Visual art inspires me to write, in some ways more reliably than other writer’s poetry. I tend to get stuck in imitations of other writers’ styles, which is like producing a piece of amber with a mashed leaf inside, instead of growing a live plant. Inspiration from visual art is more visceral. You get to come at the impression sideways.
Which brings me to my friend Julia Blaukopf’s book The Rain Parade, a photographic journal of her four months in Ghana.
At times, photography feels sterile to me, and I think it’s because our visual culture is so overloaded with perfect photos: images that are either a) intentionally stripped of emotion or b) overloaded with manipulation to get you to buy something. What I love about Julia’s photographs is that they’re full of feeling but they never force you. They’re not what you’d call pictures of Ghana; they’re more impressions of Ghana. There’s a gentleness and immediacy in them, almost a child’s-eye view of the dusty streets, fishermen working their nets on a beach, a woman making batik fabric. They’re saturated but calm, which come to think of it, is kind of like Julia.