Friday, April 13, 2012


Shut my eyes because the music is so loud. Shut my eyes so I can recall what I just saw; so I can believe my eyes. I know this world. I can reference it with shut eyes though the pictures elect different references.

Landscape of big dogs, big melons, big-car longings and dreams big as distant capitals.

This landscape, it teems with cast-iron frying pans, pitcher beer, bait, guns, yard ornaments, buttons in a jar, rough-planed walls, hair in brushes, riverworms, spirit-catching bottle trees, drunken wrecks, dangerous infidelities, chemical plants, paper mills, gourds, eels, mirrors chipping silver nitrate, floors scored from moving furniture, etc., etc.

You can see this world with shut eyes like a zeppelin sailing slowly across a screen or a flatiron taking off from the cooking stove of its own accord.

This landscape, its inhabitants, hew to used things, worn things, handmade things. Hew to objects loved by the maker even if shot full of holes by the maker's hand via the maker's eye: a riddled wooden deer made by hand to be a target, to be shot full of holes. Follow the wooden curve of this world.

Follow the copper light of this eye. Most of the time Deborah Luster photographs humankind. Formally, with the conventional blackdrop; environmentally, where she finds them, work or home, having a vision in their kitchen or picking okra in the field line, doing time. A kid is pictured holding something wild and alive he caught bare-handed. Some will stick their arms into a submerged log; take home whatever takes hold. Hand-fishing, in Louisiana.

The light's sultriness rubs off on the subfusc of flesh, foliage, clothing. Tobacco-stained light. Sparerib theology. A ludic tendency participates in all but the most sobering images. And in the most sobering images, one has to shut one's own eyes because the music is so loud. So one can believe one's own eyes.

Every portrait could be titled "you." The countenance directs the attention rather than the light source. Though here appears a glow. The light picks a face. There is no negligible face, no negligible place. Composition is maximally concentrated: a girl in baptism clothes holding a shell, an eyeful of folds within folds. She is backed by a profusion of canna lilies and clouds which amplifies her solitary glory. The lens is honed by emotional realism. Shoot for core temperature. The choices endless, and thus the decisions. Look for parallelism, not symmetry. Follow the curve, which she seems to prefer to sharp lines. And hard turns.

The faces are there like the comforting glow of a neighbor's television. But they are looking back at her, looking back at everyone out there, daring the viewer to see them now. How the viewer sees them is the viewer's business. Ideally, the interpretations spread.

If opposition is inevitable, her eye weighs against what would anneal or coarsen us. The viewer may glimpse the damage, but also its limits. These pictures commemorate our wild youth, our unyielding decrepitude, and eventual manumission. THey bright their own references. The interior of experience. She shuts us up. The ears believe other people, goes the proverb; the eyes believe themselves.

-C.D. Wright