Jamie Shombert serves as guest arts editor for our Summer 2019 issue (Issue #42). For each of our 5 feature pieces, Jamie has curated selections from her photography portfolio. Keep reading for a brief discussion of her selection process.
A BRIDGE BACK TO WRITING:
PHOTO SELECTIONS BY JAMIE SHOMBERT
Ducts: How did you come to photography and what is it that draws you to the art form?
Jamie: My serious foray into photography started about six years ago. Before that, I would take mental photographs and turn them into poems. Around this time, I was experiencing (for various reasons) writers’ block and when my husband gave me a Canon DSLR camera, it was a life changer. Being able to capture places, moods, etc—basically what I couldn’t seem to write about—helped me to access my creative self in a completely different way that in time returned me to writing.
Ducts: Let’s talk about the first two images you selected, for fiction and for poetry. The photo for Miserable Company features the boardwalk at Coney Island, with a delightful slogan for happiness featured on the trash barrel in the foreground. And for Sunlight Savings, you chose quite an eerie visual—a ghost-like female form, with her head resting at her feet. How did you come to these associations?
Jamie: I decided that I would take notes on the selections and run through my catalog of photos, seeing which ones I could relate to the notes taken from the stories. I found myself thinking too literally with wanting to match my photo(s) to the essence of the stories. I didn’t want everything to be too obvious, so this challenged me to temporarily re-imagine what my images were about. I went with the feelings from the stories and what that evoked in me.
The boardwalk shot at Coney Island with the fortune cookie philosophy was something I wish I could have posted on social media for Emma from Miserable Company to see to get up and go out!
With Vijay’s poem, Sunlight Savings, I was left with a sense of the development of autonomy as one separates from one’s family.
Ducts: Let’s continue with the final three photos: the photo for A Widow’s Bed (essay), which shows the skyline of New York; the image for Frederic (memoir), in which a couple is haloed in an otherworldly light; and lastly, the visual for Too Soon, Too Close, in Paris (humor), which is probably your most abstract image, a combination of urban wire mesh and plant life.
A Widow’s Bed: With this story, I initially was going for that intimate personal space, but Ms. Trommer already painted an eloquent picture of that space. With the naming of a few locations in NYC, I started thinking about how many widows and widowers’ beds there are in the city alone! That led me to a landscape shot I recently took of NYC.
Frederic: I like this picture because it can be interpreted in two ways in relation to the story. Initially, I thought the aura around the couple represents the protection that their friendship offered each other. Then I noticed that the male figure is walking slightly ahead of the female. I thought this could represent the narrator letting Frederic go—either when she began separating herself from him or when he succumbed to his illness.
Too Soon, Too Close, in Paris: This photo is about life moving on. The reinforced glass I see as a metaphor that humor can hold us together in hard times. The greenery is how I see us, life coming back and taking hold again. This was taken at an old, abandoned factory.
Ducts: To finish, I want to return to something you suggested in your first answer. What do you think it is about visual art that helps you access you writing self?
Jamie: Taking photography helped me to slow down and be quiet. A meditation of sorts. The act of noticing the lighting, framing an image, had me noticing things in more interesting ways. What started to evolve was more of me coming up with a concept. Working on projects were very helpful as I found myself thinking artistically even when I didn’t have a camera in my hand. If an idea didn’t work out the way I pictured it, I would go back to the drawing board. This was when I came back to writing. Photography worked as a bridge back to writing.