Archive for October, 2015

Overcoming Fears


Shoppers from the Hip, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

A man walked into the therapy office of Viktor Frankl and his associate. For years he had writer’s cramp and was about to lose his job because of it. When this writer wrote he focused on perfect penmanship, the most elegant handwritten script. The therapists suggested the next time he wrote to scribble his words so they were nearly illegible. He was told to say to himself, “Now I will show people what a good scribbler I am.” When he sat down to write in a scribbled script he couldn’t. Within 48 hours his writing cramp was gone.

It was a writer’s cramp, only with photographs, a photographer’s cramp lasting weeks.

My delay before going out to make photographs for a project has been a period of neurotic anxiety, what Viktor Frankl might call a time of “hyper-reflection” where fears become inner realities. If I reflect too long I begin to question my intentions, my adequacy, as well as the meaning of life. “Am I a fake? Do I deserve to even own a camera? Can I make a photograph? Why are we here?” I freeze. Sometimes for weeks.

Normally I drive places to make photographs. In a foreign country it’s easy to make excuses of why I should not stop the car. There is not a good place to pull over, the person won’t understand my broken attempt of the language, they will think I am out to abduct their children. I drive without making an image.

My solution for this recent cramp was simple, a bicycle. In the morning haze I strapped my tripod to the back fender, put one camera bag on the back rack and one in the front basket. The cramp is gone.


Uncle Frank, Chichester, New Hampshire © Jim Korpi

To witness the tears of a grown man is like seeing a nocturnal bird of prey in daylight, someone forced it into a world it has evolved to avoid.
One of the earliest memories I have of life on the farm in New Hampshire was the first evening we drove up the long driveway. The warm yellow light from life in the kitchen spilled onto the wood porch, poured into the lawn and was a beacon in the blue dusk.
The grandfather, I was to know as Dubba, and his oldest son, Uncle Frank, sat in chairs by the wood-fired cook stove with guitars resting on their laps. They were cheerful and loose with words. “My ding-a-ling, your ding-a-ling, won’t you play with my ding-a-ling,” Uncle Frank bellowed and strummed.
A year ago my younger brother celebrated his marriage at the old farmhouse. It was the first time most of the family had been back on the property since we left it.
The wedding ceremony finished and guests filed into the old barn for the next stage of the event.
Uncle Frank walked with his drink to the western edge of what was once the farmhouse garden but was now a manicured ornamental bush bordering the wedding altar.
“I fuckin’ miss this place,” he said softly after I sat beside him. We sat quiet. I agreed without words. I somehow missed it too. A tear made its way from the sadness of his eyes down his nose. I made this portrait of him.
Uncle Frank died one week ago. His funeral is today. I am an ocean away, but here I am remembering him.

No Power


Train Station, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy © Jim Korpi

Wind from the storm blew branches onto the power lines. The electricity is out. Internet stopped.
They sit on the couch and notice this inconvenience, each with a computer in their lap, staring at unloading websites. For the past two hours they drifted through news stories about horrible things happening in the world and volleyed back and forth, “…Did you see the…?”
It won’t last. Power will return. It always does. The answering machine will beep as soon as it does. It doesn’t.
After an hour of fidgeting and aimless wandering around the house, they look at each other, and half state and ask “I wonder when it will turn back on.”
The sun sets. No power. The house darkens, but they can still see the warm, muted shapes of the interior of their home, familiar but in some way foreign. They both smile inside. There seems a relief in the detachment, an ease.
The candles on the mantel, more for novelty than utility, collect dust. They light them for some semblance of order. The occasion calls for wine. Glasses are poured until full and they toast to “Making the best of it.”
A guitar stands neglected facing the corner of the living room. He picks it up with a free hand and declares a needed move to the porch, where twilight and a cool air coat the outside in honest hues. A blue is blue.
He plays softly. Unplugged from the world, they both look at each other and take in a question unspoken but understood.
“What are we doing with our lives?”

Could Have


Store Fronts, Milan, Italy © Jim Korpi

“We used to only have Worcestershire sauce in the house,” Kent said recalling the condiments in the kitchen. “Then all the commercials came out for A1 steak sauce and my parents bought it. I can still remember the ads, ‘Why have just a burger when you can have a steak burger!”