Why We Read…and Write
I of III
As human beings we are plagued with the desire to create boundaries. This is this and only this. You are you and not one of us. In this spirit, we might ask what the former curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art could possibly have to do with picture books? Plenty, if we take the time to relax and look again. There is always more to see in what we think we’ve already explored.
I have long been intrigued and inspired by the following quote from THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S EYE by John Szarkowski.
“If the photographer could not move his subject, he could move his camera. To see the subject clearly—often to see it at all—he had to abandon a normal vantage point, and shot his picture from above, or below, or from too close, or too far away, or from the back side, inverting the order of thing’s importance, or with the nominal subject of his picture half hidden. From his photographs, he learned that the appearance of the world was richer and less simple than his mind would have guessed. He discovered that his pictures could reveal not only the clarity but the obscurity of things, and that these mysterious and evasive images could also, in their own terms, seem ordered and meaningful.”
Even if one isn’t a photographer, who hasn’t spent time as a child leaning off the edge of the bed marveling at how the world looks upside down. Or, watched a giant tree move when you look first with just the right eye then the left.
A few days ago serendipity brought the discovery of a wonderful early reader / picture book that demonstrates Szarkowski’s quote in just as many words. GALEN’S CAMERA by Jill Kalz encapsulates the joys of looking at the world from a slightly different angle or distance. And, as Galen’s camera does that, it also inspires the world of simile and metaphor. In a (supposedly) mere 112 words spread through 24 pages, Kalz introduces her reader to a boundary-free world that is rich with overlapping realities.
Books That Encourage One to “Look Again”
*THE ARCH by Joel Meyerowitz. Little, Brown & Co., 1988.
GALEN’S CAMERA by Jill Kalz. Illus. by Ji Sun Lee. Picture Window Books, 2006.
*THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S EYE by John Szarkowski. The Museum of Modern Art, 2007 (1966).
TAKE ANOTHER LOOK by Tana Hoban. Greenwillow, 1981.
THE TURN-AROUND, UPSIDE-DOWN ALPHABET BOOK by Lisa Campbell Ernst. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
*WRITING THE AUSTRALIAN CRAWL: VIEWS ON THE WRITER’S VOCATION by William Stafford. University of Michigan Press, 1978.