not mine, part two

a jogger runs by a defaced image of barack obama

part of the series fallow time: dispatches from a field suspended

i’ve been making haiku out of other people’s utterances. find the first part here.

this time, one from me:

grief that overwhelms
creative capacity
cracks open seedlings


and eight more from my friends:

pressure seems to bind us
gobbling up chunks of land here
crumble it to dust

mission to disrupt
places where disparate things
been invisible

it’s natural stuff
harm of my ancestral line
for 1000 years

they finally bloom
and do shitloads of damage
by outside people

it’s a destroyer
wait for something else to grow
not who lives here now

our increased presence
suspicious of white people
where we put this place

edge of the city
kernal of an idea
freaking racist sign

change your narrative
this system of apartheid
it’s unbuildable

(home)body of work

pink and white flowers on a tree

part of the series fallow time: dispatches from a field suspended

i am making because writing is not enough.

elizabeth chin

for the past six weeks or so, since my fieldwork has been on hold, i’ve been taking a photography class online through flower city arts center.* it has really helped me think more deeply about why i make photos, and why photoethnography makes sense to me as a method for living and learning on fertile ground, particularly during fallow time.

a partial list of potential photographic motivations, noninnocent:**

to capture, or to liberate
to humanize, or objectify
to find the light in a dark time
to prove we were there
to interrogate notions of “proof”
to feel something
to add a “pop of color”
to break up some imagined monotony
to be with others, to be alone
to get outside
to expand our space
to chart a path
to start a conversation
to render the ugly beautiful, and the beautiful ugly***
to render the strange familiar, and the familiar strange
to reconnect
to get closer
to keep our distance
to save something for later
to move this out of short term memory
to capitalize on the power dynamics inherent in any looking relation
to fill a cup
to shed some light, or some baggage
to share
to circulate
to archive
to blend in
to stand out
to set the scene
to see something else, or differently
to try out a new lens
to fill a gap
to rest our eyes
to be ok

lately, i’ve been making photos to cope, to care, to soothe. below are some–but not all–of my favorites from the past several weeks.

a reflection of a tree in a puddle
a neon sign in a laundromat window reads "cleanest in town"
a black trash can with the rochester logo on a city sidwalk
residential garbage and recycling bins sit on a curb like old friends
a pothos plant hangs in a ceramic pot on a wall
pink and white blossoms on a tree fill the frame
a faded and rusty yellow fire hydrant

* “street photography and personal documentary,” taught by jason wilder

** donna haraway (1991, 2016) often writes about the concept of noninnocence, as a way to grapple with complicity, even from positions of subjugation.

*** thank you for this articulation, kylie newcomer 🙂

not mine

white ribbon threaded onto a chainlink fence to spell out "apart but together"

part of the series fallow time: dispatches from a field suspended

my friends and interlocutors (conversation partners) often say beautiful, wondrous, and powerful things. waist-deep in field notes and preliminary interview transcripts, i’ve spun some of their utterances into a series of haiku. a kind of ethnopoetic bricolage.* the words that follow, lifted from nine conversations in five- and seven-syllable phrasings, are all theirs.

a commitment pear
to get the garden growing
oh, thank you spirit

keep the garden right
the heart of a black woman
make it beautiful

keep renaming us
i took the garden over
who the fuck are you?

you just crushed my heart
a white man in a black skin
be a garden bed

garden of outrage
braiding seeds into our hair
it’s a feel-good thing

neighbors down the street
companion planting ethic
seeing what blossoms

* see renato rosaldo on ethnopoesis and les roberts on bricolage in spatial anthropology. i am experimenting with imposing an arbitrary structure on ‘raw data’ as a method of writing and thinking on my way to more coherent ‘findings’ (while at the same time attempting to reject any hierarchy that marks more socially acceptable and legible forms of scholarship as more rigorous than the adjacent play and experimentation that makes these forms possible). i use a lot of scare quotes because i am profoundly uncertain about these terms. i take inspiration from projects like the hundreds by lauren berlant and kathleen stewart and forthcoming experimental work by peter benson.