Tuesday, February 27, 2007


uring the afternoon, after I get home from school, it's been my habit to sit down with the newspaper, browse for the very few minutes it takes me to get drowsy, and then take a nap for anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour to let my batteries recharge. Over the last two weeks, I've broken that pattern and begun establishing another, which is to grab my camera and either jump in the car and go somewhere, or just go for a walk in the neighborhood and get some air. Yesterday I did both. I went out to get a sandwich around 4:00, and then, when I came back, decided that I wasn't quite ready to settle in with my schoolwork yet, so after I put the car in the garage I took my camera and started walking.

ach time I go out with my camera I have a couple of things in mind. On the one hand having the camera with me is mostly an excuse for being outside with something like a purpose. On the other hand, I like the way that having the camera focuses my alertness and keeps me looking. Sometimes I have no clear sense of what I'm looking for; I'm just there with the camera in case something turns up. (I'm reminded of what Flannery O'Connor side with regard to writing: "Every morning between 9:00 and 12:00 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing. If an idea does come between 9 and 12 I am there ready for it.") Other times, I am on a hunt, I am actively looking for something. That's what I was doing yesterday. I had been reading a book on photography which had a brief passage about Edward Weston and how in the early days of Polaroid photography he had gone out put together a book of photographs based on letters of the alphabet. It was rainy off and on yesterday afternoon, so I wanted to walk close to home. I decided as a kind of experiment to see how many letters of the alphabet I could find as I walked. Photographs of actual letters were ruled out; I was going to try to find the shapes in the physical objects around me.

inding the letters was easy at first. Some of them more or less jumped out at me, and since I had the whole alphabet to work with, there were a lot of possibilities. Then as I went along and started eliminating letters, it got harder to find plausible renditions of the remaining letters. But I was interested in the way the particular mission I had set for myself was changing the kind of experience I was having when I was walking. Instead of seeing the buildings or the trees or the people whole as I normally would, I was looking at intersections and junctures and shapes and shadows. There were a number of times when I more or less lost track of where I was and looked up in surprise some minutes later. A number of people smiled somewhat warily at me as they walked by me while I was bent over a bit of chain-link fence or the top of a cactus; it occurred to me that I might be cementing my reputation as the neighborhood oddball.

etting the whole alphabet put together is going to take a while, but it should be an entertaining pursuit. It's not a project that has any real purpose or payoff, just a kind of noodling around with an idea. I hadn't actually thought of doing anything with the letters until I started writing tonight's post, and had the idea of using the pictures I was going to share anyway as drop caps. So the whole enterprise this evening is a kind of novelty. I didn't know what I was going to wind up doing until I did it, and now it sort of looks like it's done, or at least this part of it is done, for now. This is the kind of thing I might often have done in my original physical commonplace book, freehand of course, but it's a little trickier to pull it off given the formal constraints of the blog. But this has been an entertainment, a confection, a concoction. It'll do for now.


Sarah McIntosh Puglisi said...

Awhile ago I put some ABC photo's in my del.ci.ous bookmarks including

I was thinking of a book I have of ABC photos which was a Found Alphabet that somehow was missing. And I then found a few intriguing selections on-line.

Found art is very tricky, you have to be open to the moment. I was trained by a sculpture teacher Steve Lawson who was very keen on the value of finding art in the moment of living. And, like yourself, he was operating at a level I found so evolved in understanding the open mind construction. A matter of looking.

I am planning to send a camera home with each of my first graders over spring break(bought them and need now to work out a little training before I let go) and an alphabet letter assigned, actually they have been choosing this for sometime.I selected the ABC idea as it's accessible, but in a way a core school construct. Symbolic meaning is really our reality. No? I ask them to look and find this letter in the world, take a picture. Well, take 24 of them all for your particular letter. Then I'll digitize the results trying to make a class collection of images. One thing I teach, beyond of course the Standards, is having an aesthetic relationship to your world. I will of course have children very far from this task and parental involvement that may or may not assist the experience. But in the main as we reflect out on our images I'll be able to talk to the children about symbols, the world, parts of wholes, time, space. We will make a moving ABC line on the wall, book, who knows?
All in all a kind of open ended project Spring Break requires for renewal.

I own a book from a teacher in Hawaii, actually a gift. She was trying to save her parochial school and sent the kids out to take a photo of God. It is quite a collection of concept. I like this idea of children using photography to create in a found sense something that relates to a concept. Very meaningful this book, though of course in public school this project would not fly. But for me it was really about how the children as individuals held an idea and saw, so strong. I immediately thought of children making photo books of love or compassion or these values pieces that our school in very canned fashion works on. Here the arts piece helping to make the connection valid. ...just thinking....

However the idea was there in my head.

I'm so enjoying interacting with your blog. Thank you for binding together so many things that are so essential to living, learning and life.

Anonymous said...

Clever and well-designed post.

Anonymous said...

I really like your idea of taking photos of ordinary things that look like letters. It sparked some creative ideas in my head. I think that it would be great if you got the whole alphabet.

Bruce Schauble said...

Thanks, everyone. I really enjoyed looking at the pictures on the textism site: they're whimsical and loose and very funny. I'm going to go back and spend some time there.

Poets Online said...

your post sent me back to a photography course I took where the weekly assignment was to shoot photos based on a theme like reflection, screen, black & white - but it was unacceptable to bring in anything obvious. for those themes, no mirrors, lakes, windows, no window screens or TV screens, no black & white film or purely black & white photos. I t was wonderfully challenging and we all competed with each other to be clever.