Double Vision: Pictures/Poems is the simultaneous, side-by-side display of a photographic image with a poem. My poems were inspired by and written in parallel with the visual image. The pictures/poems form a new unity, a fusion of the two images.
The first element of Double Vision incorporates the view of the Symbolist poets that a material event is a sign of a synchronous spiritual happening. This is a vertical “correspondence” (matter/spirit, conscious/unconscious) that connects the internal spirit with the concrete world. These symbols are numerous and simultaneous. They are, according to the French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), a “forest of symbols” that hide (or expose) an underlying unity. The secrets of existence are revealed by a fusion of metaphors to create a new reality.
Natural symbols are ancient and instinctive. According to the Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung (1861-1875), they are archetypes embedded in the “collective unconscious” and do not originate in personal experiences. The archetypes exist in a deep well of the unknown that is beyond rational thinking. To quote Jung, “No genius has ever sat down with a pen or a brush in his hand and said, ‘I will now invent a symbol.’ ”
The mythological motifs are examples of archaic concerns that are a wealth of potential for poetic and pictorial image formation. Animal pictures go back to the Ice Age. Cave painting and the caves themselves are predominately religious spaces. The animal representations, though accurately rendered, are not just naturalistic reproductions but a type of “hunting-magic.” The painted animal is functionally a “double.” Its ritual and symbolic slaughter will happen to the real animal. There is a strong “correspondence” between the living being with its image.
Poetry is one of the ways that we retain the primitive. Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was a poet and major figure in developing Imagism, a movement in Modernist poetry that stressed precision of language. He stated “The artist seeks out the luminous detail and presents it. He does not comment.” In other words, show, don’t tell. To quote the German poet Johann Goethe (1749-1832), “No sooner does the poet or painter have an idea than it becomes an image.”
The second element of Double Vision is the parallel fusion of the pictorial image with the poetic image and is central in this portfolio. This combined “reading” of pictures and poems involves an amalgam of the visual and the verbal. In addition, my photographic titles are one-line poems that may amplify the content of the pictures/poems—or ironically be contradictory.
My approach is inspired by William Blake (1757-1827), a graphic artist and poet whose Songs of Innocence and of Experience concerned the contrasting states of the soul. Influenced by medieval illuminated manuscripts, he developed a method of etching a hand-printed poem and its accompanying visual image on the same page, which he called “illuminated printing.” Each page was a miniature world containing the poems, the lettering design, and the engraved pictorial image which resulted in the ultimate metaphor.
An image is a fragment of reality that is received through the senses. Poetry and photography are characterized by imagery. Poetry should be concentrated on the concrete, the specific, and the particular. When the painter, Edgar Degas, attempted to write poetry, he complained to his friend, the French poet Stephane Mallarme (1842-1896), that he was full of ideas but could not seem to write well. Mallarme answered: “My dear Degas, poems are not made out of ideas; they’re made out of words.”
I am a photographer who writes poetry. Photography may have an advantage in dealing directly with the visually perceived image. Unlike poetry, the photograph seems to present the real and concrete world. This is misleading since photography, like poetry, incorporates a selective and reductionist viewpoint. In a poem, imagery is rendered by the choice of the words, rhythm, and sound. In a photograph, an image is crafted by cropping a fragment of the concrete world, by depth of field manipulation, and by digital/analog processing. This results in a poetic rather than documentary viewpoint.