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December 11, 2010

"Glasses, William Faulkner's Rowan Oak Oxford, Mississippi" fts Native Ground by Rob McDonald

Last year when Rob McDonald gave a lecture to us then-sophomores, I was smitten. I was even more intrigued by his series “Native Ground” which involved him going to the homes of notable writers from the American South. I had a similar journey to Flannery O’Connor’s residence in Milledgeville, Georgia over the summer. Since Mr. McDonald’s lecture, much of what I’ve tiptoed over in my photographic work is incorporating text, themes, symbols from books I’ve enjoyed.

In thinking about my Constructed Image assignment, I found inspiration not from any specific photographer or artist, although there are some I mentioned in my post on collage work. I’m currently making collage portraits of characters found in literature I find the most dynamic and elusive: Holden Caulfield, Jay Gatsby, Temple Drake, Winston Smith, Hazel Moats, and many more just to name a few.

What I’ve found the most interesting in reading books and stories for a few years now is how the images of the characters described in the book change as my current life disposition changes.  For example, I didn’t enjoy “The Great Gatsby” the first time I read it as a junior in high school because I could not identify with any of the characters (I was more of a “Catcher in the Rye” type kid at that age—but who wasn’t?).  Now slightly more mature in wisdom, I engulfed “Gatsby” over my Thanksgiving and I’m now returning to F. Scott Fitzgerald for more inspiration. With this altering of life experiences, I see the pictures of characters in books I’ve made in my head slowly change.

I think whenever anyone reads a piece of fiction, it’s only natural to associate the settings and characters with people and places familiar.  I’ve developed images of these book characters over a long period of time, but then realize they’re not real and are simply products of developing plot lines, descriptions, the character’s own experiences and the symbols that entail them.  While working on this assignment of collage portraits incorporated with ideas found in their books, I had a new love of the stories from which they originated.  The found images from collages are, to me, reminiscent of a reader’s own attempt to piece together how they feel a character looks in the real world.  It’s not merely an exercise in literary comprehension, but hopefully a study in how one’s mind produces symbols and features that mimic the author’s tone.

That being said, here are a few Signet-published drug store copies of some great pieces of literature that inspired McDonald and may manifest character appearances in the minds of the readers of these books.  First however is a beautiful series of UK-edition hardbound books designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith:

"The Great Gatsby" book design by Coralie Bickford-Smith.


Of course I’m quite partial to Wise Blood’s cover.  Books are one of those things that won’t change and you can always rely on.

See more of Rob McDonald’s elegant, Southern-inspired photography (if you haven’t already) here. And see more of Coralie Bickford-Smith’s clever design here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. margaret Adams permalink
    December 11, 2010 4:30 am

    Its is really wonderful to see what lies beneath!

  2. December 12, 2010 2:47 am

    Thanks for this reminder of the really wonderful visit with you all. Hello to everyone–and please keep in touch! Rob

  3. December 12, 2010 5:59 am

    Rob, thanks for the comment and coming out to Corcoran when you did. I enjoyed all your work and your books and your incorporation of literature and historic themes into your photography.

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