Photo-fictions: An Introduction

Photography and writing are of same impulse, to sculpt without clay. While photography may hinge on the use of auxiliary material, the body of a camera, writing originates in the unseen and arrives without external means. Certainly writing is an enchanting practice, in contrast to the gears and calculations of the camera. But both mediums share more than they differ. Reliance on the camera does not desacralize photography; it simply makes tangible what writing refuses to so easily disclose: the hidden transactions in seeing and a thing being seen.

In the following photo-fictions, I relish in this mystery. The photos are not to rival the text; they are there to better connect the fictive in what we determine as reality. Each photo references a time and place where I stood and breathed. I witnessed the bumper of the van in “The Last Frontier,” and the feet of a stone Christ in “Circulation.” These photographs document passing, trivial observations. But what came later, scanning the pictures for points of departure and pursuing characters through their recesses, jolted me.

Rainer Maria Rilke warned, “Do not allow yourself to be misled by the surfaces of things.” If my work with photo-fictions has given me anything, it is an urge to return to the places where I once stood in irreverence—camera lifted, sure, but not wholly engaged—and silence myself in devotion. Perhaps I would lift my hand to my face, to see the lines in the palm, the veins threading the wrist. I strive to live like this now, my writer-self no longer afraid to take liberty with everyday encounters. When I walk on 14th and craft fictions from an airborne receipt over a crowd, pirouetting for a moment above a lady yapping into her iPhone, I am not farther from this world but nearer. Every sight has roots. But you must choose to follow their reach. A Taoist text instructs, “Learn about the pine from the pine, learn about the bamboo from the bamboo.” Amidst the grime, the jostle, the relentless push of this city, I bow to daydreaming. I refuse to let the next stranger pass so quickly.


View from My Father’s Window
The Last Frontier