Sue Salem Photography: Blog en-us (C) Sue Salem Photography (Sue Salem Photography) Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:09:00 GMT Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:09:00 GMT Sue Salem Photography: Blog 90 120 Redacted | Buried and Surfaced I've been considering the power of pain lately. It's hard to imagine anything else (love perhaps) that can so effectively shut down my brain and body. But pain also has the ability to inspire and awaken, to poke and prod, things long buried and to create connections in disparate experiences.

Last month, our family spent a week of spring break in Paris. A long planned for and awaited trip, I went with high expectations that, sadly, were foiled by a foot injury that I should have attended to before our trip. Pain curtailed many of my plans that week, but I was determined to get to the Musée d'Orsay which I had skipped on my last Paris visit. I knew what to expect (I thought) having studied many of the great works housed there; the world's largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces,  Musée d'Orsay is truly incredible. But the real joy and surprise was attending the newly opened exhibit Van Gogh / Artaud. The Man Suicided by Society. Nearly fifty Van Gogh paintings and drawings were annotated with excerpts from Antonin Artaud's analysis of Van Gogh's madness (Artaud viewed Van Gogh more of a truth teller than a mad man). The wonderfully curated collection felt like a descent into beautiful anguish. The entire time I was viewing the exhibit, I was in physical agony yet able to absorb Van Gogh's color and line and shape and meaning in a deep way. Somehow my corporeal pain gave shape and intensity to my experience of Van Gogh's spiritual anguish. 

I left the d'Orsay thinking about how there are times I need to appreciate pain, that there are times when it's acceptable, even desirable, to let pain surface.  Certainly releasing psychic pain can be part of a healing process and clears our souls so that the good can reside more comfortably; it creates a little elbow room that allows creativity and love and productivity to flourish. But beyond that, the power of pain can heighten our ability to see and understand, to appreciate the world around us. 

With that in mind, I tore out another page today. November 27 and December 23, 1994. Words of pain and disappointment jump off the page: "hard" "sad" "scared" "angry" "crying" "awful" "doubts".  I hated my job and had just learned I wasn't pregnant. But surrounding those words were many more of hope and optimism. That month, my pain heightened my appreciation for the good. 

This afternoon, I redacted the pain -- cut it out with scissors. But I preserved the remaining hope and strength in salt. And, for good measure, weighed down the optimism with stones so it wouldn't get dislodged or blown away. On top of my stones and salt I lay down my pain. But rather than hiding or obliterating it this time, I let it surface and take precedence. 

More Buried and Surfaced photos here.




]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Wed, 09 Apr 2014 20:35:27 GMT
Redacted | Folded More exploration of folded and frozen. It's interesting trying to balance composition and meaning. Which words emerge? What shapes are revealed? Here are few I added this afternoon. For more, click on the slide show, below.



]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Wed, 29 Jan 2014 22:09:44 GMT
Redacted | Lost and Found Another random tear -- January 17, 1995. I found notes from the plane ride home after our "honeymoon" trip to Exuma in the Bahamas. We were married in August of 1993 but it took 1 1/2 years to take a fun trip. My memories and our stories of that week focus on stolen diving gear, lost passports, bad weather, and a deserted and run down hotel. I was surprised to find journal notes full of love and bliss with hardly a mention of the challenges. It was another reminder that truth and reality are highly mutable and that the young are resilient.

The real gift, besides a reminder that the trip wasn't all gloom, was a short paragraph on the back page. Apparently (and I have little memory of this) we stopped off in Miami on the way back to Boston for a short visit with my grandmother. My notes reveal snippets of history: my Mayflower ancestor (Peregrine White from Wales) and my pacifist grandfather's opinions of war ("death, destruction, pointless"). 

This is one paragraph that stands in whole without redaction. 



]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Wed, 29 Jan 2014 19:25:44 GMT
Redacted | Torn and Frozen

This will be short -- I think I caught my daughter's cold.

