Today’s selection of phonebooks in part 4 of our series showcases those who are connected to family, science and history. As part of the 10th Annual Photobook Exhibition juried by Karen Davis and Paula Tognarelli, these books highlight the creativity of each artist.
Kate Miller Wilson – Look me in the Lens
In photographing my son daily, I realized I was also photographing his autism. The photos offered a glimpse into his world. Our story resonated with families and photographers around the world, and I felt the best way to portray it was in a book format that coupled my photos with my son’s insights about autism.
What do you hope we as viewers and readers take away from reading your book?
After seeing my book, I would like readers to feel compassionate and connected – to others on the autism spectrum and to one another. We all have some of the traits of autism, and it is through these commonalities (and hopefully through my work as well) that we can connect. I want people to have a more nuanced view of autism – not solely as a disability but as a gift as well.
What is next for you?
I am continuing my work photographing my son as he enters the teenage years, although I mainly shoot large format film now. I feel that this time of transition is challenging for most kids, but it presents a unique challenge in people who rely heavily on routine. As we work through this time of change together, I hope to capture it on film.
Is there anything else we should know about you, your work or your process?
My work, whether it’s about autism or not, is always about connection. I feel that we have never needed connection more than we do right now when we are separated from family and friends. Much of my autism series is about connecting across a barrier, and that is something we all must do now. Our work as photographers and artists is to provide the voice and common ground for our larger society during this time.
Artist Statement: Using film and digital photography, I strive to create images of tonal depth and vivid sensory detail that act as a starting point for a viewer’s unique visual journey. My work explores the themes of connection, loss, and self-discovery, often through the lens of my own perspective as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. I work hard to produce images that walk the line between light and shadow and are faintly (or not-so-faintly) unsettling because they touch on something familiar – an emotion, a memory from childhood, a nameless longing. I believe we are all striving to connect, no matter how different our perspectives may seem, and I hope my work fosters that connection.
About Kate Miller-Wilson
Kate Miller-Wilson is a Minnesota-based fine art photographer and writer, who believes strongly in daily creative practice and self-challenge. She uses everything from large format film cameras and ancient lenses to modern digital tech to create work that touches the viewer and prompts connection.
Together with her son, she authored the successfully crowd-funded photo book, Look Me in the Lens, which explores how autism affects the parent-child bond. Her award-winning work has been featured in numerous gallery exhibitions around the country and published in Shots Magazine, Lenscratch, My Modern Met, Natural Parent Magazine, and many others.
Look Me in the Lens: Photographs to Reach Across the Spectrum
Other Contributor: Eian Miller-Wilson, provider of insights
9 x 11″
108 pages 60 photographs
Printer: Edition One
Mark Peterman – These Years Gone By
These Years Gone By… is a love story told through my grandparents letters from World War II. Shortly after my grandmother’s death in 2008, my mother discovered about 300 letters that my grandparents had written to each other during World War II. They had been kept by my grandmother for over 60 years and inherited by my mother. These letters provided a new insight for my family into the lives of my grandparents during this critical time in world history. From these letters, artifacts and old family photos, I have woven together a narrative that tells the story of this challenging time in their personal history.
Where did the inspiration for the book project come from?
Growing up, there was a certain mystique about my grandfather’s time in the military. There were vague stories among the family that no one could quite confirm. Those stories would come to life when my mother would show us my grandfather’s large metal foot locker that she kept with all his possessions from his time in the military.
What would you like us as viewers to take away from reading and viewing your book?
This project is more of a curatorial effort through family history with artifacts and old family photos. While this project is narrative driven and embraces my interest in family and world history my other work is slightly different.
Whats next for you creatively?
I have been working on more narrative storytelling projects with all the recent downtime that involve scenes I have created of small scale environments that I call Constructed Realities.
These Years Gone By… is a love story told through my grandparents letters from World War II. Shortly after my grandmother’s death in 2008, my mother discovered over 300 letters that my grandparents had written to each other during World War II. They had been kept by my grandmother for over 60 years and inherited by my mother. The letters provided a new insight into the lives of my grandparents during this critical time in world history. From these letters, artifacts and family photos, I have woven together a narrative that tells the story of this challenging time in their personal history.
About Mark Peterman –
I’m an artist who explores narrative storytelling through photographs and multimedia using constructed realities that cross over into implied fiction. My work contains a graphic story-telling quality with a cinematic feel.
Although my work embraces the post-modern world it is highly informed by history, and research plays an important part in my work. A desire to be creative on a daily basis fuels my curiosity about the human experience, I document experiences in sketchbooks as a way of remembering my life.
My work has been featured in the Prix De La Photographie Paris, American Photography 28 and 35 Annual, PDN Photo Annual.
