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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

wandering nameless streets (Tony Come Back August)


Every once in a while you have a big idea. I wanted to make a little book, something for people to to slide into a pocket and read on an airplane, a slim bit of life to savor. The idea was to call it a Duo, somewhere between a jazz duo and a rock and roll act. Two stories intertwined, banging against each other, the rough and raw against the sublime, the hard fought victory, the miniature triumph, the gut punch, the aftermath.

I decided to work with Tony, who had a brutal story to tell about fatherly love for an ex-girlfreind's son, an autistic boy growing into an autistic teenager a few states away. He had a whole book in the works, but I tend to more juiced up about excerpts, about parts standing for the whole so we took a few handfuls of the poems and I began sequencing them. The second story must be visual, this I knew. I casted about, began to summon the tedious courage it takes to ask people to use their work and Tony said "why don't we just use your pictures?" I am not one to nominate myself, it just isn't my way.

The pages began to work, but it took time. There were long breaks as life and work threw a shadow over our little book. There were delays and delays. I had decided that the images would only come from Tbilisi. There is something perfectly decrepit and beautiful and hopeful in this place. I ended up going there twice before the sequence of pages felt right. There were teenage boys in the street lighting cigarettes. An old woman with a black purse tucked behind her, swinging in her hands. A man with no shirt on, his giant shoulders glowing in a dark courtyard. A woman on her wedding day, her face twisted and sour.

Once I felt things worked, I sent it to Tony and he felt good about it too. It still took me months to get things printed right, to get the grey, sooty pictures to tell their story. The clean pages of text were no trouble, his naked desire, his heartbreak as clear as a big blue sky.

And then the ugly, humiliating work, the sending of carefully written letters and advance copies to reviewers and small bookstores, all taken care of by my new friend Alexandra, who put some good luck whammy on each and every envelope.

The book went on sale on friday.



I found myself staring at this foreign object, the cover a bit scratched from kicking around my desk, the pictures staring back at me, the pages thick and smooth. It is just like knowing I am going somewhere but it doesn't dawn on me until I reach the gate in the airport, that I am going on a trip. My hard-won pictures would now be on shelves in various rooms in the world. The trusty Leica, those rolls of film, they had added up to something. The wandering in nameless streets had been for good reason.





You can preview the first twenty pages of the book here (click on "look inside") and you can buy it here: http://www.bittersweeteditions.com/store/tony-come-back-august








Comments

liv said…
Ha! I was one click away from checking in to see if you were ok - when this post popped up... life.

As always, the work is stunning.
Any idea how long before the "expat" book of photos?

PS: I'm needing a hit of E...how is she doing? My little star xo

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