Grandparents and Community

© Jim Korpi

After losing a grandmother, I’ve been thinking often about what indeed is lost in death and what may not be there in the distant relationships we seem to have with our grandparents, families and communities in modern times. As often is the case, I’ve found answers in the words of Wendell Berry. During an interview with Bruce Williamson in 1973 Berry talks about some of this.
Williamson: In your work you emphasize that the inhabitants of a region thrive on the daily interchange between old and young…yet many of these new communities are made up primarily of young people.
Berry:Yes, and that’s one of the worst possible kinds of segregation. This is probably the first generation not to have a history. They have their own immediate history but not one that comes from having older people around them. They’re coming up to adult life without the awareness that anyone has ever gone through their experiences before, much less learned anything from them. But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people they had old minds. They had a kind of seasoning.
Williamson:You certainly talk about your own childhood in that way.
Berry:That’s right, although I can’t say that I’ve always agreed with all the older people I’ve grown up around. I’ve had the same struggles with them as most people who grow up. Nevertheless I owe a great debt to my elders and I agree with all of them on something or other. I think that my knowledge of them and my association with them has given me a sense of what is possible. There’s a sort of gift to humanity that each generation of young people renews. They feel in their bones that’s desirable. “It would be great if we could be free.” And the function of older people in society is not to oppose that, but to qualify it. To say, it would be great to be free…but there are certain ways to get free that are going to surprise you and make stern demands on you. The man who is most able usually turns out to be the man who’s most free, not the one who’s the most reckless. The old are the ones who will put their hands on you and say, “Well, be a little steady now,” or “No, you can’t quit, you’re not finished yet.”

Posted November 21st, 2008 in Uncategorized.


  1. peter hoffman:

    I think that camera is doing you some good brother. Really nice images lately.

  2. Jim Korpi:

    Thanks for the comment. The camera is indeed treating me well. Thanks for the lead.
    I’ll use a common analogy here. This particular camera is a tool as a good wrench is for a mechanic or a particular paintbrush for a painter. I’ve found a tool that has allowed me to get closer to the photographs I enjoy making just as Andrew Wyeth has chosen a certain tool to achieve his “dry brush” method of painting.
    This camera’s “click” is often silent, which makes for a less obtrusive photographer. Its frame is more inclusive than exclusive. But most importantly, with the film and lens I’ve chosen, it allows me to paint a more subtle and patient scene.
    There are as many different types of photographers out there as there are painters. Some chase fire engines like yellow-page lawyers. Some sleep with their cameras. Some are able to catch “action” like trained hunters can a fleeting rabbit. What I’ve begun to realize about my own instinctive style is that it is highly driven by an urge to slowly say something about people and place in a quiet manor. Life is quiet. So often as photojournalist we’re told to look for “action” and “moments.” If the subject isn’t intensely laughing, crying or hugging some other exuberant person in the photograph, then the image is said to be too quiet. To me, these action photographs seem contrived or out of context in a true reflection of the human condition. They seem to exaggerate.
    Well, enough said. I digress.
    To sum it all up, this tool has touched the nerve of why I picked up a camera to begin with.

  3. Peter Hoffman:

    it’s the same reason I’m loving mine.
    Just a better fit tool, and I agree about the quiet moments. To me they are more real, and they allow the viewer to see the whole scene without being wholly engrossed in the “bam!” section of the frame…

    Anyways, I can see it in the pictures, these recent ones feel like they come from a little deeper down.

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