These Years Gone By
8 x 10”
To see more about Mark Peterman‘s work, please log onto his website.
Mike Callahan – Circling and Finding
How did the book project come about?
In mid 2018, I was diagnosed with and began living with pancreatic cancer. This book (circling and finding) came to life between mid 2018 and early 2019.
My photography has always focused on images of the stuff of daily life ordinarily passed by or kept at the periphery. This approach was named ‘something and nothing’ by Charlotte Cotton in 2009 in her book ‘the photograph as contemporary art.’ These images interrogate the intimate cycles of identity, self-preservation and mortality.
In November 2019, I began working on a photo book considering the potentiality to generate a new prevailing behavioral contagion imagining what’s achievable in this moment of profuse creative incompletion. (behavioral contagion is the propensity for a person to copy a certain behavior of others – originally discussed by Gustave Le Bon in his 1895 work ‘The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind’ and recently argued by Professor Robert H. Frank in his newest book ‘Under The Influence: How Behavioral Contagion Can Drive Positive Social Change‘).
Mike Callaghan’s work focuses on fragmentation, rearrangement and reinterpretation while considering the intimate cycles of identity, preservation and mortality. Mike interrogates the subtlety of gesture and the subtlety of difference in a moment when frameworks of relationships are at once prominently visible and exhaustively hidden.
About Mike Callaghan
Mike Callaghan is an artist and writer whose practice focuses on fragmentation, rearrangement and reinterpretation while considering the intimate cycles of identity, preservation and mortality. Mike interrogates the subtlety of gesture and difference in a moment when frameworks of relationships are at once prominently visible and exhaustively hidden. Mike’s work has been exhibited throughout North America and Europe, including at Griffin Museum of Photography (Massachusetts), Marin Museum of Contemporary Art (California), Center for Photographic Art (California), Reece Museum (Tennessee), Soho Photo Gallery (New York), Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati), Gallery 44 (Toronto), Propeller Gallery (Toronto), Elysium Gallery (Wales) and PhotoIreland (Dublin). Also, his work has appeared in a number of publications, including ZYZZYVA, Der Greif, BlackFlash, Drain, Crooked Teeth, Barzakh, Burningword Literary Journal and The Shanghai Literary Review. He earned an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
circling and finding
8.5 x 9.75”
Fern Nesson – Signet of Eternity
Where did the idea come from?
My father was a superb fine art photographer. In 1999, he and I published a book together about his life’s work. The book, Reflections, consisted of 100 of his photographs and six interviews that I did with him about his aesthetic and his process. Writing the book together was an intimate and extraordinary experience. I learned so much about the life of an artist.
Years later, when my father turned 85, he entrusted all his photographs to me: over 20,000 negatives and countless prints — the substance of his entire life as an artist. I spent a year curating and storing his work. Among the prints, I discovered many exquisite photographs that I had never seen. I asked to interview him one more time. For the interview, I asked him only one question:
“Dad, are you afraid to die?” Here is what he said: “No. As long as I can create art, I feel alive. I don’t worry at all about what will come after. And I’ll live on in you. ”
Two years later, my Dad and I prepared a book, Envoi, comprising twelve of these “undiscovered” black and white images and the transcript of that interview. I took the proofs to him for one last review on July 17, 2010. We sat together while he read every word and scanned every detail of the design. “It’s perfect,” he said, “don’t change a thing.” Since he looked tired, I asked, “Are we done?” “Yes. We’re done.” I rose to leave and he hugged me hard and told me he loved me. That night, he went to sleep and did not wake up.
Signet of Eternity represents my journey to recovery from this immense annd heart-breaking blow. I described this journey in my introduction to the book:
When my Dad died and the sun went out. I felt the night sky open to infinity, icily reaching away from me in emptiness. For two years, nothing could console me for his loss. But then I took up my camera again. Without any conscious purpose, I began to photograph at night. At first, my photos were mostly black, sometimes with a tiny dot of the moon in the far distance. But, in time, more points of light crept in. Increasingly, I became more interested in finding light than in recording darkness. The dark of night became a space with the potential for illumination, for complexity, for life and liveliness, even for warmth.
This book traces my journey from loneliness, grief and the fear of death to a place where light and life continue to exist. Photography, my father’s passion, gave me the courage to face both his death and mine. As he plainly knew, my father is now part of the eternal and he makes the night brighter for me. ”
About the genesis of the book –
I had no idea how to recover from my father’s death but , taking my cue from him, I turned to photography. What had been a life-long hobby for me, I now saw as a lifeline. My father taught me that creating art was life-affirming and I trusted him. I quit my job and enrolled in an MFA program to study photography. Three years later, I emerged with a degree and also with ths book.