Better, I caught some gorgeous, winter light today. I spent the afternoon working on the same torn and folded pages from two nights ago, some since frozen.

Happily, my mind was filled with project ideas and pictures, not the plodding existential meanderings of Wednesday night. 

These are a few, quick edits. More to come when I feel better.

]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:50:56 GMT
Redacted | Torn  

I tore out a few more pages at random: September 3, 1992 and September 19, 1991. Cursing that I didn't get motivated earlier in the day when there was natural light, I ripped and folded paper for the next series of photos. The shapes and textures I created out of the old torn paper were very satisfying, and I found myself neglecting the redacted theme, succumbing to the pure visual. But these pieces need the conceptual structure. Or maybe I do. In any case, the challenge is to merge the two, to have the art piece nestled into the thought piece. And vice versa. It takes discipline and I found myself mentally and physically not up to it fully. 

As I worked, I was struck by the juxtaposition of two thoughts: On the one hand, I couldn't imagine getting rid of the details -- the names and places that rooted me in a particular period of my life. On the other hand, it seemed absolutely ridiculous to save any of it. The feelings I wrote about were boringly redundant and trite: annoyance with my mother's lack of compassion, confusion over the direction of my life, excitement about a new relationship. I also considered that none of it was real, rather it was a collection of extremes: angry venting, fearful angst or delirious joy. Where was the mundane middle that really makes up our lives?

Then, a funny thing brought me back to 2014. I decided to make some notes about all of this in my iPad but couldn't find it anywhere. Maddening. I'd had it a few minutes before I started thumbing through the pile of journals but it had vanished. I finally gave up my search and picked up one of my old black books. It was surprisingly heavy. Only then did I realize that my iPad was the same color and dimensions of my old journals. It was a reminder that perhaps I'm just doing the same old thing here -- self indulgent narration of my internal landscape. Maybe I should just focus on taking pictures.   







]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Wed, 22 Jan 2014 21:10:00 GMT
Redacted | Frozen "Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and altered slightly to make a single document..."To redact" later came to be used in the sense of selecting from or adapting (as by obscuring or removing sensitive information) a document prior to publication or release. In the early twenty-first century it has become a euphemism meaning "conceal from unauthorized view; censor but do not destroy"... From Wikipedia page on redaction

Redacted | Chapter 1: Frozen -- The Last Journal

Writing about love, work, friends, regrets, fears, joys, future plans. Typical. For nearly twenty years, from high school until a few months before my daughter was born, I wrote about these things. That it ends abruptly in March of 1996 is both shocking (the final word, "later",  is evidence that I never anticipated it would be THE LAST) and yet expected (what did I think, that I'd have time or interest in self indulgent writing when I had babies?) The journals -- over a dozen, plain, black, bound books -- still sit on a shelf. Moved from house to house to house to house.

In recent years, I've wondered what my children would think were they to read the entries from my twenties. I even took those volumes and tied them up with some old, yellow, macrame string and left a note requesting that they be destroyed, unread, should something happen to me. Recently, as I've lost friends and family to cancer and age, it has seemed like less of a "what if" and more of a "when".

Last year, a month after my mom died, I vowed to simply get rid of them all peremptorily. But when I pulled them down off the shelf, I decided to read them one last time and I couldn't do it. With some grit and release, I managed to tear out a single, random page (Wednesday 3/27/91) to use as the subject of my annual ice project. A few photos from the 2013 ice project are here and in the slide show, below.

A full year after my mother's death, I find myself coming out of the murkiness of losing a parent. In that year, I've spent a lot of time thinking about our accumulated stories; what gets passed on to future generations, what is lost, what is remembered, what never was really true.

"Redacted" comes out of all of this. I will take the stack of black bound journals off of the shelf, untie the yellow macrame string, tear out the pages and let go. "Redacted" will document the process, revealing what needs to be revealed, obscuring what must remain hidden. 





]]> (Sue Salem Photography) Thu, 16 Jan 2014 02:52:29 GMT