A College Student Turned My Poetry Into a Photography Project (and It Reminded Me How Surreal the World Can Be)
If you want to skip my whimsy and get to the actual point of this post, scroll down to the bold text. I, as always, have a lot of things to say in the meanwhile.
The internet is a very strange, beautiful place — an endless landscape where, among the very many weird things to possibly occur, you as a nobody can have a drastic impact on another human being without realizing it. There’s no reason for you to assume this is ever the case, given that you’re no celebrity — at least of conventional means, or what used to be considered traditional anyway — but what you put out, as it floats with grace into the ether, ultimately matters, at least to someone.
I, for one, muse, dissect, and meditate on the work of others all the time. Whether it’s book reviews, essays about TV shows, or a tweet about an article or blog post that stirred something significant within me, I’m constantly exploring the work of others.
At the same time, it’s a curious experience to go farther in your wonder and fuse your creativity with the work of others—like how I rapped over beats I downloaded in college or how I included one of my all-time favorite pages of literature [from Don DeLillo’s White Noise] with the EP I recorded and released to friends, as its namesake [Great Western Skies] bounded to life from said page of magnificence.
However, I know it to be a rarity to find myself on the other side, to actually be “the work of others.” But that was recently the case, when a college student from Chicago turned my poetry into a photography project without me having any idea until months later, having worked up the nerve to reach out by the end of summer.
For his senior photography study at Iowa State University, Tomhas Huhnke took my captions on Vine — typically lyrical prose at or under 140 characters, often reworked lines from old poems — and put them to his snapshots of a suburban existence for his senior final project titled Resonate. I supremely dug it.
It not only intrigued me because an artist valued my work enough to include it in his own, but also because, beyond a sassy point and click attitude, I am at a loss of how photographers see the world and capture it accordingly. That’s why I like having friends who create by way of photography, music, painting, dancing, and the like, because I can’t pull off any of those crafts very well and I always hope my words find their way into alternate mediums, to have someone carry them where I cannot go.
It’s fascinating that social media can so readily provide this surreal experience for creatives, and I say that as someone who is in no way new to being impressed by social media. I talk about social media the way my parents talk about cell phones. I’ve watched this entire thing happen from the very first inkling — in the form of a memorable and confusing conversation about Friendster — and now more than a decade after I signed up for MySpace, social media’s evolution and capabilities continue to blow me away — Vine especially. That one makes creative output almost unavoidable.
When I worked as a producer, I’d come home stressed from work and film (very) short snippets of jokey dialogue. I found it therapeutic to write and act out these minuscule skits, often before diving into work that evening. When I became a freelancer without a home, Vine instead became an easy way for me to document my travels and my usage of the app suddenly became more poetic than screwball. My Vine account went from manic to thoughtful as I posted scenes of nature, city life, and the in-between with my words and some songs— aka “the work of others.”
So here is Resonate, featuring my prose alongside the photography (and essay) of Tomhas Huhnke, collaborating as two dudes who didn’t interact until recently, long after this was completed.
by Tomhas Huhnke
This is a body of images that focuses on the mentality of humans & the human condition. I focus on the ambient narrative of what people leave behind and their thoughts that could be interpreted based on the environment.
By choosing a minimalist composition for each image as well as putting a focus on organics, such as lemon trees and water, my work emulates nostalgia and memory. Weaving together a series of images that played on the seasonal change from winter to spring and spring into summer, I constructed scenes that were only ever real in my mind.
For this series, I chose to include vignette-style writings from noted freelance writer Jake Kilroy, whose work has been in publications such as Playboy, along with online media outlets like Tastemade & Visual News. Kilroy’s whimsical prose and fluidity within writing was the perfect match to Resonate. I chose to include the snippets of his writing, which he posted on the Social Media app, Vine.
These witty ventures coupled with starkly absent images completes the mindset of what it really means to have something resonate with you. As this is my final series of images for my portfolio, I wanted them to mean something and I wanted the collaboration to be more than fulfilling — choosing to create and compose this series was difficult, but rewarding. The inspiration for much of the series came from Kilroy’s writing — giving me a solid foundation of thought for what I was trying to convey: senior year of college is bittersweet, lonely, captivating, and so worth it all.