In crafting Signet of Eternity, I read many books from all cultures on the themes of life and loss: poetry, Eastern religious texts, biblical texts, novels, even song lyrics. I excerpted those that spoke to me and paired them with three types of images: 1) abstract photographs, 2) Zen paintings and 3) “signets.” Signets were my way of creating smail signs that point to eternal life. I drew the name, signets, from a line in a poem by the great Indian poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore: ” press the signet of eternity upon many a fleeting moment of your life.” In the book, I arranged the texts and the photographs to represent my jouney from darkness into light. The book begins with despairing texts and dark photographs and progresses to more transcendent writing and bursts of color in the images.
Signet of Eternity mirrors my own journey from despair to acceptance, to joy, and from amateur to fine art photographer. Since publishing this book, I have done several other photobooks and have more in the works. But Signet of Eternity, dedicated to my father, and a lifeline to me, will always be the one that is closest to my heart.
As Rabindranath Tagore so eloquently put it:
“All things rush on, they stop not,
no power can hold them back,
they rush on.
Is it beyond you to be glad with
the gladness of this rhythm?
to be tossed and lost and broken
in the whirl of this fearful joy? ”
What would you like us as viewers and readers to take away from your publication?
Art can heal.
In my introductory essay to Signet of Eternity, I make that case:
Roland Barthes asserts that ” a photograph is a witness, but a witness of what is no more — a record of what has been.” Every image is an image of death. But Barthes’ is wrong. His view is too narrow, too limited, even too literal. Although the camera records only a present moment it need not be “dead.”
The image itself may constitute a new, living moment.
Representational images — “decisive moments” — may very well be memento mori. But what of abstract, non-representational photographs — images that create their own energy? These, too, record a specific past moment but, if they hit their mark, they escape and float free of it. An image that embodies energy and engages the viewer in a mutual experience of it is not merely a record of a past moment. It creates new energy. Like Cezanne’s paintings, it is alive; it breathes.
When I use my camera, my theme is not death. The past and the limitations of photographic technology are trumped by physics. Einstein’s equation runs two ways: just as energy can become mass, mass can become energy. Light and a camera produce the photograph. But a photograph can produce its own energy and light as well.
This book defies death. Creating it saved me; it brought me back to life. My father’s death was not the end for him nor was it for me. The texts I chose express a way to understand death as an event in a chain of events that precede and follow it. We were here before we were born and we will remain after we die.
The search is for the signet of eternity: what lasts? what persists? what dissipates mourning and despair? Can we escape the black hole of death through finding the light? And, in escaping, can we find the person we have lost in that very light, where, as we know from the physicists, he must, in fact be?
Working on Signet of Eternity gave me the strength to face my father’s death: to wrestle with grief, to rise from depression, to find the light and the energy to move forward without forgetting, minimizing, denying or repressing the pain. It worked for me and I invite you to put it to work for you.
What projects do you have coming up?
I have two other photo books that are crrently in their final drafts:
Word, a memoir that consists of a rather long essay and 50 accompanying abstract photographs each including words in some form.
All Here, All Now, a book of three essays on the nature of time in physics and 75 abstract images that riff on the theme.
Signet of Eternity
166 pages 80 images
hard cover $200
Pamela Connolly – Cabriole
Artist Statement As a child I spent many hours roaming the maze of rooms in my father’s furniture store. The shapes that filled these make-believe spaces, 1960’s reproductions of ‘Early American’ furniture became imprinted in my consciousness. Without realizing it I committed these shapes to memory.
Fifty years on I find that looking at the outlines and forms of this particular style of furniture open a direct portal to my childhood, and what it felt like to be me then. I move back and forth in time as I see these familiar shapes surface unexpectedly in my everyday life.
About Pamela Connolly
Pamela Connolly has exhibited throughout the US and Europe, including at the National Portrait Gallery in London where she was a finalist in the 2015 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. Her photographs are in the collections of Houston Museum of Fine Arts and numerous private collections. Her self-published book, ‘Cabriole’ will join the collection of the Indie Photobook Library at Yale University, and the International Center for Photography Library.
Connolly taught photography at The Horace Mann and Masters Schools in New York for 10+ years. She has also organized photo-workshops to kids at risk, most notably in collaboration with the ‘Kids With Cameras’ organization in post- Katrina Louisiana. This workshop culminated in an exhibition entitled ‘Where We Live’ at the Union Gallery at Louisiana State University and the State Library in Baton Rouge and Muhlenberg College where Connolly was invited as a visiting artist.
7 x 9.75″
24 pages 23 photos Soft cover
Hand stitched, 3 hole Japanese stab binding