By Deb A.
Robert Zuckerman is a photographer who doesn't take photographs.
Nor does he shoot his subjects, or capture an image.
The problem is one of linguistics rather than logic: 'taking' and 'shooting' and the like are too aggressive for Mr. Zuckerman's taste. He rejects the implicit notion that the photographer's subject stands passively by as his or her image is, for a moment in time, removed and recorded. Instead, he prefers to emphasize collaboration, suggesting to those who end up in front of his lens: "let's make a photo together."
His approach and the results made him a popular figure on film sets; a Hollywood photographer for over a decade, Mr. Zuckerman retired from the film industry, but not from his art, after being diagnosed with a rare disorder of the nervous system. While his portfolio is best known for his portraits of actors such as Oscar winners Al Pacino and Helen Mirren as well as his Kindsight images of everyday people, a handful of some very influential artists and writers have also joined Robert Zuckerman in making pictures together, with powerful results.
The key is in not taking photos.
All images via robertzuckerman.com.
By Deb A.
Until Jeanne-Claude's death in 2009, Jeanne-Claude and Christo were one of contemporary art's most famous couples. Their passion for each other was rivaled only by their devotion to their shared work; the otherwise inseparable pair was known for never traveling together in the same airplane so as not to jeopardise their ability to continue their projects. And so, in honour of the many couples who celebrated St. Valentine's Day this weekend, we look at Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Both born on June 13th, 1935--she in Morocco, he in Bulgaria--Jeanne-Claude and Christo were not exactly soulmates at first sight: Jeanne-Claude was unimpressed upon their first meeting in 1958, and also quite sure that Christo was gay. But love overcame them both, and Jeanne-Claude ended up leaving her husband of three weeks to be with Christo.
The 'twins' ("but, thank God, two different mothers," Jeanne-Claude would say) had a lot to learn from each other: he taught her about art history, and she goaded him on to use bigger and bigger objects in his art. They quickly became an artistic team and eventually they began to speak, work and live in essentially one voice, resulting in projects such as The Gates in New York City's Central Park and the Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin. While their works until 1994 were officially only credited to Christo because they believed it would be easier for a single artist to gain a footing in the art world, he set the record straight retroactively, and now all creations from 1961 on are attributed to them both.
Jeanne-Claude and Christo were together for 58 years, and some of their projects took around half of that to come to fruition: 32 years went by before they wrapped trees in Switzerland, and 25 years and three failed attempts to gain bureaucratic approval were required to wrap the Reichstag. Over more than a half-century, Christo and Jeanne-Claude realised 22 separate projects but were forced to abandon plans for 37 more; the biggest hurdle has always been the need to find out who owns every single kilometre of land that would be affected by their work and then gain every owner's approval. The application to wrap a 62-kilometre stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado ran to nearly 4000 pages of studies and reports... all for a piece of art, Christo noted, that doesn't even exist yet. That kind of passion, which continues to burn over years of paperwork and rejection and, when its goal is reached, results in a project that disappears after a few weeks with nothing for the artists but the satisfaction of having created beauty (the corporation they established to fund large-scale projects by selling off the artist's sketches pays Christo an annual salary of $80,000; he earns nothing from the projects themselves), is just the kind of love we should all celebrate.
By Deb A.
Poet Barbara Brooks's touching 'Laying Floors' appears in Agave Magazine Volume 2, issue 2. Here we speak to the author of the chapbook The Catbird Sang about writing groups, her love of nature, and the backs of envelopes.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: You're not only a poet, but also a retired physical therapist. When and why did you start writing poetry?
BARBARA BROOKS: I started writing in 1975 when I was on an affiliation in Philadelphia which was a most depressing atmosphere. Those will not see the light of day. I also wrote to sort out relationship or depression feelings. That has changed to writing still about autobiographical themes but also themes of a different sort like 'Laying Floors'. Mary Oliver is my favorite poet and between liking her work and my own love of nature, I try to incorporate nature as I see it relating to people.
What is it about Mary Oliver's poems that stands out for you?
While Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, I don't have a favorite poem as there are so many with the "wow" factor. I do like her earlier work as it is a great study of the nature around us that many miss; her tribute to Ms. Malone is very moving.
Many of your previous poems, including those in your collection, The Catbird Sang, are rooted in nature. 'Laying Floors' is a departure from this theme--what led you to write it?
I wrote 'Laying Floors' after my father's death as it reminded me of all the projects he would do and how he taught me to measure and practice. These are some of the many "sayings" that he taught me. They echoed in the house while I was working.
How often do you write? Do you prefer a regular schedule, or do you simply compose when it strikes your fancy?
I try to write on a schedule of at least one quiet morning a week but sometimes that time is in the afternoon. I work on writing prompts if I don't have an idea at the time. Then sometimes a line or two will occur to me while walking the dog or driving somewhere and I can finish it at home. I started writing on the backs of envelopes as this made the space I needed to fill up smaller than an 8" x 11.5" sheet of paper. I did this for quite some time and have gradually turned to writing on the computer although some poems still start on the back of envelopes.
You've been a member of several writing groups. What do you believe constitutes a good group?
I think a good writing group is made up of diverse styles and diverse backgrounds of the members. Thoughtfulness, kind yet candid, are traits needed as sometimes the subjects are close to someone's heart. We laughingly call our suggestions as "slashing criticism" due to some of my group being in some not-so-friendly groups. We always state what we like the best first; perhaps a line, stanza or even the layout of the poem and then gently explain what works and doesn't work for each of us.
By Deb A.
From their very first freshman activities, university students are divided into their faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science, Engineering, Agriculture... we imagine that while Arts students fulfill their Science requirements with classes nicknamed 'Moons for Goons', Science students are rolling their eyes behind a battered poetry anthology. Math is for the logical, literature is for the dreamers, and never the twain shall meet.
Like all divisions we rely upon to help us make sense of the world, this one is not nearly as black-and-white as we may assume. Just ask the author who is also a doctor of history and philosophy of science and technology with an undergraduate degree in math and drama. Or turn to Oxford University and its Humanities and Science series, which recently launched its 2015 programme with 'Narrative and Proof: Two Side of the Same Equation?'.
"Mathematicians are storytellers," posited scientist and keynote speaker Marcus du Sautoy. "Our characters are numbers and geometries. Our narratives are the proofs we create about these characters."
Du Sautoy's love of mathematics is rooted in the journey rather than the answer. Mathematical proofs are like detective stories for him; the last chapter, in which everything is revealed, is nothing without the build-up of the rest of the book. Both a proof and a novel require narrative to be exciting. He also notes that at times, the link between literature and math is even more direct, citing Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, in which each chapter is half the length of the previous one, thus creating the much-lauded pacing of the story.
Author Ben Okri is the next speaker up to bat, and he also sees the link between narrative and mathematical proof, arguing that there is an unavoidable logic to storytelling, and that working out the 'inner maths' of a story is one of the most challenging tasks a writer faces. Storytelling, he insists, is the oldest technology, and in the beautiful prose for which he is known, he tells us that "narrative is woven into the fabric of consciousness as mathematics is woven into the fabric of the world." Everything, from stories to theorems, is narrative.
And then mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose arrives on the scene to pierce through the poetry of his predecessors on the panel. He agrees that indeed, narrative and proof do share things in common: while one might suppose that an author can simply make characters do whatever he or she pleases, the fact of the matter is that authors do face constraints if characters are to be believable. He also identifies beauty as a common element of both sides of the narrative/proof coin. And yet, Sir Penrose insists, the two are irreconcilably different due to one unavoidable element: in math, you can tell a great story, but if you're not right, the rest doesn't matter.
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