I’m pretty happy right now – I entered 4 images in the fine art category at the Altamont fair (the limit was 4.) Two of those were cyanotype, and two were black and white images printed at my local Sam’s Club. Much to my surprise, two of my images won first prize in their respective categories. Now, honesty compels me to admit that of the three categories, the two I entered (black and white film and digital imaging) combined were only about half the size of the color category. Bluntly speaking, I had less competition. Still, one of the officials told me when I went to pick up the images that “the judge just loved your egg photograph.” Cue the happy dance!
At the risk of getting all artsy and snobby, I have to say it won for a reason: there was a story behind my image, and I believe that it made it more interesting. Someone once told me that every piece of art needs a story behind it, and he was right. Granted, he made up his stories, but his premise was still true. Every conceptual image, at least, needs to make you wonder, make you think. It’s not enough for me to rely on the process being interesting – the image has to be good, interesting, evocative – the process is only the trappings. Which is why my image won, instead of the salt print image of someone’s dog. (At least I think it was a salt print, could have been a Van Dyke process.)
The story behind this image is highly personal, and I don’t think I’ve shared the details except to a few people. It started with this piece that I did for my Verba series:
The Verba series, not surprisingly, was based on writings I had done at key points in my life: usually low points. The image doesn’t show the poem very well, so I’ll transcribe it here for convenience’s sake:
My body is a tomb / a grave of dead hopes.
I watched the beating heart of dreams / fade into nothing.
I have no tears left /my heart is weeping still.
How can I go on living, / knowing I have given birth to death?
I wrote this poem one night when I was still dealing with the emotional aftermath of literally watching my unborn child die. One day the ultrasound showed a strongly beating heart, the next day, something happened. While an early miscarriage might be nature’s gentle way of dealing with a baby that can’t survive, the emotional toll certainly isn’t gentle.
When we found out that Corbin was coming, I decided to document his birth in the same way that I documented my miscarriage. From the very beginning of my creative process, I stuck with this one image. It now hangs in his nursery.
As happy as I am to have Corbin, I still grieve over the child that didn’t live. That bittersweet emotion was behind every creative decision in Nesting – from the set up to the lighting. I’d like to think that some of that story shows in the image, but I’m sure most people look at it and say “oh, an egg in a nest, how cute.”
So that’s the story behind the image that won first in the Black and White division at the Altamont fair. The Digital Imaging division winner’s story is simpler: I challenged myself to create a series of things you wouldn’t expect to see in a photograph – and you wouldn’t recognize them either.
They’re forks – salad forks, actually!