Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
(from “The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver)
We’ve just released the third issue (2018.1) of our zine Call & Response– you can find it here. And we’re already working hard on the fourth issue, with the hope that it might be ready for release before the end of 2018. The mythical year of two issues of our zine – might it actually happen? Stay tuned to find out if we push through to the finish line or fall at the last hurdle and push release into 2019. Either way, it’s going to be a block buster issue.Subsequent to the first issue we released, we’ve focused our efforts for the issues that followed on collaborations that incorporate the concept of “call and response”. The responses each of us has made to the calls we’ve received from each other have been often surprising, amazing and have expanded our visual language and dialogue.

For the next issue, Mike suggested the following structure for the calls: that we pick individual words that resonate with us, and provide each of them on a card using a quote that gives context to the word. The proposal was that at subsequent meetings, each of us would throw one card into the centre of the table, and then each of us would extract one card. Two people then make images using the key word and the context of the quote: the person who provided the word and the person who drew it from the pile.

We glommed on to this suggestion with various levels of enthusiasm, inversely correlated with how confused we were about what we were actually doing. Not because Mike’s idea was confusing so much as we were discussing this at the end of a long, intense session of sequencing the images for zine #3. But intrepid visual explorers that we are, the decision was made to jump in the deep end and come to the following meeting with 4 cards with the quotes. It’s worked out very, very well so far (we are about half way through this collaboration) – there have been some extremely unexpected but effective juxtapositions of vision proposed by the person who provided the word and the person who drew it from the deck.

Above is the quote I threw into the card pile the second time we exchanged words. I had selected the words and quotes not with images in mind, but because of what I perceived to be the challenges the words offered. So off I went to look through my archive and to consider images I might make about darkness. We have had quite some discussion around whether a good approach is to use the word alone, or try to incorporate some or all of the quote into the process. As is usual for our group, there was a mix of approaches all of which have been quite effective. For this quote, I focused on the idea of darkness as a gift. The images I selected are shown above; I’ve photographed the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca many, many times but not with darkness as the driving force. For me, the darkness of these images is a gift because they expand how I see and perceive this marine landscape. I find it interesting how the darkness has altered the landscape; one doesn’t see the Olympic Mountains in the distance or get a clear sense of the transition from land to sea. This simplification from the darkness transforms the view into one that is lush and rich and moving – this is the gift from darkness to me.