The joy of research means discovering new things, like a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who seems virtually unknown today. Julia Peterkin’s Scarlet Sister Mary, the fictionalized story of the Gullah community on Peterkin’s plantation in South Carolina, won the Pulitzer for fiction in 1929. A Devil and a Good Woman, Too by Susan Millar Williams, is the only biography written about her. Thomas Landess’s book, pictured here, offers some biographical information, but it concentrates mainly on Peterkin’s oeuvre, including Roll, Jordan, Roll, the collaboration between Peterkin and photographer, Doris Ulmann. This is the first, published collaboration between a woman photographer and a woman writer. Appearing in 1933, it predates similar, collaborations, like Cabins in the Laurel, featuring a collage-like memoir by Muriel Earley Sheppard and the photographs of Bayard Wooten. Roll, Jordan, Roll also predates more famous collaborations like Walker Evans’s and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
“He fed me raindrops from a white rose petal.”
It’s the first day of Spring, although it doesn’t feel like it. So many dark things going on. It makes the growing length of days feel dimmer. So, I pull my focus inward and take some deep breaths. The sky has grown overcast with an impending rainstorm, but the rain is much needed in this drought-stricken area in spite of potential mudslides.
On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I think about Mabel McKay, Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman. Recently, I went to see an exhibition of her work at The Autry Museum in Los Angeles and was struck with the serenity and with the spirit of healing and strength her baskets exude. Greg Sarris’s biography of McKay, Weaving the Dream, recounts a lecture where a student asked her if it was her grandmother who taught her the art of basket weaving. Mabel responded: “It’s no such a thing art. It’s spirit…..I only follow my Dream. That’s how I learn.”
Art, spirit, and dreaming have always been linked for me, and I could feel that in Mabel’s work, even though it was all safely housed in environmentally controlled glass housings. Such work, such medicine people, like Mabel, have so much to teach the rest of the world. In an era of such profound disconnection from spirit, from the earth, from each other, these are people whose work can help weave us back into the fabric of life, back to a place where we can awaken and realize our place within the original web of connections.
The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats
There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons – That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes – Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – We can find no scar, But internal difference, Where the Meanings, are – None may teach it – Any – ‘Tis the Seal Despair – An imperial affliction Sent us of the Air – When it comes, the Landscape listens – Shadows – hold their breath – When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance On the look of Death – Emily Dickinson
Aside from posting my work here, I also have a Tumblr blog, Redzenradish Photography. Tumblr is one of those sprawling, digital media sites similar to Facebook, where artists can post their work, and others can repost the work of those artists. There are some Tumblr blogs that are considered curated sites where images are carefully chosen to be reblogged to a broader audience so that others can discover the work of photographers and artists whose work they might otherwise miss. For me, it’s been wonderful, not just to have my own work reblogged by some of these curated sites (Lensblr, Luxlit), but because it has also introduced me to photographers whose work continues to inspire me and with whom I’ve formed friendships both in the digital and in the real world. I’m grateful to have found a community of artists there who, for the most part, are very supportive of each other.
However, as it happens in the digital world, it’s easy to strip the metadata or marks of ownership of an image that then gets reblogged throughout the maze of rabbit holes inside the Tumblrverse. Sometimes, the only way to find the original creator of an image is to look for the word “source” under the image near the tags line. Hopefully, that will contain a link that will take you to wherever the person who posted or reblogged the image originally found that image, even if it doesn’t tell you the name of the original artist. Leaving out the artist’s name, but maintaining a generic “source” is considered enough “attribution” to prove someone isn’t taking credit for another’s work, which is good……except for one small thing–the name of the artist. It’s like going into a museum to see the Mona Lisa and finding beneath the painting only a plaque that says “source,” and you are then expected to go elsewhere to find the identity of the artist. On Tumblr, it’s not uncommon to find someone who obviously likes an image enough to reblog it, but not enough to provide the name of the artist. They provide only a small link (if that) that many viewers may gloss over, which creates more of an association between the image and the person who posted or reblogged it than between the image and the original artist because there’s no visual cue that identifies the artist. It’s a small thing, until you find someone whose work is truly inspiring.
In this example, copied from Tumblr, a blogger reblogs this image from someone who reblogged it from someone else, and the “source” is identified as “thejoyofweird,” only “thejoyofweird” isn’t the original artist. You wouldn’t know that until you click on the link that takes you to “thejoyofweird”‘s Tumblr site where you’d then find only the word “source” listed below the image, but with no name. Click on that and it takes you to a website entry from 2012 of artist and photographer, Diana Hobson. Further, the original image is in color and not in black and white. Did “thejoyofweird” convert this image from color to black and white when he or she posted it from Hobson’s website? While the image is also beautiful in black and white, it’s not how the original photographer created and posted the image.
Sophie is always listening.