Republic, and while waiting for Rudy to take the Engineers Without Borders crew to the health clinic (we were building a roof there at the time), I took a walk around the neighborhood near the hotel. I recognized this kid, equipped with his shoe shining tools, that was around the corner every morning. I sat down on the curb near him, and attempted to start up a conversation with my rusty high school Spanish. As we exchanged names, our age, and shy smiles, I snapped some shots of him and his friend (who I initially mistook as his brother) that later joined us. With a camera in my hands and the idea of a shot forming in my head, I’m drawn to photography because it gets me to speak up and to get closer when I normally wouldn’t. The excuse of holding a camera and needing to use it and the urge to make an observation tangible tends to take me to situations and people that I would, without the camera, be too reluctant to approach.
Q: A lot of your work published in Ink features people. Are humans your subject matter of choice? (Or perhaps you think we’re just biased toward those pieces) How do you go about choosing a person to photograph?
A: Haha. I actually have to correct you on this one—my accepted submissions to Ink during my freshman and sophomore year had no people in them. At the time, I actually rarely photographed people and tended to avoid them and cut them out. It was strictly cityscapes, landscapes, and anything without opposable thumbs. Only in my submissions from last year and this year contained people in them.
One summer in Baltimore, I took a digital documentary photography class that forced me to confront my apprehensions and start photographing people. In my final project for that class, I decided to head over to the local boxing club and photograph boxers training. I remember going up the stairs leading to the upper training room for the first time, with the stench of sweat slowly growing stronger and stronger and humidity generated from accumulated body heat trailing up my arms. The experience of approaching these amateur boxers with a camera as they beat the crap out of duct-taped punching bags was enlightening. I learned that strangers get pretty flattered that you want to photograph them and that they eventually forget about you and the camera and keep doing their own thing. Photographing people is a completely different experience than photographing landscapes or inanimate objects—people move, are dynamic, change moods, and interact with you. Being a photographer with a camera is a fantastic excuse to get the chance to peer into someone else’s world. As a photographer, it’s a fun challenge—you have to be quick to capture your shots or the slightest distracter or happenstance might transform the atmosphere; you might get a rare chance to tell that person’s story or describe your own opinion of it. In Henri Cartier-Bresson’s words, “To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.”
The process of choosing someone to photograph is, unsurprisingly, intuitive—you see someone doing something interesting, and you approach them with your camera.
Q: Lastly, what are your future artistic aspirations?
A: Simply to keep taking photographs. I enjoy photography too much to stop practicing it.
For the life of Matt Branam, Rose-Hulman Alumnus and 14th President
Every dark morning
he comes with his face of stone
and his gut of fire
to move packages.
Old men with aging biceps
shuffle around, trying to match him in box-lifting.
Old mules ignoring the grey tattoos of their women – the blotchy theatre
of unpinned pin-up eyes holding their breath when they brandish a high stack. And when the top box
falls he snaps in
to catch it.
A knowing look and grunt exchanged,
too proud to test his stony handshake,
too red for fuss; his eyes turned rose coronas
recall their grit, he moves another package
not realizing; only sees
the down-payment on his future
pushed across the cold table.
Like a rock and a flame and a rose
he swears to keep pushing.
Once some years ago I stood on the beach
at La Jolla and marveled the sun
that fell from the sky.
Here was this orange mass of rock
as it dove for the distance and the sea.
With every inch the roses bloomed bigger –
more violets, more fuchsias, more bleeding-hearts –
but never was there amaranth.
I wasn’t sad
because I had that expectation.
Soon, I came back to the grain fields and the silos
where the sun sets slower.
I saw you for the last time
as you posed with the Flame of the Millennium.
That is how I intend to remember you:
Vibrant as flame,
steady as rock,
beaming with love
for our home.
If you’re a little late in your celebration of National Poetry Month (meaning April) have no fear, the 2012 Ehrmann Events begin tomorrow! Tomorrow, 5:30 PM in Rooney Library at Saint Mary of the Woods, the Ehrmann award winners will be reading their work. Last year I was super impressed with the poetry of the elementary school kids. This year is bound to have some great works, too.
Here are the details on all the poetry happenings for April and May:
2012 MAX EHRMANN POETRY COMPETITION
On Thursday, April 12, 2012, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College will host the Awards Ceremony in Rooney Library from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Winning poems will be read at this event. Contact: Art Spaces: 812-235-2801 or Arts Illiana 812-235-5007.
On Tuesday, April 18, Peter Bethanis will present a poetry reading at Barnes & Noble at 6:00 p.m. The bookstore and coffee shop is located at 25 N. 4th St., Terre Haute. Contact: Art Spaces - 812-235-2801 or Arts Illiana - 812-235-5007
On Friday, May 4, Micah Ling will present a poetry reading at the Swope Art Museum from 6-7 p.m. The Swope is located at 25 S. 7th Street in Terre Haute. Contact: Art Spaces - 812-235-2801 or Swope Art Museum - 812-238-1676
On Thursday, May 10 , Karen Kovacik will present a poetry reading in the Whitacker Conference Room at University Hall on the campus of ISU from 6-7 p.m. This event is hosted by OLLI at ISU. Parking is available in Lot 25. Contact: Art Spaces - 812-235-2801 or OLLI at ISU: Michelle Bennett: 812-237-2336 or email@example.com
On Thursday, April 19, Poetry at the Grounds, a regular monthly reading series by area poets, will host some of the contest winners, 7:30 p.m. at Coffee Grounds (423 Wabash Avenue). Contact: Zann Carter: 812-236-2841 or firstname.lastname@example.org
From April 7-30 winning entries for the poetry competition will be exhibited at Vigo County Public Library.
The 2012 Max Ehrmann Poetry Competition was sponsored by St. Mary-of-the-Woods College with support from Barnes & Noble, Big Picture, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Downtown Terre Haute, Inc., Frederick Benson Trust, The Golden Frame, Indiana State University, Indiana State University Creative Writing Program, River Wools, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College Department of Languages and Literature, Vigo County Education Foundation, Vigo County Historical Society, Vigo County Public Library and Wise Pies.
All of the poetry events are free and open to the public. For more information, please call Art Spaces at (812) 235-2801 or www.wabashvalleyartspaces.com or Arts Illiana at (812) 235-5007 or www.artsilliana.org
10 days (including today) left to submit your creative manifestations to Ink magazine! Don’t forget to compose some twitterature for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and write us a flash fiction piece for a chance to win an Amazon Kindle!