My thirtieth birthday present to myself in 2007 was a digital camera. I’d been diagnosed not long before with small-fiber polyneuropathy, a painful nerve condition that affects my hands. That meant I could no longer use them for a lot of things, and I thought this meant that I was no longer an artist—that my art had been taken away from me.
Since I got my camera, I’ve found I can express myself through poetry, my first medium, and photography, my most recent, because neither one strains my hands. I always knew that a poet has to study details. They show just the right word to choose. I discovered a photographer has to use that same skill to choose what images to capture. For me, this is how photography is like poetry.
Throughout my childhood, teens, and twenties I enjoyed drawing and painting. In school I took art classes, including printing and basic drawing. I even made two- and three-dimensional art pieces using electric saws and drills. When I entered college, drawing was a career that I considered, but it turned out I concentrated on writing. I've written poetry my whole life, and have published four volumes of the verse I've written since I was a small child.
Here are two examples of two moments in life as I captured them in words and images:
Roses for Rose Street
I was thinking about how Rose Street got its name as we pass by a house with an all yellow hybrid tea rosebush
signs of platonic or dying love in front of a house between Grant Street and Edith Street
I thought about the song "Yellow Rose of Texas" that I learned about from a friend at work who is from the Dallas area
and whose boss brought her a dozen yellow roses as a thank you gift
"There’s a yellow rose in Texas, that I’m going to see.
Nobody else could miss her, not half as much as me.
She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part."
I finally refill the birdbath
But first I have to rinse out the black water left by the raccoons when they washed up the previous night
Then I start watering the potted plants
As I water my red palace roses the jay alights on the birdbath’s rim and begins drinking peck by peck before he jumps in and out to clean his feathers and fluffs them out with a shake
He starts squawking at another
Scrub-jay who is watching him from the palm tree
They squawk back and forth a few minutes.
Photography hasn't just enabled me to focus on solitary moments in nature. On April 21, 2008, I attended a Red Room event at the Commonwealth Club in downtown San Francisco where a handful of Red Room writers sat down for a panel discussion. These authors mingled in the Green Room before the event began. This is where I took the photo of Belle Yang in her green hat with the shimmering rose.
I met author Alice Wilson-Fried, whom I first saw on redroom.com one day when I noticed her conversation on the homepage.
In addition to taking photos of natural scenes and people, I especially enjoy taking photos of plants, animals, buildings and construction cranes. I've been thinking about how to design a book integrating my writing with my photographs. What makes me happiest is that out of my condition, the possibilities for my own artistic growth have expanded. I've been lucky to be able to try so many different media, and I believe they're all art. No matter what obstacles life puts in your path, no one can take your art away.
Causes Tennessee Reed Supports
green and safe environment, anti-war, equal educational opportunities for all children, affordable health care for everyone, equal pay for equal work,...