Alisa: “Why did you decide to do the book?”
My collaborator, James Botsford, and I grew up in the same town- a green place on the river between North Dakota and Minnesota, with a state university. We knew each other when we were kids, but became good friends in the later ’60s in college and deepened our relationship in our 20s as wandering adventurers in Alaska. We stayed in touch over the years, refining our mutual interests- James as a writer, me a visual artist. Several years ago I did the book designs for two of James’s collections of poetry and essays, when he mentioned an accumulation of epigrams he had written and I suggested they might be a good pairing with my “street” photos. Our shared background, sense of humor and world view made a project partnership seem like a healthy and artistically productive undertaking. We began trading ideas about how that would look and continued revisions for two years before, during the last half of 2020, during the Pandemic lockdown, we arrived at a final grouping of photos and text in a book design.
When the tree fell
she died within
an inch of her life
Alisa: “What drew you to the subject matter?”
When I learned that James was compiling a body of epigrams (“a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way”) I had already been for some time a devotee of posting my photos online to Instagram. I had been working with square format images since the late ’90s and the ones I was posting now were predominantly “street” observations that seemed particularly suitable for pairing with James’s pithy and clever impressions.
If you can find symmetry
with an odd number of ingredients
Alisa: “What made you decide to do a Haiku collaboration?”
Epigrams, such all those used in the book, don’t fit the specific Japanese rules for Haiku— 17 syllables arranged in three lines– so they are a breed of their own literature. Though James has also written many Haikus, this project concentrates on the more casual structure of the epigram and this form struck a compatible match with the nature of my photos which are also casual impressions of our fellow humans, the many-faceted features, foibles and follies of our cultures and proclivities.
What if by land
Who if by sea
Alisa: “What was your inspiration?”
I have been a student of a multitude of visual arts from sculpture to graphic design at three different art schools between 1968 and my BFA in 1986 at UW School of Art), but my main photographic influences are the street and social documentarians including (in no particular order) Robert Frank, Dianne Arbus, Walker Evans, Andre Kertesz, Helen Leavitt, Henri Cartier Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Dorothea Lange, Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston. I always carry a camera with me and try to be attentive to the fleeting moments of color, pattern and action that populate our lives and often show up in nuanced and layered mystery. The intention expressed in the book is that the epigrams are not captions for the photos, nor are the pictures illustrations of the text, but that the pairings of words and images create resonance or dissonance that teases and provokes further exploration of the ideas that arise.
Take a peek inside the “IMAGERIES” book, by viewing this short video by Steve Stolee:
IMAGERIES (images and epigrams) by Steve Stolee and James Botsford is currently available at:
Eagle Harbor Books 157 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, (206) 842-5332
and Janke Bookstore, 505 Third Street, Wausau, WI, (715) 845-9648
ALISA STECK is the Communications Manager for Arts & Humanities Bainbridge. On top of grant writing and other duties, she is currently helping to lead the efforts of creating a Certified Creative District for Bainbridge Island. Also a photographer, her focus is on capturing the beautiful waterways of the Puget Sound region, vineyards and small farms.